Everyone else’s accolades may have come out in a timely fashion, but I needed to collect my thoughts regarding this fiasco before I blogged about it. I mustered a respectable “WTF?” and snickered at the day-after texts, but I still hadn’t pinpointed the reason I felt an embarrassing longing in my stomach during all the deathly hullabaloo.
Thriller was one of my first cassettes and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The bass riff of “Billie Jean” still puts me in my childhood home’s dining room on a hot Philadelphia evening, watching a 60-second video clip at the end of Entertainment Tonight with my dad.
Michael Jackson = roller skating rinks, big brothers making fun, taping songs off the radio. Young Michael Jackson, the one on all your TV screens as of late, was so BAD. You think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. For one thing, he was black, and in the day of Usher and Kanye and Fiddy, that probably doesn’t seem like a big thing, but back then some people still called it n* music, and they didn't flinch when they said it.
But because Jackson’s popularity was so great, he wasn’t so easily labeled. So many people loved him. Did I believe what I thought or what I was told?
Michael Jackson was my first independent decision. Despite the haters, I listened to his tape until it exploded, and then I winded it all back in with my pinky and listened again.
Here is the effect Michael Jackson’s death and the world’s reaction to it has on me: a giant, heavy sadness—inordinate for a pop star I haven’t thought about in twenty years. It’s not him I miss, but that early 80s vibe that the world was changing. I was changing.
Just like it’s done to Michael, time has made those years laughable and plastic and un-get-backable.
And this idea, that from that innocence, I became part of a public that stalked one man to the point of his wearing masks to hide from us, deeply saddens me. It’s not the people we’re after, I realize—it’s feeling and meaning and time.
I’d like to say I’m going to stop reading Perez and TMZ, but I love that shiz. It’s not Iran, and that’s its appeal.
But I hate what the celebrity-public dynamic does to people. Michael was reportedly obsessed with the painting at the top of this post. When I stare at this image embossed with the TMZ logo, I can’t get over the feeling that gossip sites are wicked witches, and the people who follow them (admittedly me) are misguided souls looking to their icons with confused disillusionment.
It's no wonder our icons are merely sad humans these days, what with the 24-hour surveillance whispering, “I’ll get you, my pretty.”
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