Michael Jackson - The Man in the Mirror

Monday, February 21, 2005

...And mother always told me be careful of who you love
And be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth... Billie Jean

...With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream
Your bash abusing victimize within the scheme
You find your pleasure scandalizin’ every lie
Oh father, please have mercy ’cause I just can’t take it
Stop pressurin’ me... Scream

...The word is out
You’re doin’ wrong
Gonna lock you up
Before too long... Bad

...Have you seen my childhood?

I’m searching for the world that I come from
’cause I’ve been looking around
In the lost and found of my heart...
No one understands me
They view it as such strange eccentricities...
’cause I keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me...

People say I’m not okay
’cause I love such elementary things...
It’s been my fate to compensate,
For the childhood
I’ve never known... Childhood

The following post is bound to inflame many people. This is not my intention. This article addresses why the Jackson phenomena has become such a witchhunt.

As is clear from the lyrics I've quoted, there has always been an element of persecution in Michael Jackson's lyrics. Right from the start, from Thriller, we can see that Jackson has been dearly afraid of losing control of his image, of having things said about him that he cannot control. And, as can be perhaps deduced from the lyrics of Childhood, he has never felt fully in control of anything in his life. Childhood...what the hell is that these days anyways?

If childhood is what changed him into a freak, being placed in the limelight at such a young age, why doesn't the same thing happen to Punky Brewster, Laura Ingalls or the Olsen Twins? Needless to say there is ample evidence that childstars fare badly with attention: Dana Plato, Drew Barrymore, Macauley Culkin, the Coreys. But, aside from Barrymore, none of the above have really had the same measure of continued success. And, if we are really to speak about the Olsen Twins, whose appeal has somehow always remained a mystery to me, well their story is yet to be finished, and I would hesitate to say that they will face the same monumental success that was Jackson's from the age of 8 till 30.

If there is a culture that supports the idea of childstars, is it the same culture that hides its pedophiles? Why is it acceptable to see children parade around as adults, mocking and lying in the name of success, and then scream at the indecency of a childhood lost? Where is the childhood when a parent is screeching at a child in hockey game/beauty pageant in the hopes of higher performance? Was it any less perverse hearing Haley Joel Osment mouthing off the type of words what would better hear from a 45 year old acting veteran when he didn't win his Oscar? Seems to me that the idea of childhood has been perverted a long time ago.

On another level, what exactly is perversity?
perverse - marked by immorality; deviating from what is considered right or proper or good; obstinately persisting in an error or fault; wrongly self-willed or stubborn; marked by a disposition to oppose and contradict.

Perversity is a tenacious and willfull opposition to the norm. It is also in active opposition against current notions of proper or good. Michael Jackson can be considered perverse on two counts, both of which constitute major liminal zones in western culture: image modification; pedophilia.

Looking at him now, all we see is a freak, a face mutilator, a man who can't be classified as clinically insane, but who is so far removed from social norms that all his actions seem tragic-comic. He is neither an outright lunatic, spewing violent incoherence, nor is he a vegetable. He is like Jocelyn Wilderstein, a member of a very select group whose desire to change his image into exactly that which he desires has breached the limits of acceptability, but outside our sphere of influence.

Nobody accepts his skin disease hypothesis, especially since it has been so heavily counterbalanced by other radical facial surgery which has had nothing to do with melanoma problems. One can imagine that Jackson just woke up one day, wanted a tiny thing done to his nose, wasn't satisfied, and just kept going from there. In painting, people do this all the time. They scratch out, erase, redo, rescrape, throw more paint on, in the vague hopes that something incredible will suddenly pop out at the end. Jackson's canvas is his face. Why not? Because if you wreck that canvas, you don't get a second chance.

He's certainly not the first one to attempt this. The french artist Orlan has gone through similar facial rearrangements, she has horns embedded in her forehead, and sports similar megalomaniacal tendencies. Famous in contemporary art, where sado-masochism seems to be the code of the game, Orlan made her name by said self-mutilation, laughable though her efforts seem in comparison to Jackson. Why? Because you have to be the type of public figure whose face is his brandname, like Jackson, and not a semi-unknown wanna-be famous like Orlan, for this act of art to take on its true monumental meaning.

But this is only one facet of the Jackson monster. The other constitutes the child-molestation charges. You know, I don't doubt for a moment that he is a pedophile. That seems beyond question. What this raises is in fact a more indecent question. Pedophilia seems to be an everyday aspect of western culture, only thinly whitewashed by a veneer of normality. It's omnipresence is only confirmed by the vehement witchhunt that surrounds any vague exposure on the subject. A culture which rigidly enforces its proscriptions and interdictions in public is a culture which already supports a large enough minority for such proscriptions to be important.

You only have to take a glance at download lists when typing something like "mpg" or "avi" into any file search/sharing program to see how much child porn is out there. It is the dominant type of illegal porn readily available on the internet, only closely followed by rape porn.

I remember a scene from Todd Solondz's Happiness where the pedophile father is asked by his son if he would ever fuck him. And the father replies, "No, I just jerk off." A sensitive scripting that many condemned as deliberately inflammatory, sensationalist. For me, I think it was quite a delicate take on a taboo sexuality. I don't think that pedophiles actively go out to be bad fucking assholes, nor do I think that pedophiles don't regret the things that they do. People act on desire. Humans are still animals. Whether pedophilia is inherited or learnt through behaviour seems hardly the point, just as irrelevant as wondering if homosexuality comes from a gene. If the cause remains a mystery... the effect is all too concrete and it is there that an active desire for understanding and aid could be useful.

Well, that Jackson, he's probably the only living human being that occupies these two giant liminal zones. The grey zombie man, neither fully human, neither fully freak, a living target for shooting down our repressions, and falsely gaining good grace. But if Michael Jackson goes behind bars, it would only have stopped a single illegal pedophile in the world. And if we place him behind bars without understanding where our abbhorence comes from, our society will most surely continue to slip into disrepair.