FROM BOY TO FAN: ONE FANS FIGHT TO LOVE MJ
I remember as a kid, sometime after the worldwide hysteria caused by Michael Jackson and his album Thriller had waned, letting slip in a conversation with a middle school classmate that I was a fan. “You still like Michael Jackson?” he asked seemingly taken aback. I looked at him in what must have seemed like a deer in the headlights look before answering. Keep in mind these were the days when the kicks you wore, what artists you listened to, even the slang you used defined you more than any Facebook status update ever will; a much smaller world where the slightest infraction was food for fodder and could have hurt your reputation among the cool. Therefore, I did what any preteen would have done, I answered “No”. My classmate proceeded to diss MJ’s “gay dancing” and other so called offenses until I ultimately conceded. “Yeah, Michael Jackson is corny now,” I said, or something to that affect and that’s how the conversation more or less went.
Up to that point in my life, I remember the feeling of not fitting in because I did not have the latest object deemed cool by the masses, like the pair of white on white cone tip Adidas I yearned for and seemingly every one had but me. But this was the first time I could remember that I was faced with having to dismiss something or someone I really liked and did in a sense possess, a person that had a massive impact on me, and that I thought was beyond the point of having his cool card revoked.
I remember being bothered about the whole situation afterwards, but still giving in to the pressure, at least outwardly. Internally, I second, tripled, quadruple-guessed and wrestled with my forced reevaluation of an artist I truly admired for quite a while until thankfully, the very object of my dilemma came to the rescue.
When Michael Jackson released his follow up album Bad a few years later, he finally laid to rest all doubts for the last time and in fact cemented my appreciation for this most special of artists. From that point on, I have never denied or otherwise rejected MJ. I may have disagreed with certain things or been deeply perplexed by others, but I stuck with him and truly was a fan of every single he released from then on and have listened to and or purchased every album with the exception of Blood on the Dance Floor (I was simply too preoccupied with life at the time) in support of the gloved one.
And what is the relevance of this story to the current news of Michael Jackson’s untimely and heartbreaking passing? Because in the minutes, hours, days, and now weeks since his passing the questioning posed to me by that middle school aged kid so long ago has been ringing in my ears, the negative spirit of his inquiry repeated over and over on the news every time the networks focus on MJ’s tribulations and not his triumphs, on his debt and not of pop culture’s debt to him, of his eccentricities and not the excitement he manifested.
Of course, I’m not surprised; it’s what the news media does, acts like a middle school aged kid. As surely as a star is born the media is there to cover it, exploit it, and cover its downfall. What the media giveth, the media taketh, and the media took and continues to take from Michael Jackson. He is larger than life, even in death. In fact, even the media’s coverage of his death is being attacked. Now, you have so called experts screaming from the cable TV mountaintop that they have had it with the MJ news coverage, that there are more important matters going on in the world. Talking heads acting as if the media’s coverage of his death is an insult to their morals and to the very fabric of America. The snake is eating its own tail.
When I most hear the voice of that kid back in middle school is when I hear people downplay Michael Jackson’s contributions to pop culture, to the world, and to humanity itself. Yes, I said it, humanity. I dare say Michael Jackson had in his lifetime a worldwide impact on human relations on both a personal and political level in one way or another. Whether it was some foreign kid in a desert being introduced to American pop culture or some fascist dictator softening his stance on some political issue if just for a moment to moonwalk in the privacy of his own secret lair, such affects on people are real, they mean something, and they cannot be so easily dismissed. If anyone has ever had such an affect I firmly believe it was, it is, it will be Michael Jackson. And why would anyone ever simply disregard that?
Though some may consider such thoughts fantastical one thing is for certain, to question why or how he could have meant so much to people the world over is to be not only clueless, but I dare say devoid of a soul or some special human component I am not smart enough to know about. I understand if it’s some hick from the backwoods, who couldn’t tell the difference between MJ or OJ, but when it’s someone who obviously drinks from the same media well we all drink from, that enjoys and respects any kind of modern entertainment whether it be musical, athletic, or otherwise, and they simply can’t or refuse to acknowledge and respect what Michael Jackson could mean to others, well, I can’t help but think these are very sad people who have simply “missed it”. I mean what’s the point of having singers, storytellers, athletes, movie stars or any kind of hero to look up to when you’re only going to downplay their contributions or deride those who excel, even if it’s a genre, sport, political party or something you aren’t necessarily too keen of.
I don’t particularly like Country Music but who am I to disparage the death of a great Country music icon? And if this unfortunate passing doesn’t receive the same type of media attention then obviously said artists’ contributions, though important, were not as far reaching. Which is ok, but why the negativity? Why do some people feel the need to get on camera or type anonymously behind the safety of a computer and basically contribute nothing but hate, borderline racists commentary, and uninformed, ironically enough media fueled, fallacies? Why? Because it’s the way of the yin and the yang or better yet, Newton’s Third law of Motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Michael was a once in a lifetime talent. He was amazing, thus his reach was worldwide, therefore, as sad as it may be, there had to be equal forces to combat such power. In other words, because life sucks sometimes. And the world has a whole lot of suck in it. There are the creators and there are those who suck it right back out. It’s the way of the world, and we simply have to live with it. And I’ve finally learned how.
I don’t know if that middle school friend ever came around to appreciating Michael Jackson’s talents, but it makes no difference anymore. I have my cone tip Adidas, I use whatever slang tickles my fancy, and I’ll be moon walking until the day I die. What I’ve learned from Michael Jackson’s life is to simply give it all you got. And sadly because of the battle he waged and ultimately lost, to shut out the naysayers and their ways, which for me personally meant to let go a long time ago of the words of some naive middle school kid and to live my life the best way I see fit.
See, the media and the naysayers will say what they want, but they only win when you let it get to you. For that valuable lesson and for the good times Michael Jackson brought to the lives of my people, my community, my family, and me. I will always love and appreciate him and his works.
Whether you chose to love or hate him publicly or privately, my love and appreciation for Michael Jackson, just like the love and appreciation countless millions the world over have for him will never wane. That’s how you fight the good fight.
RIP Michael Jackson.