Michael Jackson is dead at age 50. Already the hype has taken over the airways. Even in death Jackson continues to shock the sensibilities of the entire populace, fans and foes. Farrah Faucett died today at age 62 – no offense intended but Farrah has been bumped off the news cycle. Michael Jackson was as iconic as Elvis Presley or the Beatles. But Michael Jackson has a public persona unlike most – he was both villain and hero.
Jackson began his career as a child, the youngest of The Jackson Five. At ten years old Michael mesmerized the public with his clarity of voice and rhythmic dance. As an adult Jackson would virtually create the genre of the music video. MTV was driven by the virtues of Jackson’s choreography. Other artists have tried to mimic or duplicate Jackson’s performances – all with measured success.
But Michael Jackson transformed himself from an innocent child into a macabre adult. With multiple plastic surgeries that ultimately transformed him into a likeness of the mid evil caricature of Jesus, Jackson evolved into a mysterious character.
Jackson claimed an innocence of life, enjoying the friendship of boys. This came to a head in a trial ten years ago where Jackson was accused of a felony – the serious charge of molesting a small boy. Jackson was found not guilty – the jury reported later that the prosecution had not made a completely convincing argument. This is different than being found innocent.
So what was Jackson – Villain or Hero? We submit here that Jackson ultimately can be defined as merely human. Great gifts and great frailties. Just yesterday the South Carolina Governor, a champion of family values, admitted to an extramarital affair. Some are calling him a villain – but like Jackson – he is merely human.
Perhaps the very idea of a mere human rising to the level of talent so apparent in Jackson’s career is most staggering. Jackson reinvented dance. The only comparable dancer in the 20th Century might be Fred Astaire.
It was Michael Jackson who defined a generation of dance.
It was Michael Jackson who defined quality in music videos.
It was Michael Jackson who defined individuality.
Jackson will go down in history as other tragic icons of the 20thy Century: Elvis Presley. James Dean. John Lennon. All people of great talent who led tragic lives. These people are not good or bad – they are just people. We sometimes forget the simple reality of greatness.