My television shows the obligatory helicopter shots of a sea of distraught mourners, juxtaposed with thrilling images of Michael Jackson moon-walking and performing. My email includes equally obligatory missives detailing the sexual abuses Jackson apparently perpetrated on pre-pubescent boys, some of them beset with life-threatening illnesses. A Congressman went on TV to call him a “pervert.” My friend remains angry with Jackson for cutting a brutally anti-Semitic record.
Michael Jackson did some repugnant things. Yet it’s hard to be angry with someone who was so seriously and obviously amiss for nearly 30 years. His wealth and celebrity allowed him to escape the immediate consequences of his behavior. It also allowed him to drive right over the cliff with whatever illness and pain disfigured him inside and out.
For all Michael Jackson’s wonderful talent, his life was a tragic freak show—bookended by the creepy exploitation of a talented child and the equally creepy exploitation of a talented but troubled child-man. He was buried today in a gaudy, 14-carat gold coffin. I cannot imagine a better metaphor for the empty rewards celebrity ultimately brought him.