Apart from simple references to celebrity – and maybe human idiocy – there is little apparent else to link the deaths of Jade Goody and Michael Jackson. This is not to suggest however that his death has been any more palatable or indeed that the legacy that will no doubt ensue will offer any better hopes of reality or authenticity. As I wrote in relation to Goody’s tragic-comic passing, the debacle was symptomatic of society’s:
…superficiality; the growth of the cult of celebrity; the veneration of its most shallow idols; the adoration of excess and greed; the voyeurism of schadenfreude; the cultural antipathy towards intellectualism; and the nihilistic and myopic rejection of social and personal morality…
It went on:
…[her] immortalisation will celebrate and commemorate all of this, epitomising all that we have become and sadly, all that we are.
As with Jade’s legions of adoring fans so too will the fans and more recently declared fans of the now dead Jackson also see him as:
…a saviour for our time…
And as with Goody, so their followers look up to them and aspire to the material trappings that so clearly failed to bring them happiness all the time commiserating how their new and respective messiah’s lives were so cruelly cut short.
Already, I have heard repeated calls for all of Jackson’s ‘failings’ to be forgotten: for him to be remembered for his greatness. Sadly, Jackson’s greatness ended some twenty years ago: two decades during which allegations of heinous crimes against children and denials of the most hideous and misguided cosmetic surgery filled the creative void.
On this latter point, Germaine Greer wrote at the weekend how:
…As his imagination faltered and grew dim, the fending off of maturity became desperate, demented and pointless. The struggle against ageing turned into self-harming and self-mutilation.
Desperate, demented and pointless.
As his death was being circulated in a frenzy of Tweets, the mainstream media desperately tried to catch up. But one thing was clear from the outset was that Jackson’s immortality was already being declared. From being asked to join a Facebook page celebrating the life of Jackson within minutes of his death to watching various Z-list celebrities, has-beens and hangers on giving their first hand accounts of what ‘He’ was ‘really’ like on 24 hour news channels, the whole event seemed to follow a familiar and predictable format. No doubt the book by Uri Geller – ‘My Friend Michael Jackson’ – will hit the shops any day soon.
And of course, his death was not a surprise: it was the most obvious thing in the world.
As Paul Morley said, it was:
…as if Jackson’s final mortal act as extreme self-obsessed entertainment illusionist was to ensure that the news of his death was itself a kind of glittering if slightly tawdry spectacle.
Jackson’s end was such that it could not have happened any other way. It was both entirely compelling yet also grotesque: something that was reflected in the timeline photos of the man’s face since childhood. As Morley added:
Jackson had been publicised to death. As soon as he died, the response came in the form of pure publicity, an almost relieved acceptance that finally the damned thing had at last been resolved.
And so with death, Jackson’s flagging career received the injection that he desperately sought since the days of ‘Thriller’, his last creative high-point. No longer the eccentric, perverse, hideous, disfigured, flawed, scandalous and ruined once performer but through death, a resurrected performer par excellence, one through which to gain publicity and make money.
Two things that in life, Jackson was no longer able to do.
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.