News of the death of Michael Jackson is unavoidable. It is dominating every media outlet; it is the thread of a thousand posts on a thousand internet forums. I’ve not yet ventured onto any of the giants of internet social networking, but I can only tremble at the thought of the Jackson-mania running rampant and spilling in bursts of one hundred forty words or less from the fingers of the horde as they sit at their computers and tweet (without the beauty of birdsong). The members of the notorious meme factory ‘4chan‘* must be working double-shifts this weekend. This is how an icon of pop-culture dies in the era of the Internet: a timeless cannibalistic ritual: the machine consumes its own.
There is no doubt that Jackson was seen by many thousands (maybe millions) as a messiah figure; nor is it something of which he was unaware , having crafted his role as pop-prophet through his eccentric behaviour and mysterious nature (thanks in no small part to the vitiligo and lupus), his promotion of peace and plea to ‘heal the world,’ and legions of hysterically loyal fans displaying a febrile zeal that constituted, at least in their eyes, no less than deification.
Whenever figures of such cult statues – such pop-culture luminaries- die, there are the inevitable tributes and documentaries, perhaps even a biopic. The person’s life is dissected and dramatised and rehearsed and reenacted, it is polished and cut, edited, packaged, sold, discounted, and sold again. The highs and the lows, the accolades and the controversy, it’s all hauled onto the big screen. But what I often find the most interesting about these lives, about these people is not their art or their achievements, but their psychological fortitude (or lack thereof). To spend as much time in the spotlight (floodlight) as Michael Jackson did (four decades) and not suffer some degree of psychological trauma would, I think, be supernatural.
Regardless of the fact that his life was a media circus (more freak-show grotesque, it must be said, than Circque du Soleil magic), the King of Pop’s work defined pop music in the second half of the twentieth century; his songs are pop canon, it can’t be ignored.
He died late in the week, but his followers will see Him rise again sometime soon. After all, he has to be on stage in London by mid July.
* I take no responsibility for what you find on 4chan. You’ve been warned.