As I sit here watching the Michale Jackson memorial streaming on CNN.com I felt like I need to say a few things just to get them out (and hey, isn’t that what blogging is all about).
First, my feelings on MJ. I wasn’t a fan and that’s not something I feel like I should be ashamed to admit. I wasn’t ashamed to admit it when he was alive so I have no feelings that I need to suddenly be a fan in his death. Many others, however, feel they now need to be those who claimed they were always fans because it’s somehow wrong to not be one at this point. I still think it’s silly that so many people thought him to be a horrible, creepy man and then he dies and suddenly the world over forgets these thoughts and feelings and now deify him. But I always had very mixed feelings about him on a personal level, though I will agree that he made a mark on the music world and inspired and influenced millions. That’s what an entertainer is supposed to do and he certainly did that. But again, while I’m not a fan of MJ there are songs of his that I have always liked and will always like, much in the same way that I’m not a fan of MC Hammer but the Gods be damned if I’m not going to sing along and do a little dance to “Hammertime”.
So why is someone who’s not a Michale Jackson fan watching this media spectacle? Because it’s a media spectacle. I’m watching the MJ memorial for the same reasons that I watched Princess Diana’s memorial even though she wasn’t someone that I ever had a personal feeling of connection to. It’s history in the making. But as I watch this it really does show a perfect example that funerals and memorials are not for the dead but for the living.
Michael Jackson was a private man in life. While he was a performer who many saw as a strong and unique individual onstage everyone around him had always said he was a very different person off-stage. Quite, shy, child-like, private. Would he have wanted to have his life paraded around like it is now, only remembering the bits and pieces that make us feel good and fuzzy inside, or all the world to see? Or would he have wanted to just be laid to rest, privately, remembered by friends and family and fans in their own way? Somehow I can’t help but think if he were able to be on the side-lines of this, watching other musicians perform over the top renditions of his songs and give overly glorified re-tellings of things like first meetings and auditions, he would be embarrassed and somewhat horrified. This isn’t for MJ, this is for everyone else.
Michael Jackson was a Muslim in is last few years. He had converted to Islam and, from all inside accounts, was apparently happy and at peace with his new found faith. However this memorial service is quite decidedly Christian with choirs singing, people talking and singing about the “glory of God” and Jesus. Is this what MJ would have wanted? Or would he have wanted to just be put to rest in some manner in accord with his personal beliefs? This isn’t for MJ, this is for everyone else.
It makes me realize even more than I already did that funerals, memorials and the like are not for those that we have lost but for those of us that are left grieving. Take a walk around any cemetery and you’ll see that and know it to be true. Benches set in place in cemeteries are not there for those that have passed away, but for those of us that feel that we need a place to be comfortable so we can go and be by their side once again. It’s not for them but us. It’s all for us.
So in watching this overblown media extravaganza I find myself feeling a lot like like a voyeur, which is an interesting sort of feeling for something so public. But it all feels wrong to me. So I’m going to end my time of watching this “whoopla”, as Elizabeth Taylor so eloquently put it, and watch “The Office” instead.