Feb 132012
Authors: Allison Sylte

If I ever somehow become a celebrity, and if I ever manage to do something just flat-out stupid, I really hope that I die young. At least that way, I can be assured that t-shirts with my face on them will be able to support my family for generations, and all of my sins will be forgiven.

Take, for instance, fallen King of Pop Michael Jackson.

In the Jan. 31 Michael Jackson tribute episode of “Glee,” (yes… I’m 21 and I still watch “Glee.” Deal with it.) to motivate fellow glee club members to take a stand against injustice, protagonist Finn poses the question: “What would Michael Jackson do?”

“Be brave! Be strong! Not take ‘no’ for an answer!” The glee club members exclaim, without a hint of irony, as they use Jackson’s timeless music to give a moral conscience to a rival glee club.

Now a few years ago, if you had asked me, “What would Michael Jackson do?” in any situation, “Be brave!” and “Be strong!” probably would not have been the first responses to come to mind.

Instead, my response — and I wager a lot of other people’s responses too — would have been something inappropriate: probably something lewd involving touching children, transforming from black to white or dangling a blanket-clad baby off of a balcony.

It wasn’t until after he died that Michael Jackson transformed from “Wacko Jacko” back to the King of Pop. While he was alive, they didn’t sell posters with his head on it at the Renaissance Festival. It wasn’t socially acceptable to publicly admit that you listen to his music.

Now, he is a deity worthy of a “Glee” tribute episode. Just prior to his death, he was basically a human Saturday Night Live skit.

It’s not like his years spent dangling kids off of balconies, getting enough plastic surgery to look like Lord Voldemort or extensive legal issues didn’t exist.

But by the way society has started to lionize Jackson after his death, you would almost think the last 20 or so years of Jackson’s life never happened, and he died tragically in his sleep in the midst of his “Thriller” heyday.

It’s not like every celebrity gets this treatment. Take Amy Winehouse, who passed away this summer.

Articles about her still speculate on her drug and drinking habits, months after her death. Granted, she wasn’t the icon that Jackson is, but her death has hardly received the amount of respect that it deserved, and it doesn’t at all fit the precedent left by memories of Jackson.

And this brings me to Whitney Houston, who, for those of you who live under a rock, passed away this weekend.

While literally a week ago, if you would have told me that Houston was going to hijack the Grammys and that my friends would think losing Whitney is the most tragic thing that has ever happened to them, I would have asked if the two of you had been smoking crack together.

That’s definitely not remotely acceptable for me to say now.

Even normally fearless comedienne Kathy Griffin, whose cracked-out Whitney Houston impression used to be one of the best parts of her act, issued an apology on her Facebook profile, saying that she would stop making fun of Houston in light of her passing.

I’m all about respecting the dead, and I think that both Jackson and Houston left incredible legacies worthy of celebrating.

But the way things are going and the way Houston and Jackson are being portrayed, it kind of concerns me that future generations might look back at their legacies and not see the whole picture.

Yes, they both left us with incredible music, but they also left us with some pretty important lessons about how not to act.

And future generations should probably be allowed to learn these lessons instead of simply being taught that Houston and Jackson were divine inspirations just because they were lucky enough to die young.

Maybe when they do a “Glee” tribute episode for Whitney Houston, her legacy, unlike Jackson’s, will at least try to acknowledge a little bit of the truth.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @AllisonSylte.

 Posted by at 3:32 pm

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