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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Aesthetics of Michael Jackson

When I was in college, I took a course on Eugene O'Neill - "Eugene O'Neill and The Cultural Construction of a Psychological Self" with Professor Joel Pfister (the P is silent, Witchie). In this class we "deconstructed" O'Neill like good postmodernist 90s college students, breaking down his plays by their points of view on race, class, and gender. So basically being that I went to the school that was the setting for the movie PCU (see here -, the opinion of most of the class was that O'Neill was a racist, sexist, classist idiot whose plays never should have seen the light of day.

We had to write a final paper for the class with a thesis statement drawn from our own perspective on O'Neill. It was my opinion that O'Neill still was a "good" playwright - not necessarily Strange Interlude or The Iceman Cometh (yawn-a-roo) - but Long Day's Journey was compelling along with many others and frankly he was a pretty durn good writer whose plays have stood the test of time. I found a quote from Bertolt Brecht about the aesthetics of drama. Boiled down, the essence was that Brecht believed that drama has its own aesthetic - meaning, that the quality of a play being "good" is completely separate from all other criteria. You could have a well-written, well-acted, well-lit, well-designed play that was totally morally abhorrent. Just because the subject matter is repugnant doesn't mean necessarily that the actors, the dramatic moments, or the set design sucked.

I was not popular in this class. People thought I was a Nazi. But I got an A minus on the paper because the professor agreed I had a compelling argument and Brecht backed me up. Schwing!

Anyway, I see a similar thing going on with Michael Jackson. People seem to be in two camps: either St. Michael is dead and they are weeping and gnashing their teeth, or they are saying "I'm so glad that child rapist is dead". I guess this blog (which I totally have NO TIME for LOL and shouldn't be typing right now) is aimed more at those who think that the children of the world are now safe and thank goodness the molester has been eradicated.

You can say what you like about his personal life and the horrible stories and court cases that came out of Neverland. Michael Jackson was a major talent. 70s and 80s music would have been completely different without his influence. Not to mention on those zippers on those leather jackets :-) He sang, wrote, and performed major pop music that always took what was happening right then and moved it ahead a few notches. Quincy Jones helped focus his records with laser-sharp precision.

Phil Spector is in jail for the rest of his life for murder. Does that invalidate "Pretty Little Angel Eyes?"

OJ Simpson is also a psychopathic killer (thankfully imprisoned). Should they take his football records off the books?

I admit, it's hard to sing these people's praises in any way. I guess all I want to say to those who say "Ding dong the rapist is dead" is that this world is far more confusing and nuanced that that - that it is good to remember the good about people no matter who they are even if it's difficult, because when all we do is rejoice when someone dies is become a little more psycho ourselves.

And if you're thinking about being my baby, it don't matter if you're black or white :-) and yes, ding dong, the rapist IS dead.

Somewhere I have a video of myself dancing around to Billie Jean at age 15 with a winter glove on my hand. If I find it, I WILL post it.


  1. " is good to remember the good about people no matter who they are even if it's difficult..."

    We *all* come to terms with the cycle of life, again and again ... and to me your words here reflect that so nicely. Thanks.

    Annnd ... I was never a MJ fan, despite having grown up neck-n-neck with his presence. I honored *his talent* in the realm of pop music, though not the realm itself. Never have. But I recall the moment that MJ and his talent moved from honor to *real appreciation.* It was the moment "ABC" blared from Jay and Silent Bob's boombox for the Jersey dance scene in "Clerks II." Now, whenever I hear it, I smile instead of rolling my eyes. Healing takes many forms. :)

  2. I couldn't agree more! I was never actually a MJ FAN but I can see his talent, (ok hear his talent) and no matter WHAT he did, he was a human being. I fully believe his childhood helped shape what he was and if he leaves us with nothing else, it is that money and talent cannot buy a happy, healthy childhood. So hug your children, love them, and discipline with kindness and always with love. And never ever think money is more important than those who wipes away your tears!