A QUEER LIFE
This month marks the third anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. A television tribute might be shown or a benefit concert performed, but for many, the occasion will pass by quietly.
When the news broke, however, of Michael’s passing on June 25 in 2009, it was everything but quiet. It became one of the biggest stories of the year and every person on the planet seemed to have something to say about the man and his untimely passing.
I was at work when it happened. Having breakfast with the others at the café, our usual banter stopped when the overhead TV screens delivered the breaking news. At first, it was only of unconfirmed reports of his cardiac arrest, followed by hearsay and speculation until further updates filtered through. Not long after, the confirmation. Michael was indeed dead. And then it started.
Morning television interrupted their usual programming to cross live to overseas newsfeeds. Radio was abuzz with listeners calling through with words of shock and sympathy. The internet was a flurry of activity as Facebook went into overdrive, with countless status updates of “RIP MJ” as well as fan pages popping up almost every second. And Twitter saw nothing like it before, with news and information being posted even before it was reported on traditional mainstream media.
The hysteria seemed like overkill but then again, this was The King of Pop: one of the greatest entertainers to have ever lived.
Michael’s entire life was everyone’s story to follow. There was something truly captivating about him. He inspired people with his music – a whole generation grew up dancing the moonwalk – but more so, he fascinated everyone with his extraordinary, tumultuous life. Even if you were not a fan, you knew about Michael Jackson; the lifestyle, the controversy, the face, the white glove. Every little detail, every minutia was fodder for the press. And why? Because this was a man that, for all intents and purposes, was the entertainment – and we just couldn’t get enough.
Any celebrity, big or small, will have to endure the pressure that comes with being in the public eye, but the constant scrutiny that Michael found himself in must have proven, at times, to be utterly crushing. Imagine not being able to say something or do anything without your actions being analysed and judged so intensely. And while he himself may have perpetuated this level of attention, not the least of which through his increasingly bizarre behaviour, no one can deny the part that the greater public played in his downfall.
The vilification that occurred when the allegations against him blew up was nothing short of astonishing. Seemingly, the adoration that followed the man all of his life vanished overnight. The mighty fell hard. And his star never quite recovered. In the end, Michael died as a lonely and broken shell of who he once was. The butt of everyone’s jokes, even minutes after his death.
But in spite of the troubled life he led, there’s one undeniable thing about Michael. He leaves behind an enduring legacy of music; so much that everyone you know has at least one favourite Michael Jackson song, something that really gets them dancing or singing, forgetting all else.
From an over-examined yet extraordinarily generous and gifted life, that’s a tremendous accomplishment. RIP MJ.
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