Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Man-Crushes 2009, Prelude Addendum: Michael Jackson, the King of Pop

I should be clear that the qualities I look for in a man-crush -- contemporary influence, a practical understanding of the opposite sex, and global significance -- must be modeled in a positive way, lest the man not crush me but himself under the weight of his own self-inflation. Just as I took advantage of the recent passing of Billy Mays to illustrate these traits productively, I've decided to process the worldwide media frenzy over Michael Jackson's death as an example in contrast. Otherwise, the news' nonstop coverage of the King of Pop's passing might just pop a vein in forehead.

Michael Jackson is the consummate example of contemporary influence, from his role as lead singer for the first real boy band to the controversy surrounding his supposed love of little boys -- in other words, if he isn't topping the charts, he's topping the headlines. However, I won't indulge in easy jabs about his social awkwardness; frankly, it's too easy, and despite all else, when someone, anyone, dies, a family hurts, and that isn't funny. Therein lies the tragedy of his falling short of man-crush status: while some celebrities can separate their personal and professional lives, or while some are able to distinguish their personal failings from their professional accomplishments, Michael insisted that his two lives had no line between them. The same benevolence he demonstrated in songs like We Are the World and Man in the Mirror is the very justification he expressed for his inappropriate behavior with children, his unhealthy appreciation for youth. Yes, he didn't have a regular childhood; yet, a man can enjoy childlike delights without dragging children into it! Again, this is why I won't make the usual Wacko Jacko jokes -- like a child, he's too vulnerable a target.

This detachment from adulthood jades Michael's practical understanding of the opposite sex, too. Oh, and Michael did have an understanding of women, especially in his early career, with songs like Billy Jean and Can't Stop 'Til You Get Enough implying the reckless playboy lifestyle one might expect from a budding pop star. Come on, any man with that kind of stage presence and body control is bound to attract some bedroom eyes -- but the most controversy that ever surrounded Jackson's bedroom involved milk and cookies, for those that remember his infamous interview with Martin Bashir. So, like the stunted child the King of Pop might've been, his romantic platitudes were as empty as a real child's would be, with little real experience to back up his claims or views of women.

Interlude: A Jacko defender may be quick to point out the star's two marriages, and I, too, will point them out here as a contrary footnote to my point, but not to discuss his potential as a man-crush. Rather, Jackson's marriages to Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley were obviously less about love and more about Michael's self-interests, the former in having children, the latter in attaining an elite status of celebrity. Think about it -- not only did Michael Jackson quickly become the King of Pop, but in that term he married the King's daughter and owned a part of the Beatles' catalog. Financial woes aside, will any star ever have that kind of influence in their industry again?

Global significance? Need I even explain? First of all, Jackson told us, we are the world. Further, his funeral was beheld but a speculated billion people worldwide. I had no idea Michael Jackson was that worthy, so I can't even grasp who else will be so globally mourned. The Pope? By Catholics, maybe, but that's a very specific sect of people. President Obama? His politics and decidedly racial significance in history simply cannot make his passing, either suddenly tragic or naturally inevitable, as universally grief-worthy as we'd like to think. No, only the arts could have this kind of humanity-wide influence, and obviously music in particular. Further, while much ado has been made of Jackson's extravagant funeral, I'll go on record in saying it was necessary if only in proceedings (not specifically in its monetary indulgence), as reps from every realm of social influence were present: politics, athletics, religion, the arts, and within the media of the arts, music, film, dance, and technology. Truly Michael Jackson was a part of no more globally significant event than his own memorial.

Yet, the controversy about its funding taints that ceremony and makes me wonder, if Jacko was such a saint, would he have wanted such a circus wrought in his memory? Wouldn't the money spent on security, facility, and logistics have been better served in the war hospitals and orphanages Michael supposedly frequently toured? That Michael's global image included even the inclination that he would've approved of these festivities instead makes him significant, but in every way that's wrong. Let's start with the man in the mirror, indeed.

The onslaught of controversy has now coughed its way into yet another week, as sister LaToya speculates that Michael's death was the result of foul play, maybe even murder. This is the final dividing line between a man like Billy Mays' potential as a man-crush, versus Michael Jackson. The Pitchman died with a bit of humility and, much like his products, was free of mess. The King of Pop's untimely death is as mysterious as his life -- a phenomenon his family are content to perpetuate for their own ends. Forget about a crush; they're going to beat it . . . to death all over again.

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