Friday, 17 July 2009

Free-floating thoughts on MJ


Yes, I'm still smarting over his death. So there's a series of thoughts I wanted to get out of my system:
  • Medication: The ‘Dr. Feelgood’ characters have been in Hollywood as long as there has been a Hollywood. These are people who can give prescription painkillers to wealthy showbiz-types and they keeps killing our stars. MJ is the latest in a list accompanied by Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, Elvis, Judy Garland, Howard Hughes, Keith Moon, Nick Drake and (one of my fave avant-garde filmmakers) Maya Deren. The list goes on
  • Nothing learned: Some deaths lead to something positive - Jade Goodie’s legacy is that the number of women taking smear tests shot up, but no lesson will be learned from MJ’s death. The media won't stop exploiting their stars, and no medication addict will kick their habit
  • Revisionary: I never even liked the song Billy Jean that much. On Thriller, Human Nature sits there quietly making it a great album without you noticing. On the album Bad, Speed Demon does it for me every time. Plus more attention should be paid to the post-Quincy Jones era. Remember the Time is a deceptively good song, and Butterflies could have been a hit if Sony had promoted it properly
  • Liar: MJ explicitly stated that he impregnated Debbie Rowe. However, he’s black and his children aren't mixed-race. They are his foster children. (Yes it’s obvious, but no-one ever seemed to point that out). If anything tells me that he was willing to delude himself, it's that
  • Expose: MJ clearly already had plastic surgery by Thriller, and no-one objected. So is it the plastic surgery that bothers us, or the fact it’s bad plastic surgery? (bad meaning ‘bad’). My suspicion is that he developed an addiction to surgery, and would fixate on different parts of his face at a time rather than pay attention to the complete thing. I notice his plastic surgeon has remained anonymous this whole time. Can’t he/ she be exposed?
  • Arseholoe: If Gavin Arvizo admitted that he made up the story about being molested, isn’t he legally accountable? Is that called ‘contempt of court’?
  • Baby-sitter: No – I wouldn’t have let MJ look after my children. But neither would I let Prince, Boyzone or the Cheeky Girls look after my children either
  • Tough break: He had to sell his home in order to clear his name and the court decided on both occasions that he hadn’t molested anyone. Still the public didn't trust him. He probably settled out of court the second time because they didn't want the case to be prolonged. He was caught between a rock and a hard place
  • Journalism sucks: MJ exposed most journalists’ inability to hold two opinions about a person at the same time. He’s either the greatest guy ever or the worst
  • Trauma: It’s damaging to be attacked excessively, but it can be equally damaging to be praised excessively. MJ had both
  • Suspect: The video to Man in the Mirror intercuts MJ with Martin Luther King, Ghandi, John F Kennedy and Mother Teresa while he induces a religious fervour in a stadium full of people (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgtWIx2zLtk). During the Jarvis Cocker incident, he was pretending to be Jesus. In the video to They Don’t Care About Us, he plays a Che Guevara-type folk hero. In all these examples, one could argue that he’s being used as a symbol of hope, but it’s all rather suspect
  • Good guy: On the other hand, he’s apparently the second biggest celebrity-contributor to charity after Oprah Winfrey. That's a piece of information that never really slipped into public consciousness
  • Skin: I’m willing to believe that he had vitiglio, but why didn’t he use his money to make his skin brown again? At any rate, I don’t think he wanted to be caucasian. I think he wanted to be white, as in, *pale*. That's not the same as being 'a white guy'
  • Sha-Mo: This is MJ’s own version of “Tra-la-la” or “Shoo-be-do”. I think it’s great that he came up with his own musical turn of phrase
  • Moonwalk: MJ didn't invent the Moonwalk. To my knowledge, he never claimed to. There have been recorded instances of the Moonwalk performed as early as the 1930s by Cab Calloway, and later in the 50s by Marcel Marceau. Later still in the 70s, street dancers were doing the move. MJ just popularized it
  • Cruel: Who asked his bereaved 10 year-old daughter to speak in front of a stadium of about 250,000 people? (Or 1 Billion if you count worldwide figures)
  • Fun: You never hear about anything fun that Richard Branson or Bill Gates did with their money. MJ became a Billionaire and bought a fairground and a monkey. Cool
  • Tragic/ Hero: Will he be remembered as a pop hero or a tragic figure? Elvis showed us that there is space for both conceptions in our collective memory
  • Memento: My favourite video clip of MJ became available a little while after he died. It’s the only footage I’ve seen where he’s not consciously aware of being looked at. See him in the second half of this clip, he’s just watching and thinking, and we’re given some insight into his internal thought processes as he sits and contemplates. Quite precious, to my mind:

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