The Importance of Being Michael, Redux

Given the variety of comments I have received on my short post on Michael Jackson, here and elsewhere, I evidently did not make clear what I thought was a relatively simple point:

Michael Jackson, as a public personality and as an artist, transgressed racial, gender, and other societal bounds, and was so successful in doing so, that some of those boundaries and catagories were in effect blurred or erased in mainstream popular culture, particularly for people who were children when he was at his zenith in the late seventies and early eighties.

As I wrote in that post, I was never a fan of Michael Jackson–Neither of his style or his music. At the time he was most popular I was listening to Leonard Cohen, the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Suzanne Vega, Patti Smith, Gamelan music, David Bowie, Tom Waits, John Fahey, Miles Davis, Glenn Gould playing Bach, and a lot of other stuff, but no MJ. I didn’t watch much MTV, because for most of that time I didn’t have cable or even own a TV.

I don’t care about his music. I don’t care about his effect on the music industry. (The music industry no longer exists as far as I’m concerned.) I don’t care whether or not he was a pederast or not, a vic or a perp or not. I’m supremely uninterested in the sordid details of his wretched life.

Michael Jackson was (and is) of no interest whatsoever–to me. For me, he was just a passing sideshow, a flash of a pale face mutilated by plastic surgery–the King of Celebriabsurdity. 

But I was not writing about Michael Jackson’s effect on me, but on the degree he first expanded toleration of oddness in the general society, and later made things like, say, gay marriage, or transgendered people, or teen vampire romance novels for that matter, and real sideshow geeks, seem downright normal and wholesome in comparison. As a cultural phenomenon, Jackson opened up possibilities for people on the fringes, whether the fringe was in their heads or on their jackets.

In spite of the long, slow motion train wreck of his life, and the hurts done him and the hurt he may have done to others and himself, his effect on opening up mainstream society to new styles of behavior and being yourself in public was, in my opinion, positive.

Since I’m not a fan of his, but am very odd, I wanted to acknowledge that.

As mom used to say, that’s all there is to that.


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