Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson

I'm not sure which is more stunning - the incredible number of people who showed up for Michael Jackson's funeral, or CNN's non-stop coverage of the whole thing. I didn't believe it when I saw it on Fark.com, so I tuned in to see if it was true. Sure enough - CNN has basically become MTV. In fact, CNN has played more music in the few minutes I've had it on than I've seen on MTV in years.

People are very, very strange, and I don't get them at all most of the time, honestly.

Hey CNN? Have you heard?? There's a WAR on! Two, actually. And there are revolutions going on in Iran, Honduras... and you're spending all this time and energy on a musician who hasn't been musically relevant in 15 years (and that's being generous)? Really? Really?

I guess CNN reports on what people will watch, and the average American is more interested in celebrities than the historic things that are going on all around us. I don't understand our cultural preoccupation with the famous. I really don't. I mean, like everyone I was madly in love with the New Kids on the Block... when I was 12! To see grown adults crying over someone they've never met, well, it strikes me as immature, frankly. I read that people (adults!) have actually taken their own lives because Michael Jackson died. Seriously. Are these peoples' lives so empty that they have to live vicariously through someone they didn't even know?

Sure, he probably gave a lot of money to charity, etc. But so does Bill Gates. So does Warren Buffet. So do a lot of people. They're not going to fill stadiums when they die. They won't rate 24/7 cable news coverage.

Sure, he was born poor in a miserable city, and rose to the highest heights of wealth and fame. Pretty typical "American dream" stuff. But I don't think that explains the level of obsession that I've seen since he died.

Maybe the fact that I don't get it just means that this isn't about me, or people like me. I can accept that. I did grow up during the 80s, though. I grew up about 30 minutes from Gary, Indiana, where he was born. I'm not African American, but many of his fans were white.

Maybe I'm just not the target demographic. It all makes me really wonder, though, about the target demographic's priorities. Are we this shallow, as a culture? Don't we have more important things to think about?

Can anyone explain this to me?

Updated to add: I just read that the bankrupt state of California is paying for this circus! Are you kidding me??


Anonymous said...

OK no one talks about this...apparently it's been forgotten, but what about the fact that he's been on trial for CHILD MOLESTATION twice!?! Yes, he wasn't convicted, but he settled the first one and gave the boys parents 20 million dollars!! I mean, I have a lot of trouble understanding how he's suddenly so wonderful and we all have to be sad, when the last few years of his life he was most likely doing done unthinkable things to children.
I for one have not been mourning his passing.

Amy said...

Anon - I agree that part of his life has been glossed over completely, but since he never was convicted, I hesitate to judge him (at least in black and white for all posterity on ye ol' blog) based on those allegations.

But yeah, settling a case like that is highly suspect, in my opinion.

Does anyone remember years ago when he was on Baba Wawa or some evening news show talking about all of it, and he said that it was "perfectly natural" for grown men to sleep (as in sleep in the same bed with not sleep with as in have sex with) with young boys/children? Totally wigged me out. He wasn't talking about his own children, either, which is more natural... He was talking about having sleepovers with his little playmates, and that being peachy keen.


Anonymous said...

As usual, I whole heartedly agree with you but unfortunately I cannot explain this... I cannot explain the adoration the US Citizens have for the rich and famous while Police, Firemen, and Paramedics save lives daily and get paid squat and no acclaim! We're twisted... well you and I aren't!

Cassondra said...

I cried because Michael Jackson died and I am 39. He affected all of our lives, whether or not you believe so. Michael Jackson was a talented and tormented individual. I do not believe that MJ ever molested any kids and I don't believe that he had the intent or capacity to do so. I pray for his kids and his family and I thank MJ for all he has given the world.

Anonymous said...

To each his own. If you didn't want to watch what CNN chose to broadcast, then you could have elected not to watch it. Perhaps you would have found C-SPAN's programming more enjoyable. This has obviously been a big story on a worldwide scale; CNN would be remiss if it didn't cover the MJ story.
I, for one, have appreciated the media coverage. My office had a business relationship with MJ, and I just felt so sorry for him when I saw with my own eyes how he couldn't do normal, everyday things in public without getting mobbed. I remember feeling very sad for him when he was spending time in our office.
I doubt he had sexual relations with children or adults or animals or anybody; I don't think he was physically or emotionally capable of engaging in adult sexual behavior. It is very common for people to settle lawsuits out of court, so don't take that pay-off to the child's parents as a sign of guilt. It's a sign that he'd rather pay a lot of money than go through a trial.
I believe MJ was wrong to entertain children in his bedroom -- it was his mistake to open himself up to allegations; it's unfortunate he didn't understand what constituted acceptable behavior. I also believe it was wrong for the parents of these children to allow the sleepovers with MJ. I can't help thinking it was part of their game plan to hit up MJ for a lot of money, so they chose to expose their children to a potentially harmful situation just so they could try to score a big pay-off from a wealthy celebrity.
As for how California spends its money, it's obligated to provide security for presidential visits, public events and anything else that comes along. It would certainly be considerate of the Jackson family to reimburse the local government for expenses incurred, however. Let's hope the Jackson family offers reimbursement as a gesture of goodwill.

Anonymous said...

No one talks about Elvis "dating" Priscilla when she was 14, and she moved in with him while she was still under 18 either. But he was never branded a child molester. What is the double standard? Is it acceptable because it was a man and girl? Because there was only 10 years age difference? Race? Only unacceptable if it rings of homosexuality? Just throwing it out there for discussion.

Amy said...

Interesting point about Elvis. I wasn't alive when he and Priscilla got together (he died in '77, I was born in '76), so I don't know what was said about him at the time (Wikipedia says that they met in 1959, when she was 14, and married in 1967 when she was considerably older - 22). Wikipedia also says that Priscilla said they didn't have sex until they were married. I guess she and Elvis are the only ones who know the truth, and he's not talking, so we'll have to take her word for it. She won a lawsuit against someone who said differently in a book (not the author, but the author's source - this is all on Wikipedia).

The kid that accused MJ of child abuse was 13 at the time. Not that much of an age difference, if you believe that Elvis and Priscilla were, indeed, sexually active when she was 14.

I think you're right that our culture views homosexual acts with minors differently than heterosexual acts with minors. I also would submit that the late 50s were a completely different time.

My grandparents, who were of the same generation as Elvis - born in 1930, Elvis was born in '35, were married at age 19 and had my mom when they were 21. That timeline was more normal, then, than it is now.

Perhaps it was more acceptable in 1959, when Elvis and Priscilla met, for an adult man in his 20s to be interested in a teenage girl. I honestly don't know. Anyone reading who is in their 70s or 80s who can tell us?

I don't think that the difference has anything to do with race, personally. I do think that it's clear that Elvis's relationship with Priscilla was consensual (obviously, she married him, and while there was a clear power imbalance between them, I don't think she'd say that he took advantage of that - their feelings were mutual), while the alleged relationship between MJ and the kid who accused him of molestation was obviously not consensual. The Smoking Gun has a copy of the kid's deposition.

You raise interesting points, though. Certainly something to think about.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point about Elvis Presley. I think there are a lot of cultural differences between Michael Jackson's time and others' time.

It used to be a lot easier for a celebrity to keep a secret. JFK's extra-marital affairs didn't become common knowledge until long after he was dead. His affairs may have sparked a rumor at a cocktail party, but the story would not be reported in the Washington Post. I doubt Elvis's questionable relationship with the underage Priscilla was common knowledge until long after he was dead -- no one knew until Priscilla told the story herself and explained that they had every kind of sex except vaginal intercourse before they were married. But in this day of the 24-hour news cycle that forces media outlets to manufacture "news" in order to fill the air time, and the fact that most people don't leave home without carrying a digital camera, it is much more difficult for a celebrity to keep a secret.

It's only a relatively recent phenomenon that people have become lawsuit-happy. In prior eras, it was unseemly or crass to consider making money without having worked hard to earn that money. These days, if someone has the opportunity to convince the court that a wealthy celebrity/company has wronged him/her, the general attitude is that that person just became lucky enough to win the lottery.

It's also a relatively recent belief that children (or women, for that matter) should be protected. Adult men used to rule the world. If a parent allowed his/her child to engage in an activity, then no one else judged the activity to be harmful to the child, and no one interfered. No one thought to protect the child actor Judy Garland in her era, or Patty Duke in hers, or Tatum O'Neal in hers. In Elvis's era, it was OK for a celebrity to have his way with a 14-year-old child. In Michael's era, it was not OK for a celebrity to have his way with a 14-year-old child.

And remember that quite often, it is society that dictates what constitutes news, not the respectable news organizations. Princess Diana's death was a much bigger story than Mother Teresa's death. That obviously wasn't a reflection on Diana's greater value to society compared to Mother Teresa's. Similarly, Michael Jackson's death is our current big story. That certainly doesn't mean that his death is the most important story of the day.

B.J. said...

CNN did Michael-fest for one thing - ratings. They didn't just cover it - they promoted it and exploited it and they road the wave of grief all the way to the bank to cash the checks of the advertisers.

And, yes, LA does have a responsibility to provide security; however, that doesn't mean that those that cause a need for the security don't owe something for it. Concert promoters, sports teams, people that go around barriers warning of high/fast moving waters should all pay for the services they require.