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Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief: Anger

30 June 2009 22 Comments


I’m Angry at the Media.

I consider myself a McNugget-sized part of the media but the coverage of Michael Jackson’s death and its aftermath has done nothing more for journalism than demonstrate what low standards news outlets will set just to drive viewership. I’m still miffed at CNN for its faux-journalistic integrity on June 25, reporting that “other news outlets say Jackson has died,” but speaking of him in the past tense for hours beforehand while not bothering to have a single reporter at the actual hospital. Predictably, that was the least of the network feeding frenzy that will most likely continue for weeks. For the past five days I’ve watched every major network present forensic, financial, and psychological ‘experts’ each of whom “have no relationship with/have not worked with/have not treated Michael Jackson.” It’s so desperate to shine these people up for television to give their uninformed opinion on all things Michael. Get OUT of here. Even worse are the constant updates when nothing has changed, speculations about what will happen next, and the snide tone with which too many reporters discuss “unsubstantiated rumors,” at length while pretending to have no intention of actually spreading them.

I’m Angry at The Haters.

Music producer Phonte sums it up best in this fantastic blog post, but basically I’d love to smack around a Michael Jackson naysayer or two, especially when it comes to the absolutely false accusations involving young boys. I’ve never believed that Michael Jackson was guilty because he is just too weird to be a simple pedophile. There are currently fourteen registered sex offenders convicted of sexual abuse of a minor living in my zip code right now (this information is public record and easy to research). Pedophiles, sadly, are rather run of the mill. And I’m supposed to believe that a man who was exponentially weirder than almost anyone else you’ve ever met in every single way imaginable had sexual proclivities THAT common? None of it makes sense – that he molested one measly boy over the span of 12 years, that the flat-pocketed parents of these children weren’t looking for money, or that everyone who knows him, including prime molestation meat like Macaulay Culkin, is lying when they swear that MJ was on the up and up. So unless you can say that Michael Jackson touched your penis, accept the fact that he was accused but acquitted in a court of law, just like millions of people who are simply not guilty of any crime, and shut your trap with the old unsubstantiated back talk!

I’m Angry at the “Jackson Associates.”

I’m sure they’re devastated that Michael’s gone – maybe as a friend, maybe just as a meal ticket, who knows – but anyone who claims to be such close personal friends with Michael Jackson and then says they haven’t spoken to him for six months to a year needs to SIT DOWN. The vultures who claim to have inside knowledge of his drug abuse or harmful behavior clearly didn’t follow through on these problems or save him, so now is not the time to complete the circle by getting your shine on via every major news outlet. Team Reverends of Black America (Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson) are also making me very uncomfortable because I smell opportunism but refuse to let it distract me from the larger issues at hand. If I start to feel like they’re getting too much of the spotlight I will go all the final minutes of the “Black or White,” video on them and start smashin’ cars.

I’m Angry at White People.

There are white people in my life that I love – not like, love – but I’ve had to take a small hiatus from white people, and white men in particular. For one thing, there has always been an irreverent dismissal of black achievement as part of their groupthink, and I’ve had my fill of it for now and as it relates to Michael Jackson. We sat through so much of it during the election as we watched them unfairly question the intellectual merit of a Harvard graduate who happens to be black and now with Michael I’ve already been told everything from “he wasn’t that great a singer/dancer/performer,” “others paved the way for him,” and of course “he died under questionable circumstances/with a questionable past.” No one was talking about any of the questionable aspects of any white entertainer’s death before they were even in the ground, but somehow it’s a-ok for Michael. Farrah Fawcett died the very same day but no one is talking about her surgeries, checkered sexual past, or reputation as a space cadet before she’s even in the earth, are they? In his essay, Phonte wonders if Woody Allen passed away, how long would take the media to start talking about the FACT that he’s a pedophile who married his own stepdaughter. I can answer you, man – they’re certainly mum about it now, so expect constant screenings of Annie Hall and no mention of Soon Yi until he’s been in the ground for AT LEAST a week.

Most ridiculously, I’ve had so many white people tell me that Michael Jackson transcended race, that they don’t even consider him black and therefore there’s no racism afoot… oh REALLY? The idea that anyone transcends race is a whiteman’s luxury/self-lie that no non-delusional black person has ever known to exist. For the record, Michael Jackson is a direct influence on my racial identity as a black person – he was a trailblazer who proved that black entertainment could succeed worldwide. I imagine that such a thing is difficult to grasp if one lacks racial identity of one’s own (think about it: the first white _______ is not a category worth praising in any case). Thanks to society’s constant marginalization of everything that makes me ME as a black person (i.e. my racial identity), I hold the great moments when blackness is NOT marginalized close to my heart (i.e. Michael Jackson making the world love black music). The fact that you don’t or can’t do the same should only give you license to admit that there’s something you don’t understand and keep it moving, not license to tell anyone that they’re over-reacting about the death of one of their personal heroes, or to tell another human who is genuinely grieving a loss that you don’t personally care. Since when is how you feel the yardstick for appropriate human emotion?  What does your flippancy have to do with me and my mourning and when has being so flip ever been appropriate? Maybe now is not your moment to shine with an alternative voice and you should quietly put on a Johnny Cash album or something while I take the time to get my Negro mind right. And by the way, black folks have been the butt of the joke that is the American justice system for centuries and you say that it’s all in our heads, but Michael Jackson gets acquitted and suddenly the system doesn’t work? Post-racial society my Great Aunt Fanny.

I’m Angry at Joe Jackson.

Joe Jackson has miraculously made me dislike him even more since Michael’s passing by plugging his record company constantly, speaking with an incomprehensible Pootie Tang-like diction (“we got a lot fixin ta happen but we can’t renounce it right now”???), and generally not seeming to give a hoot about his son’s death beyond the loss of what’s always been little more than a cash cow to him. I always have and always will blame Joe Jackson for the freakshow of Michael’s life, and now that Michael is gone and so many of us are rationalizing the loss with “well at least his pain is over,” I have to ask why it had to be there in the first place. At the source of it is a man who looked at his children and saw sacrificial lambs covered with dollar signs.

I’m Angry at Michael.

I’ve had direct words with Michael Jackson about his self-esteem and odd behavior but I’m sure it didn’t actually get to him. To sum up, for years now I’ve been kind of mad at him. I’m angry that he couldn’t love himself enough to avoid what happened to him over the past few years and especially furious that he indulged himself by living in a world of sycophants, none of which would or could save his life. I’m shaking my fist to Michael up in heaven for continuing to allow opportunistic parents to bring their children to his home even after the first molestation accusations, and in doing so giving the haters more ammo with which to tear him down now that he’s not here to defend himself. I’m angry at what he did to his face because instead of aging naturally he left us with a series of visual hiccups, each more confusing than the last, all of which are Michael Jackson in my tired memory with only his consistently beautiful smile to tie them all together. I sometimes think that Michael Jackson sacrificed himself for us, not by dying so soon, but by living the lonely and isolated life that superstardom made necessary, all just because he loved to entertain. I can’t help but be a bit angry about that.

Throwback Clip: Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack,”When I Grow Up,” from Free To Be You and Me.

Your comments are appreciated.

Previous: Part 1 of 5, Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief: Denial

Next: Part 3 of 5, Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief: Bargaining


  • Dare said:

    Thank you so much for posting Michael’s clip from Free to Be! THAT was my first memory of MJ. Before I could even possibly be interested in pop music or MTV, that album was playing on constant rotation in my childhood.
    If it offers any comfort, the attention that the media has given to the scandals of his life have made me so sick that even if I was somewhat unsure before, the light shining on the accusations now has put the final nail in that coffin for me altogether. The more the media harps on it, the more I’m fully convinced by our prior conversation about what gold-digging sycophants (thank you for the perfect word) he surrounded himself with and the less I believe a word of their accusations. I don’t want to hear another peep from the media about his inappropriate relationships, his “childlike” demeanor, or his wacko-ness ever again. I also don’t want to hear about his falling star. The worldwide mourning of his death is proof positive that his star never truly waned. He does remain the biggest star the world has ever seen.

  • Stacy said:

    Thank you for this Thembi. Absolutely brilliant and so on point! Its like you’re speaking every emotion I haven’t been able to find the words for. Looking forward to Part 3!

  • Thembi (author) said:

    I definitely thought of you while writing this and knew you’d be convinced by now!

  • TwistedBliss said:

    I LOVE your blog. And I agree 100% with this post. The madness that has ensued from his death is breaking my heart even more.

  • DJStylus said:

    You know I’m a fan, right?

    You are awesome.

  • mr. nichols said:

    Another excellent post Thembi. I’m really enjoying this concept. I think you should see about publishing it because you really do a good job capturing ideas, such as this one:

    “I sometimes think that Michael Jackson sacrificed himself for us, not by dying so soon, but by living the lonely and isolated life that superstardom made necessary, all just because he loved to entertain. I can’t help but be a bit angry about that.”

    That’s just good writing.

  • DJStylus said:

    I thought I had moved into depression but I’m back to anger again.

    Mourning is wack. I got stuff to do. I can’t sit around reading essays, listening to tribute mixes and watching videos indefinitely. My tweet rate is out of control. This is some bullshit.


  • Michelle said:

    (sigh) After reading this I cried…like really cried. MJ symbolizes a lot of things to a lot of people. I have so many different feelings about his life and his death that it’s actually too much (hard?) for me to organize my thoughts and intelligently talk about them. The other day, I was staring at the picture of him when he’s hugging the tiger cub (from the Thriller photo shoot, but not the album cover). OMG, his smile was beautiful. It made me so sad to think that even at that point in his life, he hated the way he looked. I could go on and on about my genuine concern for and curiosity regarding the state of his emotional well-being…but as we all know, this is really complex and I just don’t feel like it…plus, I need to go collect myself after reading this.

  • LJS said:

    Aw thanks. I love your posts so very much- I concur!!!!

  • LJS said:

    HAHAHAHA! DJStylus, your comment made me laugh. I am the same way and I feel a bit idiotic. I am sorta hoping that after the funeral chaos I can calm down a bit. Yea, I just registered on Staples Center site- argh. Out of control!

  • Jennifer said:

    Thanks again Thembi. I am forwarding this to my white friends who said exactly the things you said they say “he was such a weirdo!”. Really? That is all you have to say about it? PLEASE SHUT UP. Do you see that I am crying? This is why I don’t want to TELL YOU SHIT.

  • KIM said:

    Let me add my 2cents: I’m angry at Michael for having 2 children by that greedy-a$$ Debbie Rowe!!

  • Yvonne said:

    I am angry at God. I am a devout Christian and I love the Lord, but I am angry. My God is love, compassion and power. Stronger than any sycophant. Why didn’t He save a warrior/lover/ angel like Michael Jackson who wanted good for all; someone full of more of God’s gifts than anyone could imagine and who had already suffered so much by having the preciousness of his childhood stripped from him. I am angry at God and I am angry that I am angry at my God, Lord and Savior. And, because I know this is irrational, the fact that Iadmit it will help me get pass it, I pray. I must seek the spiritual understanding of this tragedy that has gripped my soul in ways that I don’t fully understand. Thembi, your essays are helpful for me.

  • Babs said:

    Thank you for one of the most insightful and poignant posts about MJ I’ve read–ever.

    I’m still in the disbelief stage and trying to put my finger on what made the man tick–because he was endlessly fascinating to me–not only as an incredibly gifted artist but also for his enigmatic and really odd behavior.
    I’m not African American but MJ really impacted my childhood and my teen years, as I think he did for most of us Gen-Xers who grew up with him. It pissed me off when so many folks I know (yes, white) complained that his memorial was made into “too much of a big deal” Seriously?!? I didn’t hear any baby boomers compaining about John Lennon’s life tributes after his death.

    I am angry at Michael’s poor judgment.
    Also–Martin Bashir should have never been allowed access as I believe he drove the final nail in Michael’s coffin with his betrayal (as did so many others).

    Also, I’m angry at the haters.

    Meanwhile, I like to remember him by his incredible catalog of music and video which will live on.

  • Babs said:

    also–thank you for posting the “Free To Be” clip–WOW!

  • PV said:

    i found your page tonight by searching on the terms “depression grief michael jackson”, because this many weeks later, i’m still absolutely heartbroken. your essay touched me and gave me a lot to consider… that said, i am a skinny little white girl who grew up listening to michael’s music and believing that when i got a little older i would have an afro and know how to dance. (imagine my surprise!)

  • banshee said:

    bookmarking this so that next time someone pisses me off over Michael Jackson I can refer to your very well-spoken statements – thank you

  • Ash said:

    “For one thing, there has always been an irreverent dismissal of black achievement as part of their groupthink, and I’ve had my fill of it for now and as it relates to Michael Jackson.”

    This writing is now going to be seven/six months old but I keep going back to this article for this quote. After hearing what people on the news and opininon makers had to say this unfortunatly rang true.

    It seems like a lot of white people did not want to let go of the problems, eccentricities, or that stupid trial…excuse me extortion attempts he went through.

    There were some that had love and respect for him but they keep getting over shadowed in my mind by the condescending, arrogant, self-righteous, and hypocritical everywhere on Michael.

  • Ginger said:

    I just found your blog today. I’m thoroughly enjoying your posts so far, regarding the 5 stages of grief with regard to Michael. How I found your post today was because I was feeling my grief, again, about the loss of Michael and so I googled something like, “grieving Michael Jackson” and came across your posts. Thank you. Thank you. It is exactly the support I needed right now. I happen to be white, btw, and couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said in this particular post. Kudos to you. I am applauding.

    Okay, I’m going to go back and finish reading this series. I can’t wait to see what you say in Part 3, 4 and 5.

    Thanks again.

  • LMO85 said:

    Just found this site through the Black Blog awards, dam, I really needed this post last year, but I am glad I found it, I am going to continue reading because I am still grieving MJ, long live the King indeed. Thank you for this space, and good luck with the awards!

  • giant mountain bike said:

    Michael is a legend. He made great music and shared it to many people

  • Muhammad Morgan said:

    oh dear i kind of missed Michael Jackson already,,:

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