Saturday, October 31, 2009

....that was it

Up until a week ago we thought that Things 1 and 2 were going to be playing evening soccer matches on Halloween---a truly vexing situation: should we buy costumes to be prepared for trick or treating only to have them go unused for the one evening they might be worthy of a fraction of their costs? If no, what to do then if the teams didn't advance in playoffs?

To my great surprise it wasn't much work to persuade the girls that a sensible plan would be to opt out of the costume-and-candy-parade in favor of a fun family evening: dinner out and a movie, allowing us to skip the ghouls and goblins in our neighborhood and spare the girls the torment of so many friends shrieking their sugary delight...

This is It
I've been conflicted about Michael Jackson for decades, really. On one hand, he was the very embodiment of pop culture to me: at six or seven, his was one of the first voices I ever heard on the radio... shortly thereafter my family moved to Spain; with no television to speak of, all American pop culture *was* music and in the early 70's, that was the Jackson 5 (to me). When we did return to the States (Land of the TV as we called it), the J5 were growing up and it wasn't much more than a year or two until MJ gave us "Off the Wall", music videos happened and the rest is history... that is the arc of my primary school years; Michael Jackson: ABC to Thriller.

I suppose it was happening all the while but it wasn't long after Thriller before the surgical sculpting of his physical image raised concerns, dubious marriages and parenting circumstances, allegations of pedophilia... I find those allegations hard to dismiss. They are consistent with everything we know of him: obsessed with the gifts of youth he was denied, fierce media and social pressures, the celebrated Peter Pan complex.

To be sure, I do believe that MJ's personal troubles, whatever they were, were created by the extreme pressures of his career and celebrity. It doesn't help that the world knew very little of him as a person or that the glimpses he did offer into his life ultimately appeared ever more damning. I suppose that I went to the movie hoping for one last indication of who Michael Jackson was.

What I found was a seriously exciting show. Huge productions, amazing choreography and staging; fantastic music, flawless integration of live stunts and filmed sequences. And, oh, the dancing---with MJ right up front: not only keeping up with kids half his age but throwing down signature moves effortlessly, leaving everyone in awe. I could easily watch the Billie Jean sequence ten times and not have enough.

In the end, though, there were too few genuinely organic moments for me. The moments of actually seeing the musicians just wouldn't have satisfied my expectations for a concert. So much flash, so little spontaneity... It left me wondering, again, what is the value of such a live show? The arenas are too big to feel anything other than a crowd ground swelling; the largest part of the audience would only see Michael on large screens---so why live?

What do fans expect? One more canned experience from a man so tragically damaged by the same media machine driving the performance? And why did HE do it? And did that effort contribute, physically or emotionally, to his death? I left reminded of my respect for him and having more sympathy than I've felt before but ultimately... its one more MJ experience that leaves me conflicted.


Anonymous said...

Always wearing my rose colored glasses when it comes to the media's perception of people and even my perception. I went away feeling that he is Peter Pan and the greatest pop artist of all time. I left wishing that we could have seen what the live show was going to be, as it all pointed to being fabulous. A tragic tortured soul who was gone to soon. LYFE Cousin Donna

KHM said...

His talent is/was undeniable. LYFE.