One afternoon last week, judging by the special coverage on every local Los Angeles television station, you'd have thought someone had flown an airliner into a skyscraper. The actual news, of course, was that Michael Jackson had died suddenly, mysteriously, before the world could even learn if his comeback would be a success.
The concerts next month could never have generated as much money as the act of dying will. The extra positive media exposure and public forgiveness are incalculably large. What a great, if unintentional, career move.
However high his psychic apogees as the "King of Pop" his low points must have been frightening. His parents rode him hard and put him away emotionally wet. He spent his adult life searching for lost youth, questioning his fading talent, explaining his bizarre behavior and hiding his face from cameras - a living hell like that could be no worse than the imaginary fiery afterlife everyone seems to believe in..
But everything is different now. (I heard someone say exactly that on a TV news program.) Amidst the OJ-like media excitement over the as-yet unannounced upcoming Jackson funeral plus expectations of lawsuits, box sets, tribute productions, interviews of his children (once they turn 21), documentaries, made for TV biopics and, eventually, enough tell-all books to fill an elementary school library, America wants to know right this minute how the future will remember Michael Jackson.
Many people think Mike will end up at the top of the dead media legend tree next to Elvis. Hardly likely. My guess is that he'll end up several branches lower as the biggest name from the second-most relentlessly conformist and trivial era of popular culture ever. But the post-baby boom generation finally has its own John Lennon. Or is he their Tupac Shakur.
The important issue is whether Michael's fan base will replicate itself over time. When the current five-year olds who are listening to their parent's Michael Jackson albums grow up, they'll reproduce. Here's an imaginary conversation around the year 2040 between one of those kids and her tweener daughter.
Daughter "Mommy, who is Michael Jackson?"
Mom "He was a singer your Grandmother used to like when she was your age."
Daughter "Why does he look so funny."
Mom "Because he had plastic surgery to make him look younger."
Daughter "His eyes are sad. Why was he sad?"
Mom "Because he was so talented and so rich and so famous that he became unhappy."
Daughter "I thought famous people were always happy. Where is he now?"
Mom "He died a long time ago when he was fifty."
Daughter "No wonder he was sad. Fifty is REALLY OLD."
Mom "Don't tell your Grandmother. Now finish your bowl of Mr. Fizzy Mango Flavored Enviro-flax Sugar Treats and then you can watch that new show that you like on the 3-D Disney channel. Won't that be fun?"
Daughter "Oh boy!" Long pause. "Mommy, who is Miley Cyrus?"
The Michael Jackson Through The Year 2022 graphic came from here. Gessner Allee is, apparently, a theater in Zurich. The graphic is at least 3 years old.
Big Eye Tags: Michael Jackson. . . King of Pop. . . Death of Michael Jackson