Michael Jackson represented everything I didn’t want in my life. He sang about people lying about him - Billie Jean. He did things people copied – Moon Walk. He gathered crowds to watch him perform, like a two-year-old. I’m uncomfortable around the whole concept of celebrity.
I never watched his performances until this week, when they were unavoidable on my favorite websites. I can see that he was talented, creative, and hard-working. But the attitude – that people need to pay attention to him to have a full life makes no sense to me. It was more than that – they seemed to feel that they had to act like his back-up singers and dancers in order to be successful in their own lives, their own social circles. Their point – which I find most upsetting -- is that they believed knowing what was going on with Michael Jackson was important.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe he just got up and performed and it’s not his fault that other people watched and copied. But the fact that other people did watch and did copy is the reason I avoided him. I have better things to do with my time than learn the latest dance step. Or worry about who is getting plastic surgery. It freaks me out to watch crowds swoon when a performer comes on stage or scream when s/he moves a certain way. Maybe I’m not wired normally, but that’s not how I appreciate art.
What really galls me is the crowd mentality. If everybody likes something, talks about it, obsesses over it – I don’t care if it’s a pet rock, a celebrity, or the weather – I want to free my mind from contact with it. Hearing about the latest antics of a celebrity feels like someone is pouring thick goo into the machinery of my mind.
I’m aware that this feeling makes no sense. I am a creative artist. And I often find myself inspired by other artists. So why not Michael Jackson? Why was his hype such a turn-off that I denied myself contact?
I guess because when people talked about him, it was never about his ideas. When he sang about Billie Jean, nobody started a conversation about the importance of honest relationships and why false accusations are harmful. They sang his words, copied his moves, and if they were at all insightful, they wondered if he had a love-child with Billie Jean. They asked who was the real Billie Jean? Not that it mattered. Not that they wanted to go babysit for her child. The fascination was only the sheer gossip of it.
Try as I would, I couldn’t totally avoid him. I heard the conversations on buses and in elevators about his surgeries to look like Diana Ross. I saw headlines about his short marriages, and the accusations of child abuse, his frivolities with money. Yes, I know the media likes to attack famous people. I didn’t care if any of this stuff was true. I didn’t want to be part of the machinery that fed this hype that I was trying to avoid.
No magazine ads for Michael Jackson said, “You can save this child, or you can turn the page.” When I saw his headlines, I turned the page.
It’s not his fault. But in my mind, he became a symbol for what’s wrong with our culture. And since I couldn’t do anything about it, I stayed away from his videos, and I changed the subject when people tried to talk to me about him. And now that he’s dead, it’s safe for me to watch the videos and hear the songs knowing that there is no crowd of screaming fans, and there will be no more gossip.
All of which, probably makes me a hypocrite, because I want the fame without the infamy. I want to be a popular talent, too. But I don’t want headlines about how I dress or my problems in yoga poses, and I certainly don’t want people copying my hairstyle. I just want to entertain with the things I want to make public. I wonder if Michael wanted that, or if he liked his active fan base, who pushed me away.