I was planning to talk about other things today, but those plans were waylaid by the untimely death of Michael Jackson.
I haven’t known what to say with regards to his passing, or perhaps I’ve had too many words… regardless, I couldn’t put it all down on paper until now.
Like millions of people worldwide, I loved Michael Jackson. Perhaps I took him for granted, as being born in the late ’70s, I literally grew up listening to his music.
From “The Whiz” to his albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller”… to his sappy “We Are The World” to his ridiculous mini-flick at Disney World… and all things in between, not to mention what came before my time (when he was part of the Jackson 5), and everything he’s produced since…. I have loved this man.
I remember watching the “Thriller” music video for the first time on Mtv. I had to be sneaky about it, as my mother had a strict “No Mtv” rule.
I was a mere 6 years old when I peeped it, and had nightmares for months thereafter.
I won’t pretend to have understood him.
Perhaps that was part of the attraction to all that is was The King of Pop.
He was, if nothing else, an enigma… a complete mystery.
His personal life, of course, has been in absolute shambles for years.
He was weird, he was eccentric, he was isolated… but perhaps most importantly- maybe even the key to all his strange idiosyncrasies-was his perpetual adolescence.
I read an article recently at Time.comabout Jackson’s life. The author discusses the well-known Jackson comparisons to Peter Pan- from his intangible unwillingness (inability?) to grow up to his very tangible Neverland Ranch. He makes a very powerful statement regarding the fact that maybe we were all wrong- maybe Michael himself got it wrong…
… He was no Peter Pan.
Jackson more appropriately fits the mold of one of the Lost Boys.
For a man who gave so much- both on stage and off- he never found whatever it is he was looking for in return.
Michael Jackson- predictably- fell tragically victim to a stereotypical world of drugs and excess… certainly nothing new in the world of superstars. However, with the sole exception of his prescription drug addiction, Jackson never fit the mold. Throughout his entire life, in spite of all his unorthodox behaviors and his non-traditional lifestyle, Jackson maintained an almost unheard of innocence. Still, at the age of 50, he remained absolutely childlike in his aura… there was an air of innocence around him that never diminished. Not with age, not with complete super stardom, not with lawsuits or criminal charges. He never hardened… and perhaps even became more fragile, as time ceased being his friend.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy of his entire life, even worse than charges of pedophilia, was Jackson’s self-hatred. Like a pre-teen in emotional pain, a child who cuts themself to release some sort of inner anguish, Jackson was faithful to his own self-mutilation tactics. He wasn’t a cutter, but managed to accomplish far worse in his absolute obsession with plastic surgery.
Some believe he was obsessed with becoming white.
I think he was obsessed with pain… I think he hated himself so thoroughly that he wanted the world to see the disfigured freak of a man he viewed himself to be.
And yet we still loved him, even as we shook our heads in disappointment at the fact that he no longer even had a nose to speak of.
The true source of Michael Jackson’s self-hatred will likely remain a mystery forever.
Was he irreparably scarred by the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of his father?
The pressures of the industry?
A grueling public’s constant scrutiny?
When I think of his personal life, his love for children- boys, especially- I do not think of a predator.
Rather, I think of the movie “Big“, starring Tom Hanks.
The premise of the movie centers around a boy- a pre-teen- who, tired of being short and puny, constantly picked on for his size, makes a wish at a carnival to simply be “big”. When he awakens the next morning, he’s big… as in an adult. The movie centers around an adolescent boy who is stuck in a man’s body- in an adult world. I remember the scene in which he meets a woman, and takes her back to his newly rented apartment- an apartment he’d filled with bunk beds, games and toys. The woman, of course, is expecting a romantic encounter… but Tom Hanks has other ideas. After a night of playing innocent child games and jumping on the bed, they fall asleep- with him on the top bunk, her on the bottom.
That, to me, is was Michael Jackson.
An adolescent stuck in a man’s body… thrown into an adult world while just a baby.
His behavior with boys was inappropriate for sure.
I do not believe, however, he preyed on them sexually, nor do I believe he ever meant to harm a single soul. To Michael, these were his intellectual equals. They were the age he was when he stopped growing, stopped maturing. When considering his small stature, his high-pitched voice and his never-altered childlike innocence, one begins to understand the Peter Pan analogies.
He never grew up.
To Michael Jackson:
You will be missed. We love you, and hope you can finally find the peace you so desperately craved.