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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

watch it: “Michael Jackson Has Died”

There’s something very creepy about this, mostly because I suspect it wasn’t meant to be creepy at all, but Important and Meaningful:

One of the saddest days in a long time? Do people really feel that way about celebrities? Or are people’s lives really that devoid of real emotion that the death of someone they didn’t even know has the power to move them that much? Isn’t that taking fandom too far?

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  • Cate

    I’m with you, MaryAnn. That was creepy.

    As for the general public’s weeping and wailing – I don’t get it.

  • SaintAndy

    As for the general public’s weeping and wailing – I don’t get it.

    Ok, I am the one who doesn’t understand what you are saying. Is it so abnormal to feel even the slightest emotion when another human being dies? Isn’t it normal to feel just a little bit of sadness when you hear on the news about some deaths in an accident, or in one of the meaningless wars that are still going on around the planet? I’m not advocating that we should weep every time we hear of such tragic events, because that would makes life impossible for us, but surely it is normal to feel something … some sort of discomfort, however slight…

    I remember all those years ago, when I cried hearing about Princess Diana’s death ..and I live in the opposite corner of Europe ..but I still felt sad, for how she died, and her children ..and how, for all her faults, she still managed to do some good in this world..

    Bottom line, while I don’t approve of mass hysteria about someone’s demise, I think it is absolutely normal to feel sad …take Jackson, for instance ..I was never a fan, and I thought he was probably guilty of abusing those children ..but ..on the other hand ..when I see that fans mourn him, while his family are already fighting over money, it shows me that we need all the empathy we can get.

    Isn’t the ability to relate to others, and to mourn someone as if we would mourn a relative something that makes us better beings?

    I know I overdid it with the rhetorical questions, but I hope you understand what I mean.

  • Jason

    What’s with the Billy Mays mask?

  • Cate

    It’s not that I don’t empathize. I feel badly for the people in his life who knew him and cared about him. And that is my general feeling when someone dies, even someone I don’t know.

    What I have a negative, or incomprehending, response to is the mass hysteria and the deification/sanctification of the dead celebrity who was a person, with flaws like any of us.

  • SaintAndy

    What I have a negative, or incomprehending, response to is the mass hysteria and the deification/sanctification of the dead celebrity who was a person, with flaws like any of us.

    I couldn’t agree with you more in that respect ..it’s just this angle was not entirely clear from the way MaryAnn phrased her question. Still, even if Jackson does not justify the hysteria, there are certain deaths that do ..at least partially, because of what those people stood for ..think Mother Teresa, the Pope…

  • I think with Michael Jackson, it also goes with being a musician.

    The impact that music can have in someone’s life can be major. There’s a connection between singer and audience that I would say is far greater than an actor, director, or other infomercial host can ever capture. The songs, either the lyrics or the way they’re sung, can give a glimpse into who the singer is.

    If Angelina Jolie or Steven Speilberg were to die tomorrow, it would obviously be huge news, but I don’t believe that it would devastate people as much as the deaths of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, et al have done.

  • If Angelina Jolie or Steven Speilberg were to die tomorrow, it would obviously be huge news, but I don’t believe that it would devastate people as much as the deaths of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, et al have done.

    This is something I was talking about at work yesterday… we collectively wondered if there was somebody who could die on Friday or Saturday and take the media spotlight away from Michael Jackson.

    It’s not an easy question to answer, except maybe President Obama. He’s the only one we could all agree would do the trick.

    Jackson was a monumental star. Maybe it required his death for people to forget all the bullshit of the last 15 years and remember what an impact he had on them. I know half the soundtrack of my childhood was sung by Michael Jackson. Do you remember when he premiered the video for Black and White? It was on FOX for crying out loud, where it set a ratings record. I remember watching it; being excited for it. This whole thing is fascinating. Plus the added tragedy of how his life turned out. It’s easy to see how people can get worked up.

  • PaulW

    Celebrities reach us in ways that even people around us can’t.

    While I’m close to my parents and my siblings, none of them fully understood a lot of the internal angst and social unease I had and still have (my twin still appraises me, looks at me like I’m an idiot). But I grokked Kurt Cobain. The Nevermind album spelled out a lot of that angst, that unease. When Cobain died – even though I’ve never met him – a part of me understood why. And that part of me has hated that coward ever since.

    We weep and despair when people like Diana or Michael Jackson or Paul Newman or Pat Tillman die, even though we may be strangers to them and they to us, because we still saw them on a larger stage. Because despite the playacting and roles allotted to them on that stage, we somehow believe that those celebrities’ “performances” weren’t fake, that we were seeing aspects of their true selves, that there was something to their passions and their pains that we could relate to.

    And so people mourn Michael Jackson, for his flaws and for his virtues. I’m tempted to quote “Lord Jim”: Is he satisfied–quite, now, I wonder? We ought to know. He is one of us–and have I not stood up once, like an evoked ghost, to answer for his eternal constancy? Was I so very wrong after all?…

  • Nathan

    I felt a twinge of sadness when I heard the news, but it was mostly nostalgia for my childhood and memories of the Thriller album and video that I totally geeked on as a kid.

    Others have followed his career since he was a child and are more invested. He was a cultural icon for a while and if he hadn’t turned into a child-molesting freak(allegedly) who many people wrote off a long time ago, we would be seeing even more of an outpouring of emotion.

    I think Mary Ann’s comments are right on as far as the guy in the video, though. He seems like he’s trying really hard to feel something.

  • I don’t know, I’m not weeping in the streets or anything, but Michael Jackson’s death did affect me. Much more than I would have expected, really. And not all celebrity deaths affect me, probably the last one that really hit me was Phil Hartman. Anyway, I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, never owned any of his albums, but still. Achewood sums it up nicely:

    God bless the Internet. A cartoon about talking cats can help me process my grief.

  • doa766

    I’m usually indiferent to celebrity deaths but I was very sad to hear about michael jackson

    when Heath Ledger died I didn’t know much about him, like I don’t know much about celebrities personal life in general because it doesn’t interest me

    by like it or not we knew a lot about michael jackson

    we knew that he was in very bad shape physically, we knew that he had debts of millions and couldn’t pay them and we also knew that he was going to do 50 physically demanding shows in London to pay his debts, and now we know that he died while he was trying to get in shape for the audience

    that alone should be enough to make you sad

    and I was never a fan, I just liked his mucsi until I was twelve

  • doa766

    I think it’s the celebrity death that affected me the most since I wasn’t even born when Lennon died and I was too young to be affected by Kobain and Freddy Mercaury’s deaths

    but I would’ve cry like a baby if Lennon or JFK had been killed during my adult life

    but yes even though I’m more interested in movies than music, musicians deaths seem to have more effect on people in general and me that actors or filmmakers deaths, don’t know why

  • Pollas

    The thing that really bugs me about the hysteria around Jackson’s death is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton’s need to thrust themselves within the spotlight. Those two are nothing but blood-sucking leeches.

  • Victor Plenty

    What’s with the Billy Mays mask?

    This clip is part of a video series on YouTube featuring, among other things, commentary on various current events, all while wearing that same mask.

    Why that particular mask? I don’t know. No explanation is readily available, and I have no plans to spend much of my time looking for one. All I can tell you is, the reason has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.

    The guy in this video is just taking his usual shtick and applying it to yet another news item, with results arguably open to interpretation.

  • Chris

    This affected me in no way whatsoever. I’m too young for MJ to have been releasing music while I was growing up, and other than liking “Thriller,” I have no connection to him at all.

    That isn’t to say that other people shouldn’t be sad.

  • MBI

    Michael Jackson is such a towering figure in pop music — not only was he the single biggest pop superstar of my lifetime, the influence he had on a medium I love (influence based on, at most, a scant four albums released in a 12-year period) is profound. I’m honestly a huge fan — he was nowhere near the talent that Prince is — but Michael Jackson changed the world I live in, and I feel like that deserves acknowledgment. He also lived one of the most tragic and ridiculous lives ever recorded. I don’t usually let celebrity deaths affect me, but man, I don’t know. I didn’t shed a tear for him, but I’m surprised at how willing I am to let other people be hysterical about it. I thought all those wailing Princess Di mourners needed a kick in the pants. I don’t know if I can really explain why this strikes me as different.

  • MBI

    *honestly NOT a huge fan

  • Muzz

    People being upset is one thing I guess. But this doesn’t seem like Roosevelt or Valentino or someone.
    There is a aire of competitive wallowing to the whole thing (which the media is very keen to feed and capitalise on). And I have trouble believing that there’s a lot of real emotion behind most of it.
    Diana is the obvious big example, but since then we’ve had people like Steve Irwin in Australia getting the same ludicrous treatment, and now Jackson.
    The point with Diana was that the establishment had all but disowned her and the public weren’t having it. With Jackson it’s like his death is an event bigger than anything in his career and everyone just want to be a part of it and act accordingly; wail and rend their clothes in a display that’s all about them rather than him.
    You only have to go back a couple of days to find the usual off colour Michael Jackson jokes. Did all these people wince and caress their vynil copy of ‘Thriller’ every time? They’d have lived in constant pain on his behalf for twenty years.

    I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t get our mass media culture, or nostalgia, or something.

  • NorthernStar

    It’s natural and entirely human to feel sorrow at another human’s death. We might not have known him in any real sense of the word, but he (like Princess Diana and others) was someone in our lives, if only in the vaguest of meanings. And that makes an impact.

    I was not a Jackson fan. I didn’t like him at all, in fact. But I’m sad that he’s left 3 young children bereaved.

    It’s worth remembering that such sorrow from fans can lead to wonderful things. The hospice that cared for David Tennant’s mother, for example, has been bolstered by donations from Dr Who fans who never met the woman, but who still wished to do something to comfort her family.

    Similarly, Leeds Air Ambulance was able to buy another air ambulance out of donations that flooded in after Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond’s near fatal crash. How many lives has that saved? All thanks to shocked fans wanting to do something to help.

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