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What’s Up With the MJ Fandom?

31 August 2009

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I could be the only person in America who did not grow up with Michael Jackson’s music, and whose journey into adulthood was not indelibly marked by Jackson’s work.

Because as the whole world is mourning over the death of the King of Pop, and writing about their mourning & the mourning of those around them, and what the heck, the mourning of complete strangers, I am left wondering, what is the big freaking deal?

What is it about him that encouraged the city of Los Angeles to pick up the $1.4 million tab for his memorial service when last I heard, they didn’t have money to keep all their teachers on payroll? The state of California is so short up for cash that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to release 27,000 inmates to stop the hemorrhage of money otherwise known as the California budget, but $1.4 million in  security costs for Michael Jackson’s memorial service? No problem at all.

Seriously? Why? How does this line of thinking go? Sure, Michael Jackson had some good tunes, but about all that other stuff? Has everyone but me been asleep for the last twenty years? Am I the only one that remembers the $20 million in hush money (oops – I mean, settlement) that Michael Jackson dolled out to keep his child molestation victims quiet in 2005? Putting aside the guilty-or-innocent question for a moment, this is still a man who thinks its okay to sleep with children (who are NOT HIS, FYI) in the same bed. No matter how much you like to sing along to Thriller in the shower, you’ve got to admit, that is kind of creepy. (And by “kind of,” I obviously mean, REALLY CREEPY).

I’m familiar with the tendency to overlook creepy and gross and sometimes downright abhorrent aspects of a person’s personal life in light of their professional accomplishments, but I draw the line at child molestation. I don’t care how many records Michael Jackson sold in his life, and how many white people’s lives his records touched, and how many Black/POC his record sales made proud, how do you forgive and forget something like CHILD MOLESTATION? If my favorite music star of all time molested children, perhaps I would not completely stop listening to his or her music, but I would certainly not be writing poetic eulogies of eternal love and adoration like nothing happened.

Evidently, Paris-Michael, Jackson’s daughter, doesn’t agree with me, because she said, IN TEARS,

“Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine”

I get that someone’s funeral/memorial isn’t the best place to bust out the top 10 things you hated most about them, but best father we could ever imagine? My relationship with my father growing up wasn’t easy, but he sure as hell never invited my friends to spend the night in his bed. And if he had, and those friends came forward to press charges, I’d find something else to say at his memorial service besides “Best Father Ever.”

The Michael Mania isn’t just limited to his family members, either. It’s everyone. As told by Louis Sahagun, who covered Michael Jackson’s memorial service for the LA Times,

“Few [present] could match the exuberance of 17-year-old Tia Ralph of Long Beach. At the mere sight of Jackson’s image, on a T-shirt or a helium balloon, she screamed: “Michael! Jackson!” then wiped away tears. “I love him so much I feel like fainting.”

At first, I’m like, alright. This girl is obviously on the margins, here. But the more news coverage I read, & the more people I talk to about MJ’s death, the more I have come to realize that her reaction is far from unusual. There are a lot of people who can relate to Tia Ralph, and just not weirdos.

This past Saturday,  Spike Lee threw Michael Jackson a post-mortem birthday party in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, that was attended by almost TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE. The Rev. Al Sharpton, in his remarks, touched on Michael Jackson’s life & achievements, and in the same breath, he discussed Senator Ted Kennedy’s life & achievements.

Ted Kennedy!

*FOREHEAD TO DESK*

Life as we know it in this country would look very different if not for Ted Kennedy’s work in the senate. Ted Kennedy made quality health care for every American his life’s mission. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, was a guy that made music for a while. Then, he was a guy that molested children for a while. What is his hold on America?

My friends (and Racialicious)tell me that he is so beloved because his music transcended borders. That his life encouraged people to look beyond race, to…. I don’t know, the place where there is no race, I guess.

But, looking back through his past, I am given the impression that MJ didn’t try to reach out to white people so much as he tried to become a white person. If all it takes to transcend race is to make yourself look whiter, I could transcend race, too.

If there was an Asian American pop superstar who bleached his skin white, chemically changed the appearance and texture of his hair, had his nose, eyes, cheeks, jaw, and chin altered by a plastic surgeon to look less “Asian,” I sure as hell wouldn’t be holding him up as a paragon of racial unity and AZN pride. I’d be a little creeped out.

That I am pretty much all by myself in this position tells me that I’m missing something central to understanding Michael Jackson mythos.

Please, enlighten me?

Shiyuan

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jevon permalink
    14 December 2009 5:11 am

    I’m sure that maybe some people haven’t listened to Michael Jackson and aren’t smitten by him. So you don’t really care that he died but you would be hard pressed to find anyone; American or foreign whose music hasn’t been altered by him unless it is strictly traditional. For American to Latin to Indian to Asian and some parts of Africa his voice, music and talent has changed music period. So your favorite artist most likely either copied him or copied someone who copied Michael. And as far as the molestation goes these were white people. They lie, cheat and steal. It is their nature. They love to bring people down who they feel are in a position of power unless it benefits them like Oprah. Oh ho! Don’t let the person be of color! He didn’t do it he paid them the Ransom money so they would quit lying and I find it hard to believe that out of all the kids he slept with in the bed (at the same time) only the WHITE little boys kept saying he touched them and nobody else saw this. And in reality is it impossible for someone to toss and turn while they are sleeping? Grow up white people. They killed him with their lies and are now trying to still damage his image.

  2. shortnmorose permalink
    8 September 2009 12:52 pm

    http://ovenroastedlove.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/rip-mj/ i said my piece on this. but i feel ya. the media gets so annoying over anything pop-related. even fox news tried to keep a straight face.

  3. vicki permalink
    1 September 2009 10:45 am

    Also, are we going to forget that Ted Kennedy is responsible for a woman’s drowning death, and that he blatantly cheated his way through Harvard milking the good-old-boys system before finally failing out?? He eventually did a lot of great and important things in the political/social justice realm (despite helping pass Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act), but he was only able to get away with and do what he did because he’s a rich White man with connections and lineage.

    Basically he would have been a dumb jock / frat boy douchebag if we’d met him in college. But we overlook that in his death because we respect what he’s done in his better years. I think the same goes for Michael Jackson if you’re trying to compare the treatment of these two “celebrity” deaths.

    • Shiyuan permalink*
      1 September 2009 12:13 pm

      You’re educating me about Ted Kennedy. I didn’t know any of that stuff! I don’t know much about the Kennedy clan in general.

      You’re also right about MJ’s story being a sad one. Being Black & in the limelight when he was growing up must have been tough. I’ve never gotten plastic surgery or anything else quite that permanent, but I have certainly wanted to look less obviously Asian.

      Maybe you and I will one day be in positions of power with our own connections. Then we can start our own network for aspiring Asian American women!

  4. 31 August 2009 1:36 pm

    Hi… I think one take of Michael Jackson’s life is that it is a sad example of what a capitalist-driven pop-music industrial machine can do to a beautiful and talented child star. One ironic thing I find is that the very same people and media who spent the last few years tearing him apart, making jokes/tabloid stories about him at his expense, and arguably driving him to self-hatred while he was alive, are now the same ones worshiping (or pretending to worship) him in his death while trying to make money off of it.

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