Monday, June 29, 2009

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

I am, of course, speaking of Michael Jackson. I have been bombarded (as has the entire country) with coverage, commentary and chatter regarding his death, his plastic surgeries, his painkiller addiction, his alleged misconduct with children and his own kids.

It's not that I don't care, but SHUT UP, ALREADY!

I believe that every human life deserves mourning. Hitler deserved to be mourned. Jeffery Dahmer deserved to be mourned and when Charles Manson dies, he will be mourned. I believe that with all my heart. There is no soul so black on this Earth that someone will not be hurt by their passing.

I also believe that death is a personal, quiet affair that should not be trumpeted from the highest tower (unless you are the Pope or a national leader - then people just kinda need to know). I am always amazed when I watch the Oscars at all the people who died that year that I didn't hear about. Celebrity is a weird thing. If Suzanne Pleshette had been caught selling meth, everyone and their dog would know about it, but just dying, eh, whatever.

So, all this MJ jazz has got me thinking about a lot of stuff, death-wise. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. I want my news back. Okay, Iran was depressing the crap out of me. But, it was better than 24-7 coverage of where his kids are, who's under investigation, what does his creepy dad have to say about it. I'm over it. I'm ready to move on, why won't Good Morning America let me move on?

2. What defines a person's worth? Obviously, any other human being who dangled his child over a balcony and was repeatedly accused of child molestation wouldn't have millions crying in the street over them. So, is it just the music? Was it that good? I lived through a good deal of it (everything but the cute Jackson 5 Michael) and I still don't get it. I stayed up late to watch Thriller, I sang Billie Jean until people's ear drums exploded, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when Eat It came out. But, still, he was just another singer to me. Okay, a really famous singer, but is it going to be like this when Bono dies? Someone said that it was not mourning for the man, but for the cultural icon, the death of an era, literalized. Okay, I can buy that. We aren't mourning him at all, but mourning the 80's, the white glove, the music video (and don't you dare tell me that music videos aren't dead - when did you last see one on TV? huh, huh? 3 a.m. Mmm-hmm. Thought so.)

3. Why are people sooo upset? No matter what you are mourning, I bet all these people crying in the streets, gnashing their teeth, laying out memorials and missing work won't be this upset when their own mother's die. Did you know him? No. Then get a grip.

4. Why are people sooo angry that people are upset? At first, I was just watching in amazement wondering how people can be so wrapped up in the lives of celebrities. Then the yelling started. The "Yippee another pedophile dead!" crowd and I can't think that's a good reaction either. Now, don't get me wrong, I had a similar reaction when he walked. Again. But, it's over, he's dead. Is it worth making the people who did know him, the people who are genuinely mourning feel like crap for loving him. No.

5. Is this just because I'm old? How much different from Kurt Cobain's death is this? Granted I didn't wail and gnash my teeth, but I wore all black to school for a few days. I listened to Heart Shaped Box and cried. I worried about what would happen to Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. (Turns out they would be just fine and arguably better off than if they had stayed in Nirvana forever.) And little Francis Bean. How I worried for her.

Was that different somehow or is it because I was young and unencumbered enough that a rock star's death could envelope my life for three days without dire consequence? Or was it different because it was MY cultural icon? The one that meant something to me, that resonated with me, that sang songs to my depressed adolescent girl self. Undeniably, I own the "notebook" that Cobain wrote lyrics in (mass produced to keep Courtney Love in heroine or Francis Bean in college). I still will listen to Nevermind on auto-repeat all day long. I still stop and stare when I see those haunting blue eyes and that sweater. (Someday I will write sonnets about that ugly sweater that symbolized everything good and pure to my sixteen year old self.)

I am trying to sympathize. Trying to understand. Trying to get it. But really, I just want it to end. I just want life to return to normal. No more specials or news stories or interviews. I never thought I would see the day I'd say this, but haven't Jon and Kate done something stupid lately? What about Lindsey Lohan? Is she still clean? Paris Hilton? Haven't seen her lately?

* I fully intend to post an exciting, edge of your seat kind of post on What's in My Crochet Bag tonight, after I get home, where I left my camera. But, seeing as it's the same post I was going to post last Monday, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. Because, face it, if you die before July 16th, no one's gonna notice. Just look at poor Farrah and Billy Mays.


Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

When the news comes on TV in my house, I change the channel. Seriously. Being a reporter totally RUINED me for ever wanting to watch the news again - and I was only the reporter for our little hometown paper.

I totally agree with everything you said in this post.

Strangeite said...

The BBC. Everytime I start to get completely disenchanted with television journalism, I watch an hour of the BBC and remember that high-quality professionally produced television journalism is possible. Plus you get the added bonus of actually hearing news about countries where we don't have soldiers on the ground.

Rachel Schrag (now Sommerfeld) and family stayed with us last night on their way back to Kansas. She is the executive news producer of a station in Wichita. She has some very funny stories about television news and the professionalism of the "talent".

Jessi said...

I agree with both of you. I try not to watch the news too much because I want enough hope to drag myself out of bed in the morning. I read a lot of news from different sources and when I do watch, I like to watch BBC. But, I just have this thing for Good Morning America. I like Robin Roberts, a lot and I like it when she tells me what everyone will be talking about at work.

Mimi - SleeplessInKL said...

the endless repetition of MJ songs -- on the radio, in the mall, EVERYWHERE in malaysia -- is driving me nuts, too.

Anonymous said...

From my end, if it hadn't happened, and if they hadn't told us about it, I would never have had the privilege of enjoying my husband's twenty minute memorial tribute in dance.

Steph said...

Have you ever been to the Rock n' Roll Museum in Seattle? There's a big awesome Nirvana display in there. It made me nostalgic for the early 90s, which NEVER happens.

Jessi said...

Mimi - I imagine it may be even worse outside of the US. I'm not sure why I think that, he just always seemed bigger overseas to me.

Ann - Glad you got some enjoyment from it.

Steph - No! I didn't know such a thing existed. To tell you the truth, I've never been to Seattle. It's like Xanadu in my head, without Olivia Newton John. It's all magic and grunge and coffee and rain and flannel. I'm afraid I've missed that era (except for the rain) and now I'm afraid I'll be disappointed if I go. I might have to go just for that museum, though.