The Legacy of Joe Jackson
Michael Jackson has been, for most of my life, my favorite singer. I used to practice his dances in my room and ask my parents to relax my hair. I memorized every word on Thrillier, Bad, and Dangerous. I stayed home to watch the prime time premier of the video of Remember the Time.
As I got older I learned that I couldn’t like him that much if I wanted to be socially accepted. So I made some jokes and paid less and less attention as he got stranger and stranger. I still play his music for my son though. And I still think he was one of the best entertainers of the last 50 years, as most people in the world do, I think. I also think that the problems he’s had over the last 30 years can be laid largely at the feet of his father, and what he did in the first 10 or 15.
Michael was the most talented of his brothers, even at 6 or 7 years old. Joe made performing the family’s first priority, and Michael was the star. The group sang anywhere they could get the gig, including strip clubs. Michael was in the spotlight and under pressure to perform for the family’s success from such a young age.
His childhood was lost, and it seems like he spent his adult life trying to get it back. And no amount of money, fame, or talent could counteract the follies of a 9-year-old psyche in a 30, 40, or 50-year-old man with nearly unlimited resources. And as he became more and more outlandish, the public seemed to take more and more pleasure in ridiculing him, and it went on for years with little – if any – sympathy. As I think about it, I can hardly understand why.
Is it because he was such an easy target? He had a lot of plastic surgery, but that’s hardly unusual any more. He seemed insecure and socially inept, and couldn’t seem to interact well with adults. But based on his childhood, what more could you expect? I completely understand the fears surrounding his actions with children, but I’m inclined to think that nothing happened. Courts aren’t typically lenient on people who’ve been brought to court multiple times for similar offenses. I find it hard to believe that they would overlook any evidence after the first trial. (And why were parents letting their kids sleep there unsupervised anyway?)
His life and the ridicule directed at him are a sad commentary about American society. His life was derailed from the beginning by a parent who used his children’s talents for personal gain instead of raising them. And, to my knowledge at least, no one tried to help him later in life. Rather we took to deriding him for those faults that were created in him by others, taking morbid pleasure in the depth of his descent.
A comment from the Boing Boing post on Jackson’s death:
#15 posted by Galaxyhead, June 25, 2009 4:31 PM
The fellow’s talent and regrettable mistakes stemmed from traumatic abuse. If anything, people should view him as a pivotal example as to why we need a better understanding of the effects of emotional abuse on children, and the sometimes awful background that leads people, even those we assume to be geniuses, to commit the deviant acts we are so ready to condemn them for.
And now that he’s gone we seem to all miss him, though the question of whether most miss him more for his talent or the the target on his back is not for me to answer.