Michael Jackson R.I.P.
Michael Jackson is dead at fifty. And the reaction to his death is fitting. Every cable news and entertainment channel, and most every radio station, is running (or at least was running—it has been more than twenty-four hours since Jackson died) wall-to-wall coverage of his death. The death of Michael Jackson is a lucrative business—aside from the monster television ratings to be had, Jackson’s albums are selling again—Thriller hit #1 on Amazon.
This orgy of profit is appropriate, given Jackson’s career arc. He was deprived of any sort of childhood by his abusive father, forced to practice singing and not much else. His success as a child star condemned him to a sort of eternal childhood—his handlers injected him with female hormones to preserve his youthful voice, and he was encouraged to live in a Peter Pan, never-grow-up world.
Jackson bore some responsibility for his increasingly eccentric actions—but he never really had a chance. No one could do much given his circumstances—instant fame, but incredible pressure and dreadful and sometimes abusive authority figures. His fame would have nigh-impossible for even the most balanced person to handle. In Michael Jackson’s case, the results were horrible.
He went a little mad, ruining his face with plastic surgeries, allegedly molesting children, and going from riches to rags, dying a poor man. Michael Jackson was an icon, a legend, one of pop music’s greatest figures—but also an American tragedy.