Friday, June 26, 2009

Additional In Memoriam Friday Morning Videos: "Billie Jean"

I'd already scheduled my entry for Friday Morning Videos for this morning, and I'll stick with it; Michael Penn deserves the attention. But on the bike ride into work this morning, I realized it was idiotic not to mention the passing of Michael Jackson somehow. So for all of you who had--or, like me, who had older sisters who had--posters of Jackson all over the bedroom (my favorite: the close-up of his shoes, balanced precariously on their tips, the bejeweled socks glittering from the spotlights in the distant background), here's the video that changed everything. Not Jackson's biggest hit or video, not his most outrageous, not his most creepy and disturbing, but very simply, the one that changed all the rules, and made MTV and the 80s Michael Jackson's playground.

Oh, wait, you wanted to see it live? John Buass has it for you, right here.

Update: Damon Linker calls my attention to this fine comment from Andrew Sullivan:

There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age - and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.

But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.

I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.

I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.

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