Thursday, November 16, 2006
Michael Jackson: Scarred, Scared, Sad
I love Michael Jackson. But his performance on stage last night at the World Music Awards in London (and his offstage performance as well) was pathetic. Why? Because his stellar success and unreasonable expectations of the world have made it impossible for him to live a happy life and to perform to his potential. His performance was nothing more than a photo op - he sang a few lines of "We are the World" against a playback of the original recording. His greatest currency now is not his talent, but his celebrity. As one reviewer said, he is more of a celebrity now than an artist. When that happens, only bad things follow: the stage is set for him to be used and discarded by hangers-on just as he has used and discarded the long list of benefactors and business associates and plain old sugar daddies he seduced with his fame: billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, Prince Alwaleed, the Bahraini royal family, Chuck Sullivan, promoter of the Victory tour, and scads of others. I felt sad when he seemed to need to prop himself up and remind us of his achievements when he stopped by the Guiness Book of World Records to have his picture taken with his world record certificates. (See! Look at all the records I broke!) I was embarrassed for him when he dragged his three children into yet another fury of publicity generated for no other reason than to make himself feel better about his waning stature. He has lived for so long in a world cut off from reality that he is incapable of living a fulfilling life. You can see it in his appearance and his demeanor across the past 20 years - he becomes more and more remote and less capable of sustaining any meaningful interaction with others. The true superstars of the moment do not need meaningless "Diamond" awards to validate their achievements. Michael Jackson is scarred by years of self-abuse and abuse at the hands of others, his family, friends, and employees. So I feel bad for him, but I also feel embarrassed for him and sad that his talent and energy seems to have been overcome by celebrity so great that it became a black hole, into which everything has been subsumed: his fortune, his family, his artistry, his identity. If you look closely, you will see. And if not today, in a few years, as the inevitable slide into desperate obscurity continues.