we've been inundated over the past few days with the news of michael jackson's death. it seems that the canonization began almost immediately, with the amnesiac collective memory forgetting that he had become at best a freak and at worst a sickening, mangled, pale spectre of himself.
i wasn't a fan and never had any of his albums. while i think the music he made in the early 80s was something special in comparison to the crap that's churned out today, it never really spoke to me. i think for me, even then, the premise of a song like billy jean--that he would impregnate someone and leave them--seemed so absurd that i just couldn't get into him. the spangled glove and the red band uniform just didn't do it for me. give me madonna. give me prince. but you could keep michael jackson.
so, to be honest, i just can't participate in the mass hysterical grief. in fact, i can't muster any feelings about it whatsover, i am completely and utterly ambivalent. but there are a few things i keep thinking about...
: : are madonna and prince, who both turned 50 this year as well, freaking out?
: : can you imagine being the team of doctors and nurses who worked with him at the hospital, trying to resuscitate him? how they must have seen his real face, mangled beyond any normalcy by countless plastic surgeries? it must have been very sad to see him like that.
: : does this mark the end of postmodernity once and for all? because michael jackson was the very embodiment of postmodernity, wasn't he? a parody so unreal he took on a reality as a parody. the ultimate pastiche of references...the moonwalking, the glove, the red leather, the epaulettes, the spats, the bling before it was called bling, the falsetto, the amusement park at neverland, the ever-more-bizarrely sculpted face, living in bahrain, dangling his baby off a balcony. he was the ultimate postmodern icon. so full of multiple realities that he was stripped entirely of reality. how do we even really know what's gone now?
: : does it also mark, once and for all, the end of the 80s? because while his contemporaries madonna and prince seemed to move on and recognize that new decades came and with them a need for new incarnations of themselves, he never really seemed to realize the 80s were over. and although he tried, with the freaky plastic surgery and bleached skin, to change, he never really left that decade of excess, he never gained any ironic distance to it.
at least the good things he did create - his music - will live on and we can hope that he's found the peace he was so clearly searching for and never found.