Poor Farrah Fawcett. Having her death eclipsed by Michael.
Around here, Michael Jackson’s death has made a lot of noise. My co-worker knew about his demise before most: he read it on TMZ–or something like that. Some celebrity music gossip blog. Then, of course, the mainstream media picked up the hint about 30 minutes later–but not until after my co-worker had run around to every office suite on our floor to spread the news. Michael Jackson is dead. I subsequently got so many phone calls from friends and family seeking to be the first to shock me with the buzz that I started answering my phone, “yes, I know Michael Jackson died.” I guess this is our generation’s version of “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”
Despite my co-worker’s enthusiasm, office feelings were a mixed bag. Being in the Bay Area, some were devastated. Another co-worker pulled out a Michael Jackson poster, much like the picture to the left here (in his younger days) and displayed it behind her desk about 10 minutes after getting the news. Where did she even get that?! My other co-worker, on the other hand, stated that she simply was “not a fan” and hinted at MJ’s recent (okay, well, whole decade’s worth of) indiscretions.
I don’t say much, but given the impending clash between the two (the heartbroken and the aloof), I felt compelled to say what I figured out at that moment that I felt: It all feels so Incomplete. Michael’s life was incomplete.
I think Michael’s death is so shocking for us because we all had so much stake in who he was–we grew up with him, defined whole eras of our lives by his trends, and even fell into troubled times as we aged with him. So his death is shocking because, well, We are not done yet. He can’t be done. I saw one Hollywood Walk-of-Fame observer on the news say that he thought MJ was “invincible.” It’s true. I think in the back of our minds and hearts (in that little closet we’ve stored Michael Jackson in his recent unproductive years), we all wanted to see him make a comeback. And not just a musical one, but a personal one. We wanted him to find himself, get help, reconcile with his damaged and lost inner child, finally be happy. I think I honestly believed he would get there someday. Even if he was an eighty-year-old doing public service announcements. Michael Jackson was going to come full circle.
I haven’t been following celebrity gossip in the least, but I think it’s safe to say that Michael never reached the place I had hoped for him. Really, it’s the place that we hope for all of us, which is why his death is hard to swallow. What if we don’t get a chance to redeem ourselves? What if life ends at 50? The question seems more relevant to me now and less relevant back when I was listening to “ABC.”
So for Michael’s sake, and my own, I’ll remember him as the young talented guy making gangs dance in Beat It, zombies dance in Thriller, and celebrities sway in We Are the World (ha, bet you forgot that one). I think our tendency when celebrities die is to see them not as people, but as disappointing icons of what role-models should be. But really, they’re just people, like us. Some of whom, like Michael, do amazing things with the talents they are given.
So on that note, I leave you with my imperfectly memorized lyrics from Man in the Mirror: “I’m looking at the Man in the Mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”