I can’t help it but I just can’t seem to shake off MJ from my mind. Maybe it’s this avalanche of news coverage on him that is fueling this obsession or this growing sense of outrage that his death is a possible homicide or, having lost my own beloved father at an early age, identifying with his bewildered orphaned children. Something gnaws inside me as I seek solace in watching more Youtube videoclips, documentaries that traced that cute little boy who charmed everyone when the Jackson 5 made their debut on the Ed Sullivan show to the freakish, sad, tormented soul he became later in life. News like his faked death, missing nose, ghostly sightings, conspiracy theories and secret lovechild rubbish being spewed out by the gutter media and later rebutted and retracted, just adds to the mounting hysteria as family and fans try to come to grips with his death.
What strikes me as so very sad is the central role the media and public relations spindoctoring played in the creation of Michael Jackson, the child, the man and the icon, that pushed him towards self-destruction. Documentaries shared on Youtube really got me thinking about how terrible it is to be a public figure, especially one as universally loved and equally reviled as Michael Jackson. Just watch the VH1 Exclusive: Michael Jackson’s Secret Childhood, to understand the confusion he faced when told to lie about his age, for public relations purposes, and the conflicting messages from the teachings of his religion, the Jehovah Witness. This documentary clearly showed Michael’s confusion throughout adolescence and adulthood that made me feel that he was just a money making machine, a slave to his family, the record companies and everyone else who stood to gain from his enormous talent. Everyone of them contributed to depriving him of his childhood while, like a performing seal, he was fed bits of favours so he would keep on pleasing the crowd. A child prodigy who realised his own worth early on, Michael learnt to get whatever he wanted – just keep Michael happy and he will perform – that planted the seeds of his self-destruction.
Another documentary “E! True Hollywood Story: Michael Jackson” is an older documentary that examined the circumstances surrounding his unprecedented career success, his personal life and the child molestation cases. Much of this information has now been retold and reanalysed in countless documentaries including the infamous Martin Bashir’s “Living with Michael Jackson”. These documentaries were both somewhat biased and bent on showing Michael Jackson, who was still alive at the time of it’s making, in a less than complimentary light. What struck me as odd and rather discomfitting is the role taken by the journalists, as judge, jury and executioner, colouring their reports with commentaries and suppositions that were clearly one sided. I suppose once you let someone into your house, you have no control over what they will tell others, no matter how exaggerated or unfairly skewed the retelling, despite your gracious hospitality. If I found Martin Bashir’s interview tactics horrifying and troubling, nothing prepared me for the almost gleeful comment made by journalist Diane Dimond in the E! documentary when she said that MJ “is in freefall right now and everyone is watching for when he goes “SPLAT!” as she clasped her hands to crush what I would assume was MJ, like he was a bug. Well, needless to say both these journalists have gone on to bigger careers for their hard hitting coverage. And now that Michael Jackson has indeed self-destructed, they and everyone else in the “mess” media, are milking their “I told you so’s” for what it’s worth. When did journalists become God I wonder?
But watching the most recent documentary “My Friend Michael Jackson, Uri’s Story” restored my faith in humanity somewhat as Uri Gellar shared happy and sad memories of his friend that painted a different picture of the man the journalists loved to vilify. I was touched by Uri’s story especially one instance when Michael was visiting the Exeter Football Club when a little disabled boy baffled security to scramble upto Michael just to give him a real tight hug! What a beautiful sight it was. I wondered how a man who could inspire so much love be so deeply unhappy himself. With information from that documentary, I searched for the speech he gave to the Oxford Union in March 2001 that touched on his own childhood and his hopes as a father. Listening to the audio recording of it on Youtube, I was amazed at how articulate he was as a speaker, even with that soft breathy voice, he put his points across clearly and succintly. This speech was not as well publicised as his other exploits but this article here somehow brings MJ’s life full circle.
Breaking into tears as he spoke of his hard-driving father and former Jackson Five manager, Joseph, Michael said that despite his fame he had envied ordinary children for their suburban homes, shag carpeting and games of Monopoly.
“The cheery 5-year-old who belted out Rockin’ Robin and Ben to adoring crowds was not indicative of the boy behind the smile,” the entertainer said.
Jackson said, “What I really wanted was a dad. I wanted a father who showed me love, and my father never did that … He seemed intent … on making us a commercial success. But what I really wanted was a dad.”
He recalled his father’s “great difficulty” in communicating with him.
“If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show,” Jackson recalled. He added, with tears in his eyes and pausing to ask for tissue, “If I did an okay show, he would say nothing.”
The soft-spoken performer described his father as “a managerial genius” who “was scared of human emotion.”
“My father was a tough man, and he pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be.
“I wanted more than anything else to be a typical little boy. I wanted to build tree houses, have water balloon fights and play hide-and-seek with my friends. But fate had it otherwise …”
Jackson said that he wants to “forgive my father and to stop judging him.”
The singer said of being a father himself, “I hope that my children will not judge me unkindly and will forgive my shortcomings.”
As I listened to Michael Jackson giving that speech, somehow I understood so much more about the mental and emotional damage that was done to him as a child. Taught at a tender age that lying was okay for public relations, creating a public persona and telling people what they wanted to hear was good for business, Michael Jackson the adult, never knew anything else. He grew up before our eyes and was loved by gazillions of fans around the world but in his own personal hell he remained as conflicted and confused as that little boy who could get anything he wanted except his father’s love.
I will not discuss his guilt or innocence on the allegations against him for he is now standing before the ultimate Judge and God’s justice will prevail. But I can’t help but wonder, now that he has fulfilled everyone’s and his own predictions of an early death, will his children be able to forgive him for not wanting to live longer so they could have a father who truly loved them? I shudder to think that should those children read some of the awful trash written about their beloved father, be it the truth or some journalistic version of truth, will more damage be inflicted upon their innocent minds? I suppose the journalists will be waiting gleefully to see them go “splat” too? May Allah forgive us all!!