Are we rewriting history over Michael Jackson?

MJ tributeAt the Black Entertainment Television awards on Sunday night, there was one comment that got a bigger cheer than any other. To screams of support, host Jamie Foxx yelled, “We want to celebrate this black man. He belongs to us and we shared him with everybody else.” Isn’t this the same identity that Michael Jackson rejected as his skin became lighter and lighter? With his death are we rewriting the history of Michael Jackson’s life?

Over the weekend thousands of column inches were devoted to praising the musical pioneer and his influence over popular culture. But the civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton hit the nail on the head when he said: “It’s amazing to see how many people are now praising him that wouldn’t go near him in the last several years, and condemned him.”

Many African-Americans have been quoted over the past few days as saying they felt rejected by Michael Jackson over the past few decades, but judging by celebrations and tributes held over the weekend, it seems that much of the black American community is focussing on his music, and his early significance as black global superstar, than the bizarre antics of his later years and especially mysterious dramatic appearance changes.

The black British New-York-based columnist Gary Younge writes thoughtfully of Jackson’s legacy here.

But not everyone is being so kind. As this blogger writes: “It seems that the canonization began almost immediately, with the amnesiac collective memory forgetting that he had become at best a freak and at worst a sickening, mangled, pale spectre of himself.”

Are we collectively choosing to forget the reality of Michael Jackson in favour of an idealised version? As stories emerge of years of abuse of medication, along with accusations of abuse by ‘enablers’ and pressure from concert promoters, are we choosing to see Michael Jackson more as a victim, as a good boy turned wrong by circumstances? Or is it simply that with his passing we are able to take a more rounded view of the man than was permitted by tabloid culture during his life?

13 Responses to “Are we rewriting history over Michael Jackson?”

  1. 1 Ann
    June 29, 2009 at 11:36

    I think what is going on at the moment in our collective reaction to Jackson’s death is not so different to what happens within an individual family… When a complex and troubled person dies we struggle to make sense of their life and how we feel about it. But the difference here is that most people DIDN’T really know him and so in our lazy, often judgemental thinking, we simply catergorize him as a ‘failed human being’ or a ‘musical genius’. But I think the real Michael Jackson was so much more complicated and worthy of deeper consideration…

    Over the years he looked like a man trying to transform himself into something neither black nor white, neither man nor woman. He was an incredible force of nature with an electrifying talent and yet at the same time a fragile sensitive soul.

    In the end he was just a human – all too human. And in the words of Mary Gauthier…

    Yeah, we all, could use a
    little mercy now.
    I know we don’t deserve it,
    but we need it anyhow…

  2. 2 Eneida Rista
    June 29, 2009 at 12:00

    A forgiven head cannot be severed, an old Albanian saying goes (maybe other cultures have a similar saying too). A captive shall not be touched or impaired in any form, if he has surrendered and apologized for his crime. Michael surrendered to death, which we humans respect as the ultimate surrender, apology and requital, therefore his head is forgiven and he will be remembered only for the good in his life. Death is the ultimate purification episode of a human’s life. A spirit, after that, is only elevated.

    Thank you for the great informative, interesting and mind-broadening show you broadcast every day,
    One of your faithful listeners,
    Cheers from Tirana, Albania
    Eneida Rista

  3. 3 Deryck/Trinidad
    June 29, 2009 at 12:24

    Michael Jackson was a sick man who captured the world’s imagination. The media and the public loved to criticize him when he was alive because bad news sells.

    I was also a critic of certain aspects of his life and then I learned that he was abused and traumatised as a child hence the reason for his demons. His abuse doesn’t absolve him from blame for the sins that he’s committed but they do show that he was human and that all of us have some demons to contend with.

    June 29, 2009 at 13:53

    We are not rewriting Michael Jackson’s story. If there are racist views, it is because he gave us the reason. He wrote it when he was alive.
    That he was brought into public media, we have a reason to comment on how he presented himself. Those who say he was a friek have a right to say so. He was racist, a sexist, a rejectionist, superstar, maestro, rich, irrisponsible, a populist, selfish, kind to those he favored — name it. He endorsed all these roles with his own thumb print and not us. He thoroughly enjoyed being the “I am bad”. Though he excelled in music later, it is likely that he broke the group so called THE JACKSON FIVE to satisfy his selfish scheme. In short, he was nothing more than MICHAEL JACKSON. He was his own project and ignored everyone else when it suited him.

    The word death is sounds like a flat word that describes a certain form if it describes a human being. There is nothing wrong with what is being written. Jackson wrote more than we do and there is enough evidence to support this claim. His family too has to deal with this complex legacy of their shattered jewel.

  5. 5 Mike BJ
    June 29, 2009 at 16:43

    we’re not rewriting history, but remembering the good things we know of mj.

    rip mj.

    we miss you this much: http://tinyurl.com/fanreactionpics

  6. 6 globalcomedy
    June 29, 2009 at 18:56

    In a sense yes we are.

    While he was a great entertainer, he was also a 40-something guy who slept many times with little kids. Many fans will say, he was found innocent. So get over it! That’s no excuse. Would YOU want a 40 yr old. guy sleeping with YOUR 10-year old son?

    But sadly, many fans just can’t deal with reality.

  7. 7 Tan Boon Tee
    June 30, 2009 at 03:34

    As long as one is a talented singer or performer, does it really matter if he is black or white?

    There is a price for everything in life. The higher one goes, the heavier one falls.

    Except for a few, most people who have achieved fame or money want more, and more. They need continuous attention from the world, and when they don’t get it, they fall for drugs to live in a make-believe world or suffer from mental torture and dejection constantly.

    Would any one still think there are free lunches somewhere and want to look for some more?
    (Tan Boon Tee)

  8. 8 RightPaddock
    July 1, 2009 at 14:15

    Over the top outpouring of grief and idealisation of dead celebrities is a feature of the modern world, Diana Spencer may have been the first, and I doubt Michael Jackson wont be the last.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the world reacts to Mandela’s eventual death. I hope its more respectful. Respect, as opposed to idolatry, often seems to be missing from these episodes of mass mourning.

  9. 9 RightPaddock
    July 1, 2009 at 14:16

    errata – that should have been “will be the last”

  10. 10 chukky
    July 3, 2009 at 12:05

    i love michael jackson he didnot desevre to die because he an Africa hero

  11. 11 Dennis Junior
    July 14, 2009 at 00:28

    Yes, I think that we are rewriting history over Michael Jackson…
    ~Dennis Junior~

  12. 12 athziri
    July 20, 2009 at 19:06

    Always gonna remember MICHAEL JACKSON.HE IS THE KING OF POP. HE IS A LEGEND TO US. Michael Jackson didn’t deserve to die. he was a helpful person person and creative peson also……………..LOVE MICHAEL JACKSON FOREVER…..

  13. 13 Emily
    August 7, 2009 at 15:17

    Michael Jackson has selflessly donated most of his money to charities, including ALL his money from The Jacksons hugely popular Victory tour! He had an innocent love for children – whats wrong with hugging or holding hands with a child? People are STUPIDLY paranoid these days and thats why love is vanishing out of the world – which Michael Jackson tried desperately and in vain to reclaim – and he was just called a freak for his efforts which is WRONG to do so! He is even listed in the Guinness Book of Records as MOST CHARITIES SUPPORTED BY A POP STAR! And his beautiful music made him truly the King of Pop
    Yes Michael was abused as a child, and insecure…But that gave him his strong level of love and affection for children! He was NOT selfish … He truly believed that money was the root of all evil, and he was a victim for money greedy families like in his trials.
    We are not rewriting history, but remembering things as they REALLY happened. Michael Jackson was a loving caring thoughtful philanthropist and humanitarian – get over it! YES it does NOT sound as tintilating as perverted dangerous selfish child-molester, but it is the truth!
    He also DID NOT CHANGE HIS SKIN COLOUR – please, don’t be so ignorant, it’s not even medically possible. YES, i am a Michael fan, but I have reason to be. My aunt runs a fansite for him and she has contacted his publicists many times on behalf of the fans, to tell Michael, and he has never turned his back on anyone. Every one of their requests he fulfilled. His only crime is naivety, trust, being easily manipulated, insecure and over-generous. R.I.P Michael

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: