Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson

Posted by sanityinjection on June 26, 2009

Regular readers will know that I usually refrain from comment on the lives of entertainment celebrities unless I feel there is a point to be made beyond simple voyeurism. I do feel compelled to share a few thoughts regarding the sudden passing of Michael Jackson.

To me, Michael Jackson for a long time has been a tragic figure. So much talent and so much promise, but his life is a vivid illustration of how our modern “celebrity culture” destroys lives. Jackson went from being a handsome black man to a disturbing white androgyne; from the world’s darling, the “King of Pop”, to an accused child molester; from being a multimillionaire to being millions in debt; from being the world’s number one performer and recording artist to being unable to perform on stage or even clearly remember his own accomplishments through the haze of drugs.

In the long run, I think Michael Jackson will be rightly remembered for his music. But we should pause to reflect on the disturbing path his life began to take beginning in 1979. That was the year Jackson, already a megastar at 21, broke his nose during a dance move. His rhinoplasty was botched and led to subsequent nasal surgeries, which in turn led to purely cosmetic surgery on his eyes, lips, nose, and chin. Combined with the burns to his scalp sustained in 1984 while filming a Pepsi commerical, by the late 1980s Jackson was virtually unrecognizable, anorexic, and addicted to painkillers. The contrast between photos of Jackson in 1984 and 1988 is striking and shows the change from a heartthrob to a disturbing figure. He had become such a mega-celebrity that no one around him had the guts to stand up to him and make him seek counseling or go to rehab. Jackson’s money bought silence and acquiescence to his every whim, including the purchase of the Neverland Ranch that ultimately led to his downfall and debt.

Among the many eulogies being delivered for Jackson, I am particularly struck by comments made by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, a close friend and companion of Jackson’s – to the extent that he indeed had any close friends – for about five years. While Boteach is a controversial figure who is himself accused of using Jackson for his own self-promotion, much of what he says in today’s Jerusalem Post rings true:

 “While I was heartsick at the news, especially for his three young children, I was not shocked. I dreaded this day and knew it had to come sooner rather than later….My fear was that Michael’s life would be cut short. When you have no ingredients of a healthy life, when you are totally detached from that which is normal, and when you are a super-celebrity you, God forbid, end up like Janis Joplin like Elvis…”

Boteach writes that “In many ways his tragedy was to mistake attention for love.” In fact, many of the oddest rumors and stories about Jackson – such as the story about him sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber –  were spread by Jackson himself as publicity stunts. Ironically, he later came to fear the intense media scrutiny that he had fueled, shielding himself and his children from the public with masks and veils.

Much has been made of Jackson’s abuse at the hands of his father as being partially responsible for his warped life. Yet, countless others have endured childhood abuse and grown up into remarkably normal individuals – haunted by their own demons perhaps but fundamentally no worse off than their neighbors. Rather, it was Jackson’s super-celebrity status that operated to prevent him from getting the help and care that a normal person would have. He stopped listening, so those around him stopped talking.

Jackson’s musical career was staggering, but one can only imagine what he might have been capable of  if he had been healthy and able to devote himself to his music for the last 15 years. Ultimately, Jackson’s family’s loss is shared by everyone who was touched by his music. But as the world grieves for Jackson’s death, I find myself more inclined to grieve for his sad and painful life.


5 Responses to “Thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson”

  1. Ms. D said

    It was a very sad and painful life, no doubt. I cringe to hear the media go on and on about all the scandals, his surgeries, etc. when his body is but 24 hours cold. In some other countries, it is considered ill taste (or worse) to say anything bad about someone who has just died, but I think in this country, we have lost a reverence for death. Broadcasters all over the nation are bringing up all the bad things he was associated with and it really makes me wonder when we started thinking it was okay to do that to someone who has just died. I wouldn’t think to bring up my grandfather’s alcoholism or his gambling addictions the day of his funeral; why do we think celebrities don’t deserve at least a few days of rest before we dredge up their mishaps and broken lives? (this does not pertain to you, Sanity, but to the thousands of people on TV right now who consider it their “right” to say whatever they want about someone who has just died, with no respect to the fact that Michael Jackson was a human being after all). We’ve lost that reverence and respect for death, and it’s really, really sad. I say, let’s let Michael and his family have a few days to remember the really special things about him before we dredge up all the crap, some of which we ourselves are guilty of.

  2. Michael Jackson is the best entertainer ever. For the life of me I don’t know why people can’t see that this man was thirsty 4 lov, he had no child hood and no one 2 realy love him 4 him. all his life he amid 2 please everyone. So if you don’t no anything about this man don’t judge this man…..OK !

  3. More comments in similar vein from Jackson friend Uri Geller:

    “When Michael asked for something, he got it. This was the great tragedy,” Geller said Thursday.

    Geller, who said he suffered a terrible falling-out with Jackson several years ago over the issue, said he often had “to shout at Michael, to scream at Michael” as he sought to confiscate the singer’s stocks of medication during his travels in England.

    “I tried to drum sense into his brain,” Geller said. “I told him, ‘Michael you’re going to die, Michael you’re going to kill yourself.’ But he just stared at me. Many a time he was in his bed and I stood and shouted at him. He just stared at me.”

    Speaking at his home near London, Geller said he slept on floors or sofas in Jackson’s hotel suites in a bid to talk sense into his sometimes-incoherent friend.

    “Most of the people around Michael could not say `No!’ to him. He desperately needed someone there all the time who could say `No!’ and mean it, who could warn him of the dangers … and tell him the truth,” Geller said. “The big problem was that many people wanted to help Michael, to save his life, but we could not be there all the time.”

  4. I-love-things-that-sparkle said

    I was very sad to hear about the passing of Frank McCourt. “Angela’s Ashes” is one of my favorite books. I didn’t hear any press about his death, except on NPR. He was a fascinating person to listen to.

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