I Just Can’t Stop Loving You

Published on July 30th, 2009 in: Editorial, Eulogy, Issues, Music |

The reaction to Michael Jackson’s death surprised me. I can’t pretend to be like the true hardcore Michael fans; I have always hovered on the edges of the fandom and kept it to myself, too much perhaps. For years I have kept quiet about loving him, even as part of a music fandom where coolness doesn’t really matter. There has just been so much wrong with loving him—truly and wholly—in the eyes of the world for so long.

A Dutch press article discussed how the “real” fans are keeping their grief private, out of the way of the press that would mock and attack them, much like they did to Jackson during his life. The popular press and the average person will say they love him for Bad, for Thriller, for the Jackson 5. And then mention in exhaustive detail his later fall from grace, emphasizing that they did not like him then.

mj and nelson mandela
Michael Jackson hugs Nelson Mandela in 1999
Photo from MJJ Pictures.com

I never understood this, as to me he was amazing in the nineties. He was the first person I saw on television who had created himself entirely, who looked and sounded like something neither man nor woman. He was there before Bolan or Bowie or Adam Ant, before the Manic Street Preachers and Placebo. He went much further in self-mythifying and self-creation than any of them, truly becoming his own Creature, and wrapped in spectacle and mystery; he has never ceased to fascinate me, at that time more than any other.

Whenever there are people saying of course they didn’t like him when he was completely artificial, I am always sure they are ashamed of liking something so wholly beyond the conventional.

What fascinated (or rather frustrated) me later however, is that there doesn’t seem to have been anything right in his life, and his death proves it. Exposed to sex through abuse and his brothers’ bad attitude to it, beaten and exploited and lonely, any weakness he had was magnified and turned on him. None of these things is an excuse for anything bad he did himself, but there is no excuse for exploiting the results of it, either.

It angers me that money is still placed above mental health, racial equality, and the real protection of children. It was easier for everyone to encourage him in his insanity than to cure him from it, because it kept him spending, up until bankruptcy and now death. Even the new tour was not a hopeful sign because it was something he was driven to. Most of the press coverage read like a freakshow report.

It’s probably wrong for me to love him mainly for tragedy instead of his enormous talents, but he is such a great illustration of why our views on childhood, maleness, and race are all twisted and seem to be designed to inflict the maximum amount of hurt and facilitate abuse. If someone had actually helped him develop an identity of his own instead of just pushingpushingpushing with one hand and patronizing with the other, it might have all turned out differently.

Of course the fans are hiding from a world like that. It’s just a miracle Michael stood it as long as he did. To have the courage to go out and tour in a world that treats you like that is as strong a testimony to his greatness as it is to his musical talent.

Hanna, Staff Editor

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