Thursday, June 09, 2005

Wacko Jacko Backo?

Tracy Warner links to an op-ed in the LA Times by Maureen Orth, who alleges (correctly, we think) that if Jackson wasn't a superstar, he'd already be behind bars and getting psychological help.

Tracy predicts that Jackson will be acquitted when the jury finally finishes deliberation, if they end up reaching a verdict. We're not going to play that game (strange things seem to happen in the California court system), but we do have some thoughts on the case.

We've been bothered since this fiasco began by the "outpouring of love and support" from Jackson's fans, who have said since the day he was charged that they just knew in their hearts the King of Pop is innocent. Failing to exhibit much critical thinking, the only evidence these Jackson supporters cited was their own love of his music. They transferred that love of a Jackson product over to Jackson himself -- a dangerous but not unprecedented behavior.

From O.J. Simpson to Kobe Bryant, fans of troubled celebrities have always rushed forward to maintain their hero's innocence, with little regard to the evidence or, more importantly, the victims of these alleged crimes. Perhaps Simpson and Bryant are poor examples, as both were exonerated (more or less -- neither was convicted of a crime) in the court system, but it's not as if their fans knew prior to the end of the trial that would be the case. Similarly, even if these charges against Jackson do not result in a conviction, the quality of his music will not be the reason why.

We should add say that we're also fans of Jackson's music, but that doesn't make us Jacko apologists. We find this situation very sad -- our sympathy goes out first to the victims (if indeed they prove to be) and we also find ourselves feeling sorry for Michael, though certainly not enough to excuse this kind of (alleged) behavior. He was a celebrity by age 9, but even before that he was a singer first and a little boy second. He never went to school -- the kind of school that you and I attended, where we developed our social skills -- a day in his life. His father, as has been documented, was not the most kind. Being a superstar kept him from having any semblance of a normal life, preventing him from being able to go out in public and imprisoning him inside the world he was forced to create. Remember, this was not the life that he chose, but one that was chosen for him.

And then there is his ghastly appearance. An accident in 1984, when his hair caught fire while filming a commercial for Pepsi, may have been what led him to plastic surgery (it's unclear whether he had gone under the knife earlier), which obviously for Jackson has become an addiction. But he also suffers from a rare skin disease called vitiligo, best described as albino skin spots caused by loss of pigmentation. This is a very real condition (several of our family members have it) and one that can be particularly destructive psychologically, especially for a black man and one whose job involves being in the public eye. Additionally, the 46 year-old Jackson also suffers from lupus, according to a source who worked with him on his landmark music video, Thriller.

As to whether Michael Jackson is guilty or innocent, we're not sure. But one thing is certain: his life, which we once thought was the quintessential American success story, is actually an American tragedy.

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