I got asked to submit 600 words to the Free Press for a recent issue. This is what I wrote. It didn't make it in the mag (truth be told, I don't know if they ever recieved it. I sent to the e-mail my friend gave me and didn't hear anything back afterwards) so here it is for all of you to enjoy. Oh, and I wrote this before Bill Maher did his little rant so don't accuse me of aping him.
One of the many things that agonizes me over the state of humanity is how we react to any celebrity death like it’s 9/11 and the ensuing pop-culture zeitgeist it becomes. It’s not like we lost the fucking cure to cancer, people. Some cat who just happened to sing/act/play sports/write died just like thousands of other folks do every single day. It’s great if their work managed to impact your life in some way. But, really, is that a reason to ignore everything else that is going on in the world so we can pick apart the still warm corpse like the scandal hungry vultures we’ve become? Michael Jackson’s death has quickly become the zenith of this sort of behavior.
While the world was mourning His Royal Badness’ demise, the entire American media seemed to ignore things like the U.S. launching a major military operation in Afghanistan, unemployment levels rising, Massachusetts suing the government over the Defense of Marriage Act, continued civil unrest in Iran (has CNN ended its love affair with Twitter?), the economy lingering in the shitter and the recurring clusterfuck that attempted national health care has become. Is it too much to ask that we get in depth reports on stories that have more impact on our lives and culture than the sordid affairs of a kid toucher who hadn’t contributed shit to music for well over a decade? Sure, his finest albums (Off the Wall and Thriller) are essential and influential contributions to the canon of pop music but in the years since, Mr. Peter Pan had become nothing more than a pop-culture punching bag and had announced his retirement. There would be no further musical endeavors for him and even if he had decided to hit the studio would the world really benefit from experiencing his Chinese Democracy?
Even more upsetting was when viewers tried to call the media out over sensationalism and tabloid muckraking, some of these assholes had the nerve to get offended and defensive about their “journalism.” Jane Velez-Mitchell (you know, Nancy Grace but with a brunette fem-mullet) was the worst of the lot, piously asserting that the media’s coverage of Captain EO’s overdose was bringing attention to this new phenomena of pharmaceutical abuse in this country. Are you fucking kidding me? I haven’t seen one article or heard one talking head delve into The Gloved One’s epic drug use and discuss how it mirrors a greater social ill. I’d actually be open to that. After all, if we’re going to consider his death a tragedy, why not try to make it relatable to the other people suffering from similar maladies? That way the vicious dumpster diving for new “shocking” revelations could possibly serve a purpose other than a boost to the network ratings. But I doubt it. Or how about interviewing some of our fine elected officials in the legislature and ask them what they are doing now to curb the croaker docs from dispatching unnecessary medication to pill fiends if this was such an epic catastrophe? No? Then please give up the ghost. On that note, Sheila Jackson Lee can fist herself with a rhinestone glove. With everything that’s going on in the country it’s nice to know that the most pressing item on your agenda is to attempt to pass a resolution in Congress to honor the King of Pop.
And even after the gaudy funeral, our news outlets just can’t let the story die. Maybe I was wrong in my initial assessment. Michael Jackson’s death doesn’t just serve as the zenith of our pop culture obsession but also the nadir. But, that’s just me being an optimist.