I have a thread on my forum at TGWTG where people can ask me questions, and usually they’re of a rather irrelevant nature, as questions to the tune of “What’s it like being an extremely minor Internet celebrity?” get old pretty fast. (Answer: it’s okay.) Sometimes they’re of a rather…erm… interesting nature, but I had a few people ask me my thoughts on Michael Jackson’s death. I don’t imagine my comments should have surprised anyone; I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me, I don’t know the guy. I was at the mall when I found out, buying falafel, and I was fare more preoccupied with the falafel at the time. It was very good falafel.
But aside from the celebrity fixation our culture has which I find more than a little disquieting, the whole 24-hour news culture and all that disconcerting jazz, people do feel personally invested in this guy. It’s hard not to; he wrote “Thriller”, for Christ’s sake. He wrote the soundtrack to our childhoods. Sure, we made fun of him. We were dissapointed in his ever-changing appearance, we shook our heads at his outrageous narcissism, and we turned a dissapointed blind eye to his pedophilia. But he was a part of us, known to everyone to our generation for all of our lives.
And no, I felt nothing. I continue to feel nothing.
It’s not that celebrity deaths never affect me. You want to know my secret? When Eartha Kitt died, I bawled. No, I bawled. I was crying all night. And I think that, to me, in my head she was still very much alive. But death is not something I’m at all unfamiliar with. I come from a very large family, so I’ve seen more than my fair share of death strictly by laws of probability. But I also have a lot of great aunts and uncles. My family has a bad tendency towards senility on both sides, and every time one of my great aunts or great uncles has died, it was always preceeded by years of senility. By the time they died, they hardly knew who anyone was, and the general feeling among the rest of the family was Thank God…
To us, they’d been dead for years; this was just their physical body calling it quits long after it should have. And this more or less sums up my feelings on Michael Jackson; to me, he’d been dead for a long time. He’d ceased to live in this sphere a long time ago. He was an addict of the purist, most insidious form, and nothing was ever going to save him. He didn’t want to be saved. I think this is why I feel like he’d been dead for so long. When I found out, my initial internal reaction was “He’s still alive?”
More than anything, his deterioration makes me wonder how capable those of us who really are that outrageously talented are of living among the rest of us and retaining their sanity, even their humanness, all at the same time. Sometimes it feels like the Powers That Be simply equipped Michael and his ilk with too much for them to handle, making their early departure something of an inevitability. Michael Jackson’s childhood had been very rough, to say the least, and as a result he surrounded himself with enablers and indulgences. For whatever reason, for his talent or his self-perception, he felt entitled to do so. So many people do now, and that inclination, that self-gratifying narcisism, seems to only be proliferating in our culture. Whether you’re the King of Pop, a fifteen year old girl with 19,000 MySpace friends, or the Goddamn Nostalgia Chick. Considering reality is all we know, it is remarkably difficult to maintain a hold of.