Michael Jackson died today. And my first reaction was “for real?” Actually, that initial feeling hasn’t left me yet—a few hours after learning of his demise. You see, who we are talking about here is the tabloid-staple, King of Odd who allegedly sleeps in an oxygen aquarium. We are talking about the human Peter-Pan-cum-Edward-Cullen who has repeatedly denied going under the knife for cosmetic purposes and claims to have simply been afflicted with an acute sensitivity to light. Who we are referring to here is the one and only King of Pop who, only a couple of months ago, was yet again entangled in bizarre news when he allegedly used a “double” because he was too weak to go to his London press conference. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more hours from now MJ-Demise Conspiracy Theories would infest the internet (perhaps along the lines of: MJ being too ill and unable to afford to not perform on his sold-out world tour and his handlers running out of brilliant ideas because his double simply can’t learn the moonwalk). In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if a few months from now we’ll have sightings of Michael Jackson returning from the grave, with photos and testimonies on the tabloids, Lochness-style.
I just simply can’t believe that Michael Jackson is dead. For real. Well at least not with a cardiac arrest. Heart attack is simply not the way that you’d expect someone of his whimsical caliber to go. It’s just too plain, too abrupt and thus, quite an injustice for someone who has won 13 Grammys and created his own Neverland to die like your average 50-year old. Yet figuratively thinking, I’d say that in a way it’s also kind of Romantic—the idea of his heart giving out because of unbearable Sadness. And come to think of it, this would really be a sad time for Michael Jackson to go—buried in debt and scandal, and not having had enough time to redeem himself with a comeback and a graceful exit. See, I can’t even use the past tense in that last sentence.
I admire Michael Jackson yet I am not a die-hard fan of his—although I think this is only because I was still a toddler during his hey-days. Sure, I appreciate his music, his artistry, his greatness (for lack of a better term), but nothing compares to experiencing fanaticism of an artist of your own generation— someone you can easily identify with, someone whose songs you can hear (and maybe even vote for) in the weekly radio countdown, someone who can serve as an easily-accessible inspiration. During my teenybopper years though, Michael Jackson was already Caucasian-looking and married to Lisa Marie-Presley, so it was kind of hard especially for a pubescent to look beyond the superficial oddity and see through MJ’s genius. Plus, there was Hanson, (yeah, kinda hard to compete with that in the heart of a twelve year old). Had I been born in the late 70s though, I think that I would’ve hands-down easily become a fan of Michael Jackson—just as I had been smitten recently by our generation’s (declaration, mine) Prince of Pop, Adam Lambert.
And this is why I feel for all those countless (and closet) fans who Michael Jackson have inspired, touched, and maybe even rescued. I just all too well know how it is to become so moved by art, talent and creativity. Well, sometimes too much that it can ridiculously turn you back into an adolescent girl, intoxicated with admiration and dangerously wobbling along the threshold of living vicariously through her idol. Yet seeing how Michael Jackson’s life had turned out, in fact seeing how the lives of most Popstars have turned out, makes me wonder who truly is the luckier lot: us mere mortals who have a penchant for wallowing in discontent, or these demigods who have paid for glitz and fame with their own lives.
Yet if you think about it, we, the people are ultimately the executioners of these fallen artists. Though throngs of us may become bedazzled by these (mostly) oblivious megastars, they are really only as good as our patronage. In the final analysis, they are mere commodities of Entertainment. Just as we can bring a no-name to celebrity status, we can drag them down to infamy and derision at the drop of a hat once we get tired of their faces and once their talent desensitizes us. No wonder those artists with staying power like Madonna, keep on re-inventing themselves; not only is it for their personal and creative liberation, it is also a business strategy. In fact most of the time, I do think that is all just to sell. Take it from Andy Warhol (who, coincidentally, has a book also called Prince of Pop) who unashamedly and flamboyantly lived the Pop philosophy in all its superficial glory: “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
Pop Art emerged alongside Existentialist thought in the 1950s – also the same decade that gave the world Michael Jackson. Incidentally, that era birthed a time of transition: a moving of the zeitgeist from Modernism thought towards Postmodernism, or in a simplistic way of putting it: a change of cultural preoccupation from Paradox to Absurdity. And quite the human allegory of his times, the world saw Michael Jackson as this complex, great artist who seemingly lived his live backwards – first starting out as that confident boy with the big voice and growing up to be this artificial man who, seemingly wanting to have recycled lost time, reverted back into this reclusive, vulnerable and lonely little child. And then he dies an unexpected and abrupt death without even having been able to redeem himself. All ideas of redemption and happy-endings thrown in the garbage bin. His fate is just too sad, it seems absurd.
But such is the irony of life. This is really all we’ve got. And sometimes it’s disheartening to think that all we’ll ever come to know is this as it is. As Michael Jackson (or whoever truly that guy was) has mentioned in his last press conference “This is it! This is really it”. I imagine that what MJ wanted all of us to take from this, is to make the most out of our short conscious lives. Well, not to the twisted extent that we would harass little kids (‘cos that’s just mental), but I guess he in a way, reminds us to be strong enough to weather the tragic absurdities of life so that when our time comes, we wouldn’t feel like sorry little roadkills on our deathbeds.
Rest in peace MJ. Wherever you (really) are, I hope that this time you have finally found your peace.