Sunday, June 28, 2009

the end of postmodernity

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.

30 comments:

smith kaich jones said...

He led a sad, distorted life, and his death appears to be no different. The media onslaught is ridiculous - all Michael, all the time - but we live, I believe, in an era of lazy journalism, when people become journalists so as to be seen on television, and this was the easy story. Harder would've been asking tough questions about the cap & trade bill that was just passed, harder would be actual questions to the President, to members of Congress, harder would be investigating the answers they receive. And the false hysterical grief - I watched a young British guy fall to the concrete in tears when told of the news of MJ's demise - puh-lease!!! He was not even born when MJ was in his heyday, and it was all about the cameras. So possibly the end of postmodernism, the end of the 80s, but what we have now - we are all a reality show waiting to happen - feels worse. Lordy! I just turned on the tv - yep! More MJ! Al & Jesse need to go home, need to shut up, need to let it be, but then, I forgot. They are part of the now - all about the cameras. So pathetic.

:) Debi

Extranjera said...

I find it hard to not speak ill of the dead too. Whoever came up with that?

Molly said...

The person I feel most sorry for is Farah Fawcett. What a bummer to die a scant few hours before Michael Jackson - talk about having the limelight stolen ... ;)

Char said...

in his time, he was a brilliant artist - I loved the Jackson 5 growing up and the Off the Wall album is a great dance album. Yes, he became a shell of himself - almost a Dorian Gray character. His death is more shocking than Farrah's because we knew she was very sick and more than Ed's because Ed was very old. It does wake one up and say, 'if it could happen to him'.... I also hope it wakes up all the people that combine drugs of choice with alcohol and think, 'it couldn't happen to me.'

But, I agree - this 'sainthood' and constant edification of him, is way over the top. Just like the way Elvis is still revered. But then again, I don't think celebrities are the end all to be all that some other people do. It's that type of fodder that keep People, US and other similar magazines in business.

tangobaby said...

I certainly have had much more personal and serious issues to ponder lately, but I think for people (like me) his death represents a loss of part of childhood. When I was 9 years old, Michael Jackson was the coolest kid I knew and loved to watch sing and dance on TV with his brothers.

That Michael disappeared a long time ago, which was sad. However, I do find this death mongering really distasteful in light of other events that really need to be covered (I guess Iran is all handled now, as is DOMA), but such is the way of our sophomoric and fickle media.

Eternally Distracted said...

Hurray, a post that is talking some truths about MJ. In a way I think we are probably all contributing to keeping him in everyone's mind but personally I find it so hard to mourn the death of someone who was surrounded by such controversy.

Delena said...

I agree with Molly. Also, the world is so full of freaks and now we have one less. Sorry but he was just too weird for me and now we have to be bombarded with MJ news for the next few weeks. Even the internet jokes are out already...

Vancouver's Enviro Girl said...

I'm with Molly, we are not making such a big deal over Farrah Fawcett dying or the scores of other people that died the same day. I mean they had a moment of silence in the frickin Congress on Friday. WTF is that? He was a freak and quite possibly a child molester.

heidikins said...

I still have a hard time getting over the fact that MJ was only 50. He could have passed as 75 far too easily.

Other than that, his life or death has no affect on me. Shrug.

xox

Mary Ellen said...

You are speaking my mind here, J.- and from these comments I'm SO glad I don't watch TV. That said, a couple of bloggers posted key MJ videos - Jackson 5 era and Thriller. Sad to see such kinetic energy and talent wasted. Myone favorite MJ of the past was his Scarecrow partonThe Wiz - looking for a brain, looking for love. He inhabited that part poingnantly.

marinik said...

I agree with Molly... I was really sad about Farrah... and I guess this day of mourning for her was stolen....
Very good points in your post, and like you said let's hope "he found the peace he never had".
oh and another thing... Prince... anytime baby ;)

dutchbaby said...

I thought Michael Jackson was a genius. His collaborations with Quincy Jones, "Off the Wall" and "Thriller", and his talents as a dancer were amazing and deserve to be lauded. It is tragic that he was never able to climb out from the abuse he suffered from his father, greedy producers, and the frenzied media. May his soul rest in peace.

Prince - another genius. Madonna - not so much, other than her genius for publicity.

tippyrich said...

I'm with those of you who feel that F. Fawcett's death was so minimized by that of M. Jackson. He never meant anything much to me either, nor did she, but she seemed to 'earn' her death. She paid such a price with pain and suffering that her death is certainly more significant to me.

Glad to know I'm not the only 'un'fan of M. Jackson.

Bill Stankus said...

I find it curious ... all the attention generated when a Hollywood person dies. I simply don't get why the big deal fuss.

Maggie May said...

For me, his music is so important. Many of his songs are like a soundtrack to moments in my life. Billie Jean is one of my favorite songs hands down ever. The beat in that song, as soon as that BEAT starts, I feel something in my chest, like something exciting is going to happen. There was something magic abuot the combination of his voice and those beats for me that evoked and still evokes a great excitement and thrill and joy for life. I have no comment on his personal life because that has nothing to do with his music, for me. I remember watching Thriller and how terrified I was and yet how even at the tiny age I was I remember feeling this man had liquid in his bones..who can move like that? It still trips me out. So when I heard he died I felt, ah, someone who created music that has done nothing but make me feel happy has died, and so I felt sad.

Polly said...

He was a creep and a weirdo, I totally agree, but I must say I like his songs, especially Billy Jean, and I do have one of his albums and I really like going back to it... he was very good at one point.

And I think that the mass hysteria after his death is surprising rather than distasteful. I think it only shows what impact he had on the world of music

K13 said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. While I did like his music back then, his creepiness trumped any good music he ever had.

Janet said...

i'll jump on this bandwagon. and i agree that it's a shame that Farrah passed and passed when she did. now if it had been O.J. instead of Farrah, . . . that would be another story.

Pattern and Perspective said...

Farrah was a brave soul for letting those cameras in when while she was fading away, every so slowly. Very sad, but very strong she was. I could never wish a disastrous problem upon anyone. MJ - that's sad. I can't speak ill of someone who is dead - it's unfair and they can't defend themselves, but maybe he's found peace. That sort of life cannot be good for anyone - hounded by paparazzi, hounded by fans, work work work, too much cash (and too little).

Very sad, but wait until someone else bad happens and then the MJ thing will go away. That's the media -- they concentrate on what they think is big news.

Miss Malorie said...

I must say, I guess you can call me biased, because I was a fan of MJ, but it also just doesn't sit well with me to speak ill of someone in their death.

I feel he lived a strange, sad life, but I think revering him to God-like status in his death (this, mostly done by people who didn't give a shit about him while he was living), is just as bad as referring to him as a "freak" or "child molestor" when none of us lived with him, or truly knew what he was like. It all requires blind faith in our own formed opinion, based on what's been reported by the media, an outlet that should never be 100% trusted. Alas, we are all entitled to our own opinions!

At the end of the day, he was a human being, as was Farrah Fawcett, and any of the rest of us who will die one day. I pray he finds his safe place in the next life that he couldn't seem to secure in this life.

spudballoo said...

I have mixed feelings really...I was never a major MJ fan, never had any of his albums etc. But a lot of his music is part of the soundtrack of my youth and I feel nostaglic for that. And sad for him and his family. I could never get my head around all the issues he clearly had, but he was a very tragic figure and what appeared to be a lonely and muddled one.

His death overshadowing FFM is inevitable, but a shame. She was so brave to be so open about her journey with anal cancer. It can't be easy to talk about such things, and anything that can be done to remove the stigma about 'hush hush' illness is a great step forward. I guess the moment for an anal cancer awareness programme has passed now. That's just the way it goes.

A sad week, but i am missing the 'sleb obsessive' gene and it pretty much passes me by other than stopping for a moment to consider the grief of those close to them that they leave behind.

Sammi said...

It is nice to find someone who isn't quite as sad as everyone else. It is, of course, very sad that he's died especially at such a young age.

I agree that Michael Jackson changed the shape of popular music and some of his stuff I enjoyed, although older rather than the stuff I should remember. However, and rather cynically, me and my boss think it's a bit of a publicity stunt and are a touch fed up of listening to his songs on every radio station.

However, I disagree, Madonna is turning into a freak. I disagree with her adoption of Mercy not because the kid won't have a better life, because undoubtedly she will. But the rules state you need to a Malawian couple, and she is not a couple and sure as hell isn't Malawian. Plus she's going to be in her 60s when the kid is 18... she'll be too old to look after her!

Just my opinion ;o)

Trina S. said...

What bothers me...is that for a long while he was being accused of child molestation...seems the news has failed to remember that and instead of forgetting him they honor him...yuk!

Cyndy said...

I think the whole crash the internet, star-struck society is a much more interesting story. It is so hard for me to try to convince my children that stars on the radio, screen and courts are not all they are projected to be. They all seem so sad in real life. Drugs, broken families, in and out of court. Not the life I would want...

wv: phypack: the 21st century version of the bag a doctor carries when making house calls

glnroz said...

Hear Hear,,, thanx..The straws of humanity that we grasp are often slimey, and luckily they slip through our hands before we carry them too long.
My prayers go to the family and dont we carry some of his blame..

Fidgeting Gidget said...

I think MJ was doomed from the beginning. I don't think his dad is a very nice man. A lot of stuff that I read said that Michael Jackson had the mentality of a 12 year old....whether that's true or not will probably never be known, and some of the stuff that he did was definitely inexcusable, but I think the fame and everything that went with it came way too early in his life and he didn't know how to handle it, so he turned into the freak that he was. Even though he had a lot of issues, his music is still legendary, and for that and with all else aside, I respect him.

Bee said...

Did you hear the medical reports that were leaked? That he only weighed eight stone (about 116 pounds) and that he was nearly bald?

I'm with you: his death leaves me cold. (I wouldn't even say ambivalent, actually.) He gave me the creeps, and his early death is hardly surprising. Who knows what was really there under all of that artifice?

Even at his danceable best, his lyrics never spoke to me. He was no Stevie Wonder.

M said...

Congrats on being referenced by BBC - I"m so proud of you, you cool thing you! way to go! michelle/madison

Innerspace Yoga said...

"so full of multiple realities that he was stripped entirely of reality. how do we even really know what's gone now?" that's some brilliant, next level shizzle. never thought of MJ's life as existential, but your post really clarified that. why aren't you on CNN instead of all these butt-munching pseudofans and muckraking journalists?

Stacey Childs said...

I'm with you Julie. I don't feel anything really, he hasn't done anything recently to make me feel like I have lost anything, I think the MJ people are mourning actually died a couple of decades ago. Now his body is simply catching up. Call it the progress of biodegration.