Note: I don’t normally get into celebrity deaths, but to say Michael Jackson was an icon would be an understatement. Despite any number of freak-things related to the King of Pop, he was still an amazingly talented individual who created some fantastic music. I can’t say he’ll be missed — he’s only missed insomuch as I could displace the good things about him from the bad. And that had become increasingly difficult if not impossible over the past ten years.
From Yahoo! Finance comes an article titled “Jackson lived like king but died awash in debt.” You probably already know the gist. Jackson created any number of fantasies, from his freak narcissim to Neverland Ranch. He lived a life of extravagance and died almost a half billion dollars in debt.
A few short descriptors that come to mind when I think about Michael Jackson:
- He was an amazing talent and produced a veritable catalog of pop masterpieces.
- His family was dysfunctional — often disturbingly so.
- He went from lavish wealth to huge debt. He got foreclosed on with Neverland Ranch.
- After things had started going downhill, MJ’s investment in the Beatles’ songs (owning the copyrights) kept him afloat. It has always struck me as odd that you could own someone else’s musical creation. Rent seeking off of intellectual property rights? Check.
- Jackson was freakishly narcissistic and/or had an extreme case of body dysmorphic disorder, engaging in all sorts of plastic surgery endeavors that ultimately made him look alien/gross/non-human.
- He had some serious demons with regard to his sexual identity. Whether he actually acted on these things or not, I don’t know — it doesn’t matter, really. He had problems and they related to his sexuality.
- MJ was one of most obsessed-over celebrities ever. And look how that turned out — he made his kids wear masks in public.
- He died young of a heart attack.
I submit that Michael Jackson’s life is one of the more disturbing examples of modern American culture. He was an extreme case, for sure, but his problems are not unique: too much debt, too much spending, rent-seeking off of other’s work, twisted narcissism, broken family, repressed sexuality, and dying young of a heart attack*, the end result of a life of stress and poor nutrition.
It makes me sad to make this connection, but it’s just too striking to ignore.
America, what have we become?
* I guess cause of death is yet to be officially ascertained, but we’ll roll with this for now.