After a week of watching music videos and deep thinking, I’ve come to realize that it’s OK for me to feel sad over the passing of Michael Jackson. As a member of Generation Y, my MJ experience barely spans two decades — most of that is time in which I’ve only known “bad” Michael: the degenerating celebrity who lived with a bevy of problems, most of which stemmed from his explicit love of children and all things childhood.
But as a wide-eyed child of the early-early nineties, I also witnessed the tail end of “good” Michael. How gorgeous it was. For me, age 4, he was a creamy-faced god. His music, so earnestly catchy and perfect, captivated me to hunger after impossible dreams. I remember secretly preparing dance routines to each and every song on Dangerous, hoping that through some unexpected turn of events, it would earn me a day — or, lord willing, a night! — at Neverland Ranch.
I wasn’t alone in my fanaticism. Ask around; it’s frankly bizarre how many 20-somethings remember the worldwide premiere of the “Black or White” music video. Back then, kids who didn’t like the song (or didn’t at least respect the piety of the Thriller singles) were considered stupid.
The playground theory I remember went like this: MJ was the reason behind every single worthwhile musician of the time. For example, “Billie Jean” had rolled out the carpet for the street-slick vocal stylings of Paula Abdul, whereas “Beat It” had a significant-yet-unspoken role in the music of Guns n’ Roses. I still don’t consider that much of a stretch.
Of course, it wasn’t meant to last. After much mental digging (and guidance from Wikipedia), I’ve pinpointed the moment when “good” Michael became “bad” Michael: Dec. 22, 1993 — the date when the King of Pop released a royal video decree regarding his first sex abuse accusation.
Watching the video, I realized for the first time how alien he looked, how effeminate his speaking voice was. This was not good. When he shared the details of his police-ordered photo spread, dropping the words “penis” and “buttocks,” I should’ve known it was over. From that point on, acknowledging any appreciation for my favorite musician of all time would wreck my status among my peers.
For a child, the best music in the world can’t stack up against social acceptance. I put my devotion aside entirely, not even attempting to enjoy it secretly.
I felt more comfortable with my decision as time went on. As I grew older, Jackson grew weirder: his Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
session with children still blatant, his skin peeling and his mind apparently disconnected from reality.
With the news of his death, I find myself reaching back into the past, spending hours upon hours listening to his music. All of that backed-up passion has come pouring out, and it feels great. I realize now I never should’ve turned away from him.
The man was a tragic figure. As a childhood victim of abuse and exploitation, he unknowingly perpetuated the cycle. Even if he was innocent of any wrongdoing, he invited impressionable children into his messy personal life. The two kids unlucky enough to get drawn into actual court cases will be the worst off. It’s hard to imagine those kids ever fully growing into emotionally stable adults.
Nonetheless, I doubt Michael knew he was causing harm. He had a genuine air to him despite living a rock star story never before told. He sang about his desire for a better world, and he put his money where his mouth was by putting into motion numerous charities and scholarship foundations.
Therefore, it’s OK to be sad over his death. No human is without problems. Despite an outward appearance that suggested otherwise, Jackson was very much that.
Erik Myers is a senior technical journalism major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.