Michael Jackson Trial


Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Now that the inevitable circus of the Michael Jackson trial—charging his doctor, Dr Conrad Murray, with involuntary manslaughter—has begun, I find that I am revisiting my thoughts from 2009, shortly after Michael Jackson’s death.  Before his death, almost anyone would agree that Jackson’s once-illustrious star had fallen.  For many years prior to his death, Jackson was plagued with allegations of pedophilia and sexual abuse.  In 1993, after having been accused of abusing the then 13 year-old Jordan Chandler, Jackson settled a lawsuit with Chandler’s family, paying them approximately $20 million.  In 2005, a jury acquitted him of similar charges.  Although allegations concerning Jackson’s supposed pedophilia have remained unproven, at trial, a picture of a man who was stuck in perpetual childhood emerged—a tragic figure, perhaps, distorted by his many childhood traumas, but a profoundly disturbed and unusual man.  Fast forward to 2009, just after Jackson’s death, and his star was shinning brighter than ever.  There were mass outpourings of sympathy and grief, sales of his music shot through the roof, and a musical of his life, entitled Thriller Live, was being performed in London’s West End.

While I am all for not speaking ill of the dead (and particularly not if you would have refrained from speaking in such a mannerif they were alive), death shouldn’t wipe the sale completely clean, either.  Past mistakes don’t cease to exist just because the person who made them has died.In death, a person should be remembered for her missteps and failings as well as her triumphs—anything less promotes a distorted and idealized view of the person in question.

Fans outside of Michael Jackson's Memorial Service

Fans outside of Michael Jackson's Memorial Service

Perhaps I’m just overly cynical about the mass outpourings of grief that seem to accompany any celebrity’s passing (enter Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse).  No matter how heartfelt the mass expressions of sympathy, I cannot help but feel that everything is simply a charade, and a false one, at that.  Unless Heath Ledger was a close friend or a family member, his death really isn’t going to affect any member of the general public’s life very much.  His acting roles will go to someone else, and the tabloids will write about some other star’s antics in the space that they had previously reserved for his.  His passing will be but a brief blip in time, easily forgotten in the dramas of one’s everyday life.  In lingo that actors everywhere will appreciate, the show must go on; the dramatic spectacle of a massive funeral and the reams of tribute videos uploaded on YouTube by adoring fans perhaps a fitting—if overblown—tribute to a figure that almost none of the effusive mourners actually knew—a tribute more to a fantastical illusion rather than the figure who they purport to mourn.


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