By Graham Danzer
Michael Jackson: Entertainer, Star, Thriller, many words come to mind when it comes to describe MJ, one of the world‘s greatest entertainers. But, what about the beneath the surface? Through the limelight and the spotlight, past the fame and fortune, beyond the controversy, outside of the public eye, Michael stood for difference as well as uniqueness in a world growing more and more the same: the world we live in, where a man who speaks softly must be gay, and someone black who isn’t ghetto is less than black. Michael didn’t fit into anyone’s box. And that was the threat that Michael posed; the threat of progress. And that’s what we lost when he died—a sign of something more than the times.
Michael grew up as the youngest brother in a family ear marked for destiny and greatness, entertainers and star-lights across the board. Making history and headlines, number one hits, cereal box covers, “The Jackson 5” grew from a name chattered on the school yard to a name that overnight became a legend.
And little Michael, too. Michael continued to climb and climb higher and higher into the dizziness of world premier. Child star, magazine covers, music videos, it kept going. But soon, reality began to creep back up. The Price of Fame, as rap star Little Bow entitled his first album. So, the controversy and the headlines could not be ignored. As someone becomes famous, his name becomes an attention grabber, a maker of news, a selling point, useful to a press hungry for the latest chance at ratings. If it bleeds, it leads, so they say.
MICHAEL JACKSON ACCUSED OF MOLESTING CHILDREN, so they said on every national news banner, radio station, everything. The rumors spread as arbitrarily as rapidly. From riches to rags went Michael’s name in the public eye. Almost in one fell swoop. And the press has its reasons. Its reasons for why it is okay. The ‘it,’ in if ‘it’ bleeds, ‘it’ leads, that is.
“The public wants dirt, and so that’s what we give them, we’re a business, not humanitarian charity,” the press might say in their own defense. By that argument, we should all be free to sell crack cocaine; after all, the public wants it and we, in a free enterprise system, need to make a living, not give charity.
Besides that, the accusations against Michael speak to a travesty in our litigation happy, finger pointing world. Where an adult who is with a child not his own is instantly assumed of being a molester: Because 1 out of every half a million adults might be.
In child care agencies, it is often policy that children cannot sit on adult’s laps, for fear of law suit and public outcry, the threat of a tarnished reputation. So the Michael Jackson’s of the world who love children, as if that were a bad thing, might need to find love of another kind. Children’s complimentary needs for love and attention be damned. Travesties, every word.
Because for every 1 out of 500,000 molestations, there are 500,000 more children who go unmolested and who need more time with adults, more warmth and touch, more of what the press and litigators rebel against, more of the press’s defecation in Michael’s name turned toilet. Ultimately, youth, who are the most healthy and the most secure in themselves and their capacity for relationships, tend to be those youth who spend the most healthy and supportive time with their parents and other adults.
And yet, painfully, Michael takes a child for a ride on his Ferris wheel, and instantly, it’s MICHAEL JACKSON ACCUSED OF MOLESTING CHILDREN. Little in the way of a meaningful, unbiased defense of his name turned ‘molester’ from ‘thriller.’ After all, if ‘it’ leads ‘it’ bleeds, unlike truth or justice.
Wouldn’t we think it a good thing when a man of influence in the community wants to look out for the welfare of a child not his own? With all the fatherless children out there, might these acts of kindness do more good than harm? When a man signs up to coach a little league team, does he make the headlines of the local newspaper for being a molester? Do we condemn the coach immediately if a rumor is started amongst the players? Not usually. After all, youth do have their tendencies to point the accusing finger of “gay” at nearly everyone. Gay, and the stereotyped and untrue association of gay equaling molester, being the ultimate disrespect. No, these rumors are not necessarily assumed to be fact. After all, we know how rumors can fly, especially out of children’s mouths. But with Michael Jackson, the rumors were taken as fact. Michael the molester. Proof be damned. Reputation washed away. If it bleeds, it leads, that’s what the papers said. Truth and justice gone with the wind.
Ultimately, the converse of if it bleeds, it leads, is also true. If it leads, it bleeds. The ensuing controversy leads the public into a new perception of Michael. The public was captivated by “the lead.” And Michael Jackson bled for it. And now his reputation is drained of blood, by these rumors, for all time. Not solely known for his amazing dance moves, Just Beat It, donations to charity, his love of children. But in large part, for the vivid imaginations of our press captivators. Well done indeed American Press. At the end of the day, the rumors were denounced in open court. Michael Jackson was found innocent of all charges. Nevertheless, if it bleeds it leads, and if it leads, it bleeds. And Michael Jackson bled for it. The rumors will never be gone, always with his name.
Yes. Michael, bled deeply, and will keep bleeding at the name from beyond the grave. He bled for what he represented: Someone who didn’t fit into the box. Who developed a name and fame, and took time out of his stardom for his love of children. Unlike other self-centered men in the community who won’t even date a woman with children. Unlike other pop sensations and their Pepsi commercials and popping champagne bottles. Unlike other adults out there who do nothing for the children of the world in need of their attention. Sense of community and giving be damned. Michael did more, was more and gave more. And that’s what we lost when we lost Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson more than made progress, Michael Jackson was progress.
Note: Graham Danzer is a writer who lives in San Francisco. Mr. Danzer also holds a master’s degree in Social Work. He is Ph.D candidate in his field.
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