Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief: Denial
Editor’s note: I am particularly devastated by Michael Jackson’s death because as a black pop culture enthusiast he’s always been so significant to me. As of last week I had a handful of drafted posts about Michael in the coffer anyway, so I’m condensing my final thoughts about him in a series of posts chronicling my journey through the “Five Stages of Grief.” I’m not sure if I believe in the model itself but there are five stages and five days of the week so here it goes. And if you’re all Michael Jackson-ed out or don’t think it’s a big deal, you can go pound sand. This is a monumental time of reflection in black pop culture and I write what I wanna.
The entire world was shocked by the premature death of Michael Jackson. Sure, we all knew that the man was under stress. The intense scrutiny at the hands of the media, which was essentially fueled by our own obsession with celebrity, took a visible toll on Michael; the recurring allegations of child abuse and financial debt of an unimaginable magnitude made him even more of a recluse; his varying health problems that were always hard to separate from his general weirdness undoubtedly contributed to his early passing. Still, it’s hard to believe that any combination of these factors could lead to death at age fifty. But we tend to forget that we’re average, and the average person (who, mind you, can only hold a tune in the shower) only worries about the neighborhood busy-body, overdue student loans, and pretty bad allergies every spring. By comparison Michael’s life should be as unimaginable as the science behind evolution or The Big Bang – it’s just too large and far-out a process for our personal experience to let us believe he’s really gone. This, my friends, is why I am choosing not to. That’s right, I’m too sad believing it, so I’ve decided that Michael Jackson isn’t really dead, and I have five supporting reasons.
1. He’s Michael Jackson. Ok, I know it’s pretty ridiculous to fake one’s death but people have done it before, and who better to actually pull it off than a man whose illusions have ranged from making us believe he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to the 45 degree angle forward-lean in the “Smooth Criminal” video? Michael is no stranger to plastic surgery, so I see no reason why he’d balk at the idea of changing his face to unrecognizable yet again, perhaps this time his old one because I know he must have missed it. This is a man who has been estranged from so many people in his life for the past few years but somehow his creditors have stayed in touch and have him running off to do concerts at fifty years of age. He has never found peace in the public eye, so maybe he’s trying to find peace outside of the limelight. He easily could have faked this whole thing and may be on some island right now wearing lots of sunblock, a sari, and a straw hat, watching Elizabeth Taylor movies on a portable DVD player and sipping a Pina Colada.
2. The BET Awards. Like many of you I watched the show because of promises that there would be a solid Michael Jackson tribute. In an arena filled with dozens of black entertainers, I expected a hootenanny of epic colored proportions that would help me celebrate and/or sweat out some of this grief I’m carrying. I didn’t expect full-on rehearsed numbers or anything that requires more than one day of preparation, but the Michael Jackson tribute that my friends and I cooned up at a dance party yesterday was more entertaining than what BET pulled off – everyone knows the songs and the steps, so what happened with artist participation and/or BET giving them airtime? I appreciated New Edition’s Jackson 5 performance, mostly because those dudes are too old to be doing all of that on such short notice, and Janet’s short speech brought tears to my eyes. But BET bamboozled us by extending the show “to honor Michael Jackson” when very little of that was done. I felt like Tyrone Biggums showing up at the Five O’Clock Free Crack Giveaway only to face an intervention. The BET Awards is always a steaming turd platter, but the Michael Jackson tribute was so shoddily done that it must all be pantomime for the public because Michael is not really gone.
3. Joe Jackson Don’t Seem To Care. Joe Jackson makes me unhappy, upset, afraid, and worried all at once, and every time I see him. He looks like an English Bulldog and I believe deep in my heart that he screwed up his children just to get his own shine on, not to mention dragging Katherine through the mud all of these years. When I think about how his desire to create a superstar negatively affected Michael’s life I feel sick. But is Joe Jackson really this mean?
Maybe he’s senile or still in shock, but is this really the way you act when asked about the death of your son (even if your diction has to be wilin’)? And then to plug your crusty little record label venture? I just don’t get it and I’d rather believe that Joe secretly knows Michael is still alive and is just a crappy actor.
4. C-O-N Spiracy. A single shooter didn’t kill JFK, the government is covering up the existence of aliens. More importantly, the CIA put crack in the ghetto and Tupac is really sorta-kinda still alive and living in Cuba. Most convincingly, if white folks can believe that Elvis faked his death, why can’t we believe the same thing about Michael for at least a few years?
5. He’s Magic. It’s neither fair nor believable that Michael Jackson could ever die. Everyone dies and all, but Michael Jackson was magic, like a unicorn or dragon or even Santa Claus. As a child, I thought that Michael Jackson was some sort of wizard with the power to hypnotize, conjure up sparks of light and objects, and win fights without even touching people. I had a Thriller commemorative glass with his face on it that would turn green when filled with cold liquid, and that could only be accomplished through magic, right? I watched Moonwalker dozens of times and saw little Lithuanian children faint during his concerts, but had never before seen anyone fall out like that for any reason EVER. When my mother said that he’d changed his face, I wondered why I couldn’t just up and change mine, and concluded that just must have been some more MJ magic. Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten (read: Michael is STILL magic). So how can it be that he’s gone from this world?
I refuse to believe it.
Throwback Video: The Jacksons skit “The World Is A Mess”
Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Next: Part 2 of 5, “Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief: Anger“