Michael Jackson: Can I Still Listen To Him?
Michael Jackson. Can I still listen to him? Do I need to shelve Thriller forever? Am I forever forced to sit on the sidelines when Billie Jean comes on at a wedding dance? What about when Smooth Criminal comes on (pun not intended) in my car?
Michael Jackson: Guilty
Let’s just get this out of the way: I truly believe that Michael Jackson is a child molester. With every fiber of my being, I believe he was doing things with young boys that he should not have been doing. I don’t think that there is anything at this point that’ll change my mind.
I haven’t watched Finding Neverland yet, but I’m sure I will at some point. I’ll watch it with a look of CRINGE on my face, my eyes peering through blinds made from my fingers. I can’t NOT watch it.
But I don’t need to watch it to be convinced. I think the REAL convincing started after I read a series of articles that Maureen Orth wrote for Vanity Fair. Now, Vanity Fair is a magazine to be taking seriously, unlike the National Enquirer or some similar junk. Maureen was one of the first female writers at Newsweek, was a contributing editor at Vogue and was a correspondent for NBC. She has interviewed such people as Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher. Not that it matters who she was married to, but she was married to Tim Russert who was the longest-serving moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. In a nutshell, she’s no slouch.
I remember reading her Michael Jackson interviews (click here to read them) and being aghast at what I was reading.
I remember “working” at my computer, avoiding my case notes in order to read the articles (once you start, you will not be able to stop). I remember reading these articles and stopping every 5 seconds to tell my office mate some outrageous thing I had just read. I’m sure everyone was annoyed, but, HEY, ANDY, YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS.
What 34-year-old man sleeps with a 13-year-old for 3 month-long stretches? In the CHILD’S bed, in the CHILD’S house? We all know that this was not the worst of it, but I’m not going to go into detail here.
What I’m also NOT going to do is give you an answer to my original question. I don’t know if you should still listen to Michael Jackson. I’ve wrestled with this question for years. When it comes to situations like this, I’ve easily answered my predicament. I was a huge Woody Allen fan, but I haven’t watched any of his movies since he married his (step) daughter (plus everything else that’s come out about him). I also haven’t been able to bring myself to watch any of The Cosby Show, which was MY FAVORITE. I wish Dr. Huxtable and Cockroach was still in my life.
I can’t quit Michael Jackson, though. I’ve tried. After I read the Vanity Fair articles, I put myself on an MJ ban and it lasted for a few months. To be clear, I haven’t purchased anything of his since a greatest hits CD in like 2004, but does that matter?
Michael Jackson: The Music
He was an undeniable part of my childhood, like most people. I had MJ earrings. I remember one Easter basket was jam packed full of MJ notebooks and pencils. I had the silky wall-hanging thing (with him in the yellow bow tie and vest? remember?) in my room. I listened to him. I danced to him. He was like nothing else.
And who am I kidding? He’s still a part of my adulthood. A zillion of his songs were played at my wedding (I remember an uncle breakdancing to Thriller). My friend Ann and I saw the Michael Jackson documentary,This Is It, in the theater a few months after his death. Last summer, because of shear boredom, I spent a couple of hours trying to learn the Thriller dance (again with the Thriller). Even though I’m sure I looked like a middle-aged white woman with no rhythm, which I guess I am, it was fun and reminded me of the immense talent that is Michael Jackson.
(Have you tried to perform that choreography? Go ahead, try it. Let me know how it goes.)
The impact that he had on music is undeniable. It’s just not up for debate. I cannot think of ONE person who doesn’t enjoy Michael Jackson’s music.
So, what’s the “right” thing? Is the right thing to pull all of his music from radio/streaming/DJ platforms forever? Probably.
BUT, I am pretty darn good at compartmentalizing things and this is one of those times that I’ve had to do that. I completely understand the principle behind not supporting or showing support for this kind of deplorable behavior. Not okay. BUT, am I hurting someone if I throw in an old CD in my car and sing along to “Baby Be Mine” at full blast? Am I excluding Michael Jackson, who brought my so much joy in my life, just to prove a point? Can his music be separated from HIM or is it one and done?
Am I being selfish for wanting to hold onto this one thing?
Will we ever be able to untangle this mess? For some, the answer will be an easy yes. For some people, like me, the answer won’t come so effortlessly.