Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Real Killer of Michael Jackson

In the avalanche of words precipitated by the tragic, untimely death of Michael Jackson, there are two that we have not seen or heard used together: mental illness. Many of his fans would probably consider it a desecration of his memory to suggest that Michael Jackson was mentally ill. Ignorance about diseases of the mind is still rampant, and we routinely overlook the devastating effects of mental illness—even when they are played out before our eyes in the dazzling and colorful lives of international celebrities.

It goes without saying that Michael Jackson was a man of astonishing, mind-boggling talent and creativity—an artist of the first order. By all accounts, he was a gentle, generous, kind-hearted person. He appears to have had deep, decades-long relationships with friends and family. Despite the obvious distortions created by early fame and unimaginable wealth, there was much that seemed right about his life.

Of course, famously, there was also much that was wrong. Perhaps most obvious was the gradual transformation from the handsome, masculine-looking performer he was in his early twenties (a time of life when mental illness often strikes) to the androgynous, child-like creature he had become by 2005, when he was put on trial in California. There was his obsessive fascination and identification with children that led to accusations of impropriety. In the last years of his life, he became reclusive, and there were rumors that he was compulsive about cleanliness.

Clearly, Michael Jackson had a tormented soul, and fame and wealth can’t substitute for happiness. But I’d like to think he escaped, from time to time, from his prison of self-doubts and obsessions. On stage, he certainly looked unfettered and free—blissfully, extravagantly free of all earthly limitations, of gravity even. Through music and motion, he provided millions of others with breath-taking, unforgettable escapism. During those magic minutes when he was performing, I hope that he, too, was able to transcend.


Sue said...

And let's not absolve the medical profession. The number of elective treatments Jackson underwent was excessive, to say the least.

A friend of mine commented when he heard about Jackson's death, "You know, Michael Jackson was the Elvis of his generation." Another case where inappropriate medical treatment (in that case drug prescriptions) probably contributed to death.

It's something to keep in mind as we look at national health care coverage. Just because something CAN be done doesn't necessarily mean it SHOULD be done.

Idna said...

Add Jacko to the long list of insanely rich and adored celebrities who succumbed to drugs and mental illness. Elvis, of course, and Howard Hughes are really good examples.

But the saddest and most upsetting thing about Jackson's life is that he was allowed to have 3 children of his own. INSANE! Who knows how these poor kids were damaged by a "father" with such problems. And now who has the rights to them ... and their millions? What kind of parent is available to them? Who ARE their parents? Kids should not be "bought" like the way he acquired them. This is the biggest tragedy of the whole Jackson saga.

Sue said...

Well, Idna, unless you want to have "parenting licenses" or otherwise control reproductive rights, I don't think it's right to talk about "being allowed to have three children of his own." Yes, unfortunately, it is the children who are most hurt by the bad choices of the parents, but eugenics is a dangerous game to play.

Idna said...

There is more and more info coming out about Jacko's kids. The latest, if true, is that neither he nor his wife of 20 minutes, Debbie, gave any genetic material to "their" two children. Meaning ... test tube babies. So Deb was just a convenient surrogate. I'm sure Jackson's lawyers figured out that this way she has no claim on the kids. Just give her a nice chunk of change for her services and see ya later!

The third kid is a total mystery.

And, by the way, if anyone was practicing eugenics it was Jackson himself. He obviously hated his body. Tried to erase any recognizably African features. When it came time to "procreate" (whatever!) he made damn sure that the kids would not look like he used to.

Wouldn't you just love to hear the explanation when these kids ask the question, "Mommy, where did I come from?"

Whoops ... forgot, they HAVE no Mommy.

Sue said...

Well, I'm not in favor of surrogate/test tube parenthood in any instance. But let's give him a slight bit of credit. He did seem to like children. Just maybe, he felt that giving these three life was a gift. De mortuis nil nisi bonum.