If anyone thought that the hoopla surrounding Michael Jackson would all just “go away,” you’ve underestimated the power of media, suggestibility, and plain old hysteria. Adding to the endless coverage of Jackson death doings is now a ghostly apparition appearing during Larry King’s CNN broadcast from Neverland ranch that fans claim is Michael walking across his bedroom:
(it was the shadow of one of the camera crew, according to CNN). If that apparition isn’t enough, a family in Stockton California claims that an image of Michael Jackson appeared on a tree stump in their yard after his death [see image above, right].
Yes, the canonization of Michael Jackson has begun. Faster than Pope John Paul II canonized any saint, fans of Michael Jackson have made the King of Pop into the “Saint of Pop” in less than two weeks.. all before a funeral. In the manner of the Catholic Church’s process of sainthood, there is a process for elevating entertainment saints as well.
Jackson is the newest entry into an elite pantheon occupied by Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, and 2pac (hey, people still see him). To become an entertainment saint, the “figure” has to have lots of images available; must have been “larger than life” in the pursuit of their particular craft; exude a degree of sexuality (or have a questionable sexual past); made liberal use of stimulating substances (drugs) to put them into a more transcendent state, and of course, have bodily attributes that others either despise or aspire to have.
Jackson’s case is an exceptional one, since there are many relics: his glove, hats, the endless fascist suits, not to mention the rearranged body parts. No reports as of yet as to miracle acts that have been imparted by praying to him, but I am sure they are on the way. Besides, around the world, people have been replaying the icons songs over and over again, dancing in the streets, and even buying expensive airline tickets to Los Angeles, hoping for a long shot lottery ticket that would let them into the inner sanctum of the Staples Center for the memorial service. I’d say that already makes for thousands of devotees—even the Rev. Sharpton, whose dance moves [image left, more here] at the Apollo in honor of St. Michael were more like a Bacchanal than a holy Ghost dance.
All of this “worship” of course, was bound to hit a wall, and that came with New York Rep. Peter King’s own media foray on you tube to remind all of the media, fans, and just anyone who would listen that “He was a child molester. He was a pedophile. And to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what does it say about us as a country? What are we glorifying him for?”
King’s comments of course, replayed over and over, prompted outrage over his lack of respect for the dead. King insisted that instead we should be honoring the firefighters, servicemen, teachers, people who work in AIDS clinics, and not some pervert like Michael Jackson.
Unfortunately Rep. King missed the point. No one wants a regular person to be his or her object of worship. People want an exceptional figure to put their faith into, an exemplar, even if the exemplar has exceptional flaws. The orgy of grief, dancing, reminiscing and exaltation of Jackson since his death proves Jackson’s instincts and desire to “escape death by binding his soul to his work” were spot on. No one wants a flatfooted everyman to be their icon: they want a fleet footed dancer, even if he was suspect with his unnatural relationships to children, to transport them from the mundane into the transcendent.
I do think, however, all of this hoopla says one very important thing: The recession is a depression, folks. Why else are we lingering on Michael Jackson? Who wants a story about one more business tanking, or another foreclosure? We too, want to go to Neverland, but we are stuck. Jackson’s life and death is our Neverland, an escape from the harsh realities of where the world is today.
So cut the folks some slack, Rep. King. It’s a relief not to hear about another politician’s girlfriend, or the vast media conspiracy. Seriously. Let people moonwalk through the media constructed grief, and eventually, everyone will move on… until the next major celebrity death happens.