I have to admit, I am a recently converted “Breaking Bad” fanatic. The controversial but critically acclaimed AMC series, which just wrapped its fifth and final season and cleaned up at this year’s Emmy’s, has been a phenomenonal and critical success since its first season debuted in 2008. The story of a mild mannered family man and high school chemistry teacher who transforms, over a five season period, into a drug kingpin-a monster known as Heisenberg-struck an immediate and resonating chord with audiences. Despite the fact that its protagonist Walter White becomes, in fact, an anti-hero who commits some horrific acts in his quest for power, there is something inherently fascinating to us about the idea of transformation. Try as hard as they might, the writers of the show could not make us hate Walter White. We continued to root for this chemist geek who, at first manages to genuinely convince us and himself that he is doing it all for his family (in the series, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and at first, was motivated by the idea of the money he could make for his family by cooking and distributing meth. He rationalizes his actions by thinking that the consequences to himself don’t matter; after all, he’s going to be dead soon. But over time,we realize it is no longer about his family-they are just the excuse. He comes to love the power that his new role, and new identity, gives him). We rooted for him precisely because there is something inherently appealing in the idea of the underdog coming out on top, and even moreso, in the satisfaction that comes from a formerly emasculated man being able to take control of his life and, in essence, to “get his balls back.” This was the formula that made American Beauty such a success in 1999, when a similarly anti-hero character named Lester Burnham-“an ordinary guy with nothing to lose”- became part of the national consciousness. With the character of Walter White in Breaking Bad, creator Vince Gilligan simply took the character of Lester Burnham to a whole new level, one that completely foregoes any idea of the moral compass.
As I often do with subjects I find equally interesting, I began to do some research for cross references. I became curious to know if Michael Jackson ever watched this show, or knew about it. After all, he would have still been alive when the first season aired in 2008. Well, I still don’t know if he ever actually watched it (for the record, I don’t believe Michael was a particularly avid TV watcher of new shows. He had a lot of classic TV show he loved, such as The Twilight Zone, which is going to figure quite prominently in this post, but overall, I think his tastes ran more towards classic films). But I did find a very interesting story which reveals that Michael’s influence on this show-and especially of lead character Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul-might have possibly been more than anyone ever knew.
In an interview on The Jimmy Kimmel show that aired earlier this year, Aaron Paul revealed that in 2007 (which would have been just before landing the role of Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad) he met Michael Jackson and the two of them ended up having a very interesting heart-to-heart conversation over shots of tequila. Here is the video of that interview. Jimmy Kimmel, of course, is his usual dickwad self, but just ignore him. What is interesting is what Paul has to say about the encounter:
Now, I will tell you why the story of this conversation is interesting to me considering the direction that Jesse Pinkman’s character took. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show’s premise, I’ll just offer this brief summary. Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher who decides to “break bad” at age fifty, is first introduced to the world of meth when he rides along with his DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, to the scene of a bust where, it turns out, one of Walter’s former students, Jesse Pinkman, is cooking for the gang. From there, Walter and Jesse decide to hook up on the sly, and the rest is TV history.
At least part of the series’ critical acclaim had much to do with the arc of Jesse’s character. At first, it was easy to root for Walter, the bumbling and well meaning guy who just wants to provide for his family after he’s gone. Jesse Pinkman is every bit the little punk-ass, a street kid who (we think) is guilty of corrupting his former teacher. But Walter, as we learn, is still very much the adult figure here, and thus the authority figure-the one in control. Who is corrupting who? As the series progresses, we learn that Jesse has an estranged relationship with his parents, who eventually disown him and refuse to have anything further to do with him. Jesse becomes a kind of orphan, cast adrift, which of course makes him vulnerable to “Mr. White” who becomes his substitute father figure. Over time, the relationship corrodes, for as Walter’s character sinks deeper and deeper into a kind of moral abyss, Jesse eventually has a moral awakening. He gradually comes to realize that, in fact, he is the one who has allowed himself to become corrupted. And after witnessing-and being cajoled into particpiating in-many of Walter’s most devious schemes, Jesse eventually comes to the realization that the only way he can save himself is to break free of the monster-Walter White. But it will not be easy. Without giving away too many spoilers, suffice it to say that Jesse Pinkman has to learn a lot of tough lessons in what true love and forgiveness is all about.
Aaron Paul stated that his conversation with Michael centered on the concept of forgiveness; of being able to let go of the poison that is anger. Michael evidently told him that he had to tap into the ability t0 forgive those who had hurt him. Hearing of this conversation does not surprise me. Forgiveness as a necessary means of healing was a subject that Michael referred to often, both in interviews and in various speeches.
As part of Jesse Pinkman’s character arc, we see him bond with Walter White as a surrogate father, a bond that eventually turns to distrust and then to outright hate. He goes so far as to plot to kill Walter, thinking it is the only way he will ever be free from both his influence and his threat. But an interesting thing happens in the end. These two characters had been through so much together. I believe that everyone, deep down, was rooting for a reconciliation between Walter and Jesse. While the show never quite delivers that resolution, we do realize in the show’s powerful finale that, in the end, forgiveness has indeed conquered hate.
Did Michael’s words resonant with Aaron Paul as he dug deep within Jesse’s psyche to find the power of forgiveness, even under the most unforgiveable of circumstances? It might be a stretch to say yes-after all, Paul himself did not say so. But it seems ironic in a funny way that the conversation, as described by Paul, almost uncannily echoed some of the same conversations that Jesse would end up having with Walter White on the show. So we can imagine this as very much a case of art imitating reality. The orphaned kid is essentially tutored in life-and manipulated-by the man who should have been his role model figure. In real life, the struggling young actor meets older, succesful performer who, not unlike Walter White, has learned the ropes. And maybe a thing or two about “breaking bad.”
What exactly does the term “breaking bad” or “to break bad” mean? Well, apparently it was a well known phrase long before the famous TV show. Here is what The Urban Dictionary says:
“Breaking bad” comes from the American Southwest slang phrase “to break bad,” meaning to challenge conventions, to defy authority and to skirt the edges of the law.
An article by Lily Rothman from “Time,” written to coincide with the show’s finale, dug even deeper into the roots of the phrase. Here is an excerpt:
Here’s a question that’s been hovering in the Breaking Bad fandom for years, but now worth revisiting as the series’ finale is almost upon us: What does it actually mean to break bad?
Show creator Vince Gilligan has said (as in the video above) that he had thought it was a commonly used phrase when he decided to use it as a title, not knowing that the expression was a Southern regionalism from the area in Virginia from which he hails. It means “to raise hell,” he says, as in “I was out the other night at the bar…and I really broke bad.”
But, while the gist of his definition is pretty widely accepted, Gilligan’s use-it-in-a-sentence definition of the phrase is an incomplete accounting of its meanings. In general, “breaking bad” connotes more violence than “raising hell” does. A glance at the bevy of definitions at user-sourced Urban Dictionary reveals that different contributors think the words possess a wide variety of nuances: to “break bad” can mean to “go wild,” to “defy authority” and break the law, to be verbally “combative, belligerent, or threatening” or, followed by the preposition “on,” to “completely dominate or humiliate.”
Reference books back up that third meaning seen at Urban Dictionary. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English gives a definition of “to act in a threatening, menacing manner”; American Slang gives a similar definition and traces the phrase to 1970s black usage. Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang says it’s African-American slang from the ’60s that means “to become angry or aggressive”—and that on 1980s college campuses it could (perhaps in a “bad equals good” sense?) mean “to perform well.” The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms labels the phrase as Southern slang that means “to behave in a violent manner for no good reason.”
One of the earliest instances of the phrase appearing in the New York Times backs up the definition (to turn violent unnecessarily) and history (black, Southern, 1970s) suggested by those lexicographers. In a 1980 excerpt from John Langston Gwaltney’s Drylongso, a Self-Portrait of Black America, an oral history of African-American communities; in describing his view of race relations, a black man from rural Missouri told the author that “if a white man was to come over here and ask me anything, I wouldn’t break bad with him.”
In the interview, Jimmy Kimmel made a wise crack about the story of Michael taking shots of tequila as “the most normal story about Michael Jackson I’ve ever heard.” While I could take a lot of issues with this ignorant statement, it does illustrate in at least one crucial way why Michael felt the need to “break bad.” In the late 1980’s, we saw a very conscious campaign on Michael’s part to break free from his formerly “goody two shoes” image and to embrace a much darker side. It was not, of course, an overnight decision, nor was all of it completely conscious on his part. Some of it was part of a conscious image shift; some of it stemmed from real issues going on in his life, which made it impossible to hold on to certainly formerly held values. And a lot of it would be born out of two decades’ worth of persecution, which eventually is bound to cause even the most gentle and forgiving of souls to “break bad.”
Why did we so universally embrace Walter White? There is something inherently within human nature that responds to the idea of gaining power, and winning respect. In the fantasy world of TV and movies, characters like Walter White and Michael Corleone vicariously fulfill our need to feel powerful, respected, and even feared. What bullied child doesn’t secretly fantasize about one day being able to whoop ass on his tormentors? It is a basic human need that is seldom given outlet in real life, where we are taught that violence isn’t the answer and that we should turn the other cheek; be “the bigger person.” To some degree, these are good platitutdes to live by. But to live by them also involves swallowing a lot of hurt and bitterness, which isn’t necessarily healthy, either. As William Blake wrote in his famous poem “The Poison Tree,” “I swallowed my wrath/my wrath did grow.”
The idea of morphing from a meek and humble character to one who rises against his enemies as a force to be reckoned with-who essentially “breaks bad”-is an idea that had similarly started to consume Michael Jackson’s imagination at least as early as Thriller. Transformation, of course, is a central theme of that video. “I’m not like other guys,” he warns Ola Ray, in that deceptively sweet voice, right before turning into a monster. In a rare rehearsal of that scene, which was first shown as part of Michael’s Private Home Movies, we see him expanding upon his Thriller character as someone who had been bullied, and wasn’t going to take it anymore.
The character, and the transformation, seemed to echo many personal and professional changes that were taking place. The mid to late 80’s was a turbulent time for Michael, when he was undergoing a lot of change and a kind of new awakening of his direction, both personally and professionally. The break from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, his lifelong religion, was just one deciding factor. Throughout this time, he seemed to be making a conscious effort to stand up and shout; to make a bold stand against a world that, for too long, had given him lots of musical accolades, perhaps, but little in the way of actual respect.
In 1987, Michael took the idea of “breaking bad” quite literally with his third solo studio album, simply titled “Bad.” There has already been much critical analysis and debate as to exactly what the term “bad” meant for Michael. Some critics and scholars believe that “bad” and its accompanying catch phrase “who’s bad” was intended as a metaphor for “black” and I believe there is a lot of merit to this claim, particularly with the title track’s video and its famous stand-off scene between Michael’s character (Daryl) and Wesley Snipes. In essence, this was Michael boldly affirming his stance as a black artist (especially if we buy into the notion of “you ain’t bad” as a metaphor for “you ain’t black). The word “bad” essentially has many layers of meaning within the context of the album, its title track, and the title track’s video. Of course, in the late 80’s we can’t forget that “bad” was also a slang word with an inverted meaning-“bad” meant “good.” But clearly, when Michael morphs from mild mannered Daryl to a hood figure in black leather, he is also playing on the idea of “bad” as in “bad ass.” Or more to the point, as in “I will kick your ass if you mess with me.”
For sure, it was a side of Michael that we hadn’t really seen up until that point. Even in “Beat It,” with all of its macho swaggering, he was essentially saying that the way to be a real man is to avoid violence. But by the time of “Bad,” when he faces off with Wesley Snipes’s character in the final showdown scene, we sense that not only does he have no intention of backing down, but would actually welcome the chance to throw in a punch. The final exchange of looks between the two says it all. This kid is bad. And dangerous (which, perhaps not coincidentally, would be the name of the next album on the agenda).
Clearly, the album titles-and the messages they conveyed-were not accidental. If “Bad” was all about sending the message that “I’m not gonna take anymore” then “Dangerous” was an even bolder statement. Although the media persecution against Michael was not yet in full swing, it was certainly by then very much bubbling under. The title track may have been about another one of Michael’s femme fatales. However, the overall message that Michael seemed bent on conveying with the album’s title and content is that, yes, I can be a real threat, and it may be in your best interest to watch over your shoulder. Whereas with “Bad” he seemed to be making a stand, what we see with the progression of “Dangerous” is one has actually gone beyond being on the defensive.
In one of the most famous scenes from “Breaking Bad,” Walter’s wife Skyler, who has recently discovered her husband’s double life and has become something of an accomplice to it, expresses her concerns. “Just admit you’re in danger,” she says, to which Walter responds, not as Walter, but as his Heisenberg persona, “I am not in danger. I AMdanger. I’m not the guy whose door gets knocked on. I am the guy who knocks.” On the “Dangerous” album Michael perhaps most epitomizes this stance with the controversial “Black or White” video in which he morphs from a happy and spite-ish figure who slips interchangeably between cultures and races, to a raging black panther. Even the album’s more romantic moments seem imbued with a sense of threat. In the track “In the Closet” he is clearly calling all the shots of an illicit relationship. In the video of “Remember The Time” he is the cunning seducer who steals a king’s wife-the queen, no less-right from under his nose.
With “Dangerous,” Michael may have been sending a similar message as the one that Walter delivers to Skyler-“I’m not in danger; I AM the danger,” via the guise of his new persona. If one examines the progression of his one-word album titles, they reveal an interesting narrative and arc, from “Bad” to “Dangerous” to “HIStory” to “Invincible.” They each carry their own message of defiance, with “Invincible” perhaps as the culminating defiance-“You can keep trying to kill me; you can keep trying to bury me, but I’ll always come back.”
More to the point, Michael specifically says in that album’s final track, “Threatened,” “I’ll come back to haunt you.” This carries the message to an even darker-and perhaps scarier-depth. In other words, it could also be interpreted as, “Even if you succeed in killing me off physically, I will still haunt you from beyond.”
Michael’s body of work created an interesting paradox. On the one hand, he was the philanthropist and ecologist who implored us to look “at the man in the mirror” and “make that change”; who pleaded the need to “Heal The World.” Yet the bulk of his body of work, especially from “Bad” forward, seemed to be as much about defiance as love. Perhaps this came from a deep-seated recognition that his message could only be conveyed via a price. He could not simply be “the angel messenger.” His work would require the need to don many masks, including that of scapegoat, monster, and even devil. His greatest “message” songs represent the best of his spiritual ideals. But his songs about “being bad” are perhaps even more interesting to me on some levels, for they best represent his humanity.
In the case of the fictional Walter White character, he first “breaks bad” as a direct result of external circumstances. He is a guy who has been pushed to his limit, by finances, hard luck, and the fact that many have taken advantage of him. His alter ego “Heisenberg” is at first born out of a kind of evil necessity. He doesn’t enjoy doing what he has to do. Yet a strange kind of transformation happens for Walter, once he loses his hair (due to chemo treatments) and dons the pork pie hat that symbolizes his transformation into Heisenberg. He finds that he is actually quite comfortable in Heisenberg’s skin. He enjoys being his alter ego. “Say my name!” he demands, in Clint Eastwood style, as he faces down a rival gang of meth dealers.
In a fashion similar to Walter White’s transformation, we see Michael at first rejecting the world’s attempts to label him as a “freak” but by the time of “HIStory,” “Blood on the Dance Floor” and his film “Ghosts” he seems to have decided that, if this is who/what they want me to be, then I’ll embrace the label and wear it on my sleeve. In doing so, of course, he would only serve to expose who the real freaks were, and this was part of his modus operandi. By this period in the late 90’s, when he enters his darkest and most gothic era in terms of image and subject matter, he is clearly playing on-and manipulating-the public’s perceptions of him. He is gleaning power from his enemies by embracing and becoming the very thing they fear most-a representation of their own darkest and innermost fears. This is never more apparent than in the showdown scene in “Ghosts” when he literally faces off with himself via his own alter ego, the Mayor of Normal Valley (who is, in fact, Michael himself under a fat suit, a gray wig, and many layers of ageing makeup).
It is interesting that when critics discuss the character of Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” the word “monster”-a word that Michael similarly embraces as a kind of mock, self identifying label in “Threatened”-is often used. Over the series’ five seasons, the character progresses from a man of moral ideals with his humanity fully intact, to a likeable and bumbling (and still sympathetic) criminal, to finally, a terrifying enigma who we no longer really know or recognize (and perhaps this is true even for himself). Although we still get glimpses of his humanity here and there, we are simply no longer comfortable-or sure-of just who Walter White is, for he seems capable of most anything. As he says, he has become “the danger.”
Michael Jackson was a performer and entertainer, of course, not a criminal. But his artistic trajectory was in many ways quite similar, from the swaggering of the kid who had simply decided he wasn’t going to take anymore in “Bad” to, finally, its culmination of the “monster” he self procliams himself to be in “Threatened.” Like Walter White, Michael Jackson transformed over time into an enigma that we could never be quite sure of. Who exactly wasMichael Jackson, and why did his identity raise so many questions?
It is, in fact, a trajectory that was analyzed brilliantly in this series of videos by Kanal von MyWhoisIt, who drew on all of the “Twilight Zone” episodes referred to in “Threatened” as well as various other influences to illustrate the creation of Michael’s ultimate “breaking bad” persona. The series definitely helps us to realize why understanding Michael’s dark side is perhaps as important as understanding his messages of love and healing the world. We can see that he was not only peeling back the layers to reveal himself, but in so doing, was teaching us a lot about oursleves as well.
Just as final side note to this series, I feel that it has given me some new insight into the cover photo that was used for the Invincible album. I have never been a fan of that cover photo, but as with so many artistic decisions, there may have indeed been a method to the madness. It is certainly not a typical Michael Jackson photo. He is neither smiling joyfully, nor wearing his trademark scowl, or even looking seductive a’la’ the Thriller cover. In fact, the last time Michael had even actually appeared on one of his album covers was “Bad.” For “Dangerous,” we only got that cryptic glance of his eyes behind the mask, and I don’t really count “HIStory” which was a depiction of a statue. Even “Blood on the Dance Floor’s” cover was not an actual photo, but a drawing. For “Invincible,” the decision was made to feature his face-in intense close-up, no less-on the album cover, with an expression that appears strangely neutral. His eyes simply stare straight ahead, blankly, and there is what appears as a slightly sardonic smirk on his lips. The left eye appears normal, if albeit rather expressionless. The right eye, however, is slightly elevated; the brow cocked. The face seems intentionally to represent a kind of mask. He could, for all intents and purposes, be a singer, a savior, a seducer-or a serial killer. Perhaps this was intended as the representation of the “monster.” For sure, it is a difficult face to read; its expression an almost blank slate that could be filled in by anyone’s interpretation.
To bring this back to the analogy of “Breaking Bad” and its characters, there are really, in the end, only two things that keep Walter White grounded to his humanity, and which serve as his redemption. Those two things are his love for his family, and the care he still has for his former partner, Jesse Pinkman. It’s a bond that endures even after Jesse has turned snitch and threatened his life-indeed, even after he himself has ordered Jesse killed. In the end, the ability to forgive redeems them both. Ultimately, Walter’s fate falls into Jesse’s hands, who must make the final decision as to how the story ends. Theirs is an ending without words, but it speaks volumes.
It seems that Michael, who understood all too well what it meant to walk that fine line between love and hate; between anger and forgiveness (especially for those who had wronged him), and between dark and light, just may indeed have cast a bigger shadow over the show than even he or actor Aaron Paul realized in that chance meeting. For sure, Michael knew the meaning of “breaking bad” long before Vince Gilligan turned it into America’s new catchphrase. He had lived it for the better part of two decades.
But in so doing, he had also kept us, by turns, both repelled and fascinated; spellbound by an enigma that we could never quite put our hands on. Looking back now, it also becomes easier to see that he was teaching us a lesson in our own humanity. We have the power to create our own reality, in ourselves and in others. We can, in fact, even become that which we fear most.
But fear’s greatest counterbalance will always be love
The connections between Michael and “Breaking Bad” apparently haven’t been missed. In this hilarious Spanish spoof, “Breaking Bad” is mashed with Michael’s “Black or White”:
Posted by: Raven on: September 14 2014 • Categorized in: Reviews
I am very pleased to bring you a review of the latest book by one of my favorite MJ authors, Veronica Bassil.
How do you really feel about Michael Jackson’s song “Childhood?” Be honest. If you are like most critics-and even many fans-you may think of it as Michael’s most maudlin composition, a mawkishly saccharine and sentimental ballad that seems more like rationalization of all those “strange eccentricities” than anything else. It is perhaps one of the great tragic ironies that the song Michael often called his most autobiographical piece-the song he hoped would finally help the world to understand who he was-has come to be one of his most maligned and, perhaps, least understood songs. I will admit I have never been wild about this song myself; certainly, I would never place it on any of my top ten lists of favorite Michael Jackson songs. For a long time after his death, it was one of those songs I simply couldn’t listen to. Its lyrics, mawkish and sentimental as they are, were just too brutally honest and painful (again, perhaps one of the tragic ironies of this song-its very honesty made it a difficult pill to swallow, especially during a time when emotions were still raw and the guilt of having never made the effort to understand him better while he was alive was still fresh). Over time, it simply became the track I usually skipped when playing HIStory. I preferred the grittier songs such as “They Don’t Care About Us” and “Money,” or the more lyrically challenging angst of “Stranger In Moscow.” Yet, for someone who has to honestly admit that “Childhood” has never been my favorite MJ song, I realize its importance as a key to fully understanding who Michael was. And after reading Bassil’s latest book, I can honestly say that I may have finally come closest to fully understanding just what an important composition “Childhood” truly is.
One thing we have to understand is that, until this song appeared on the HIStory album, Michael had commented very little, at least publicly, of just how scarred he had been from his lack of a normal childhood. There had been intimations of it before, in his autobiography, the Oprah interview, and his acceptance speech when he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. But the song “Childhood” was the first time he really laid all of the pain of his lost childhood on the line in a public declaration. When he sings of the “painful youth I had” he doesn’t go into specifics, but by this point he didn’t have to. We had heard enough by then to know all of the details-the beatings, the long hours of recording; the late nights and early mornings; the lack of a normal school environment for most of his formative years; the story of the little boy who watched from a recording room window as kids played in a park across the street. Although Michael had spent most of his adult solo career building up a wall of mystique, he had come to realize by the mid 90’s, especially in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct with children and the media’s increased mockery of everything he stood for, that it was time to open up and explain Michael Jackson to the world.
The only problem was that, then as now, so few were ready to listen.
With all of the recent developments that have happened, including the pending sale of Neverland (the place that personified his dream of recreating the perfect childhood world for himself and for others) and the allegations of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, it is perhaps more important than ever that the world understands why children and the concept of childhood were so important for Michael. Because much of the world-and certainly popular media-continues to mock, distort, and take out of context Michael’s beliefs about childhood and the importance of childhood, it is crucial to understand how these beleifs and values about childhood formed such an integral part of his ethos, both personally and professionally. Everything from the most basic aesthethics of his art, to his deepest spiritual beliefs stemmed both from his loss of childhood, his attempts to reconnect with it, and his belief in childhood-the state of “wonder”-as the human stage that is closest to true Deva-gati (in Sanskrit, the realm of highest enlightenment).
But there has been to my knowledge no comprehensive work that has truly addressed-from an artistic, spiritual, and even psychological standpoint-how and why the state of childhood became such an important part of Michael Jackson’s aesthetic. Until now.
Actually, to be fair, there have been quite a few-too many, in fact-that have attempted to do so only from the psychological perspective. Such attempts, however, are always doomed to fall short. Without understanding the full context of Michael’s artistic, philosophical and spiritual aestethics, such attempts to understand his seeming “obsession” with childhood purely from a psychoanalytical perspective is always doomed to fail. At best, such attempts can only bring us a half baked part of the picture (if you will excuse my mixed metaphors). Too often, even the most well intentioned attempts to understand Michael’s views on children and childhood go no further than the acknowledgment of his own tough childhood. But without also attempting to understand his artistic and spiritual beliefs, we are usually left all too often with little more than (mostly inaccurate) conclusions of a man who was, often at best in their scenarios, a regressed man-child. Depending on the views and biases of the author, they may draw conclusions of someone with sinister motives at worst, or as someone to be pitied at best-a man robbed of a childhood; forever doomed to a life spent trying to compensate. They may see him as a kind of eternal Peter Pan, but only based on the broadest stereotypes and misconceptions of what it means to be Peter Pan. When Michael said to Martin Bashir, “I’m Peter Pan” much of the world scoffed, for how were we to take such a comment other than as a pop star who somehow had this delusion that he is that little Disney creature in green tights?
This is exactly why neither approach-and especially an approach based only on psychoanalysis-can ever do full justice to helping us understand what Michael meant by “that wonder in my youth.” It is also why we cannot trust the media and its “sound byte” approach, so often as they did taking Michael’s own words out of context. To best understand Michael Jackson, we have to cut out the middle man and go directly to the source.
As with Bassil’s previous books, the author excels at tracing the historical roots of Michael Jackson’s artistic ethos. Here, she takes on the challenge of Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, and the enchanted, mystical world of Never-Neverland (which, of course, would serve as the model for Jackson’s Neverland). In doing so, Bassil goes far beyond the simplistic Disney image, taking us back to J.M. Barrie’s original creation and even beyond (for as the author establishes, the roots of “Peter Pan” as a representative of eternal youth go all the way back to ancient Greece, to the god Pan and the ancient legends of “Green Man.”). Michael, of course, had a thorough and intimate knowledge of Peter Pan and would have been well aware of this history. It’s too bad that Bashir couldn’t drop his own agenda long enough to give Michael the opportunity to fully explain what he meant when he said, “I’m Peter Pan,” instead merely sitting him up for ridicule. This book not only provides the opportunity for explanation that was denied Michael in that interview, but also helps the reader to understand the full historical context of Peter Pan and his very ancient pagan roots. Much of that understanding, of course, also involves an understanding of his creator-J.M. Barrie. What we are left with, ultimately, is an understanding of the Peter Pan myth that goes far beyond the simplified Disney version.
“However, we can see that Jackson’s understanding is far deeper and more complex than the superficial, sound-bite often given by the media , namely, that Peter Pan is merely ‘someone’–that is, a human being , rather than something nonhuman, like a character, a myth or an archetype–in a state of arrested development. In contrast to most people, Michael studied Barrie and the various versions of Peter Pan that were based on Barrie’s creations. He was also drawn to classical themes in sculpture as well as in music, and there are many statues of mythological creatures, such as fauns, satyrs, cherubs, Hermes, nymphs, and so on, in the garden and interior statuary at Neverland. His understanding of Peter Pan went far beyond those who focused on cut-and-paste journalism and snap judgments.”
Bassil, Veronica (2014-08-14). That Wonder in My Youth: Michael Jackson and Childhood (Kindle Locations 737-738). Kindle Edition.
In yet another very insightful passage on the history of Peter Pan and the character’s relationships with other mythical figures, Bassil writes:
“Barrie commissioned a statue of Peter Pan to be placed in Kensington Gardens, and Disney portrayed him in film. In both cases, he wears a similar costume and lives a similar life as Robin Hood, another dweller of the forest. A green tunic covered with leaves, green leggings, a hat with a feather or leaves, a home in the woods, a cocky defiance of laws made by such as the Sheriff of Nottingham, a wide-legged, rebellious stance, hands on hips, chest thrown out, are all ways the two figures resemble each other. Both figures— Peter Pan and Robin Hood — draw on a relationship to a figure evident throughout medieval Europe as far back as 400 A.D.— the Green Man. The Green Man is a nature spirit or deity, represented in stone carvings as a face surrounded by leaves and branches. Indeed, the leaves often grow inside the Green Man and emerge from his mouth, nose, and hair. The Green Man was prominent in Celtic Winter Solstice and May Day celebrations as a representation of rebirth and renewal; his enemy is Jack Frost, whom he battles. Green represents the vegetation, food, shelter, clothing, and oxygen that the plant world gives us— it is the life force, whose name to the Celtics was Viridios. In our culture today, we see emblems of this potent symbol in such figures as The Hulk and the Green Giant of advertisements. Osiris, the Egyptian god who was killed, dismembered, and reborn, was depicted with a green face as early as 1300 B.C. Like Peter Pan, Robin Hood, the Green Man, and the great god Pan, Michael Jackson, through his connection with his 2,700-acre ranch, his love of wild animals, and his passion for preserving the natural habitats of Planet Earth, is also associated with the world of nature. As an artist passionate about the loss of species and ecosystems, Jackson wrote what some consider his greatest work— the environmental anthem Earth Song. Certainly, Neverland was a monument to the natural world, and the children who visited there were encouraged to become familiar with nature, even to be a little wild themselves— playing as long as they wanted until they fell asleep, having gleeful and exuberant games, like water fights, swimming, riding horses, and generally experiencing the world of nature as opposed to being in the confined spaces of a city or a schoolroom . In contrast, however, Jackson was considered a ‘strict’ parent by his own children, one who gave his children structure and who asked them to complete certain educational tasks in order to win rewards, such as permission to watch a movie. It would seem that in general, he believed children needed structure, but also necessary release and exposure to nature, and freedom to explore their own emotions and creative abilities.”
Bassil, Veronica (2014-08-14). That Wonder in My Youth: Michael Jackson and Childhood (Kindle Locations 1227-1228). . Kindle Edition.
There are many other parts of this book that really stood out for me. Perhaps one of the most interesting chapters was “Peter Pan and the Movie That Was Never Made.” Based heavily on Darlene Craviotto’s account of her conversations with Michael on the proposed film project in which Jackson would portray Peter Pan (the film that eventually materialized as Steven Spielberg’s Hook starring Robin Williams), this chapter offers a fascinating and insightful glimpse into Michael’s own ideas about the character of Peter Pan and how both he and the story should be portrayed on film. Unfortunately, as we know, this plan did not work out. Michael Jackson never got the opportunity to bring his vision to light, and the eventual film that did materialize was very much the anthithesis of everything that Michael had envisioned. Perhaps there was some poetic justice in that, in denying Jackson what would have been the role of a lifetime and the opportunity to follow through on what might have proven a great vision, Spielberg instead ended up with one of the most embarrassing stinkers of his career, a film that was a commercial and critical flop.
The film version of Peter Pan that Spielberg eventually made bore little resemblance to Michael’s vision-and may have suffered as a consequence:
Yet (and this is an aside from the review, which I will return to shortly) it is interesting that with two of the movie roles for which Michael lobbied hardest-Edward Scissorhands and Hook-he lost out in both cases to actors (Johnny Depp and the late Robin Williams, respectively)who would go on to win fame by playing the exact kind of quirky and whimsical, child-like characters that Michael Jackson so personified. It is indeed an interesting twist of irony that both of these actors would go on to win critical acclaim for encapsulating the very childlike essence that Michael possessed naturally, in abundance. Perhaps we can say it is ironic indeed that we will praise actors who can successfully mimic and imitate this quality onscreen, while we ridicule and scapegoat those who embody those values in real life. Perhaps this is a very telling quality of our society-we love the fantasy of childhood innocence, but seem to have a difficult time embracing it as a reality to live by. It is the difference between two hours of escapism in a movie theatre, and having the courage to actually live one’s life in a state of “wonder”-or at least in the quest of it. And this is a point that Bassil actually discusses in the book, using the example of adult males who flock to super action hero movies, for example, in an attempt to reconnect to their inner child. And have we really considered why “childhood fare” such as The Lion King and other Disney features often outperform more “adult” fare at the box office? Clearly, adults love these movies as much as their children do. What further proof do we need that all of us, on some level, are looking to reconnect to a time when we were capable of wonder and the ability to appreciate enchantment?
The author also does an excellent job of analyzing the “Childhood” video. Just as with the song, this particular short film has never been a favorite of mine. As Bassil points out, it is a curious anamoly in the canon of great Michael Jackson music videos. There is no dancing; he doesn’t morph into anything. Instead, he sits planted on a rock throughout the entire piece, while above him children float in boats across the sky. By the time I finished Bassil’s chapter on “Childhood,” I felt that I finally understood and “got” the full message of both the song and video for the very first time. It wasn’t that I had no idea before of what Michael was trying to get across. But Bassil’s analysis did help me to glean a much deeper understanding, especially in regard to the isolation that is represented in the video. I had also never considered that the song could be as much an accusatory statement as a rationalization. The fact that Michael is left seated on the ground as the children float away is, perhaps, ultimately, his own realization (and confession) that-try as hard as he might-he realizes that all of his attempts to compensate with “elementary things” are doomed to be in vain. He is an adult, after all, and the magical world of childhood is already far behind him. The fact that he realizes he is doomed to forever be searching in “the lost and found” of his heart is perhaps the song’s saddest clincher. When understood in this context, it becomes easier to appreicate that “Childhood” is not really about rationalization or “explaining” at all. Rather, it is a therapeutic confession that allows Michael to work through his own conflicted feelings on adulthood vs. childhood. In the end, the quest to be Peter Pan-that eternal, youthful sprite who is, in reality, thousands of years old-is an ideal. If one listens only to the track, it may seem as if he truly believes in the ideal and its possibility. The video, however, enables him to bring about another, somewhat more pessimistic interpretation. Try as hard as he might, he will never again inhabit that world. It has already sailed on, leaving him far behind.
In addition to these outstanding chapters, the book also compiles many of Michael’s best known quotes and speeches on childhood. All of these will be familiar to most fans, but for the casual reader, they will prove an invaluable source for finally understanding what Michael’s stance on childhood was all about. However, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a book that only casual fans will learn from. Even if you are a seasoned MJ scholar, there is much that can be gleaned from this book. I consider myself a testament to that fact.
Veronica Bassil’s ebook That Wonder In My Youth: Michael Jackson and Childhood is available on Amazon:
Shortly thereafter, I received this beautiful open letter to Prince, Paris and Blanket from a fan in Germany. With so many “Save Neverland” campaigns starting up and, as usual, it seems, so much diviseveness over how to proceed in the effort to save Neverland-or indeed whether to make the effort at all-it makes sense that the final decision should rest with the three for whom it matters most. I was asked to share this letter. I have already done so on social media, but promised that during Michael’s birthday week I would give it the exposure it deserves.
OPEN LETTER TO PRINCE, PARIS AND BLANKET FROM MICHAEL JACKSON FANS REGARDING NEVERLAND
Dear Prince, Paris und Blanket,
Throughout our lives we have always supported your dad with all our hearts. Whenever he had a message to convey or there was an injustice towards him, he could rely on us, his fans, to fight for and with him. We were always proud to say that we tried our best to be there for him whenever he needed us. To this day, our will to stand up for your father´s and your interests is still there and we still care a lot!
That’s why the news of Neverland being up for sale saddened us very much. Neverland to us is a symbol of your dad’s heart, soul and his important message, which was put into practice there. We always had the vision of Neverland returning to being a place of love and hope again one day, a place of happiness for underprivileged children, a place of escapism, a preservation of everyone’s inner child.
But of course Neverland’s fate is not ours to decide. However we strongly feel it should be your decision, and your’s alone!
Perhaps you have other wishes for your former home meanwhile, maybe you see things differently due to your experiences. But judging by some of your earlier remarks regarding Neverland, it might very well be that you still have similar feelings and even plans for Neverland’s future.
If in the meantime you think it is better to give it up and move on, that’s fine. However, if you should not agree with the selling of Neverland but feel alone in this battle to preserve it – don’t! Because we, the fans, will be by your side to fight with you to save Neverland! Maybe we can work something out.
Because together we are very powerful and can achieve a lot! Your dad knew this and often called us his “Army of Love”. We hope that you are aware of the fact that there are many people out there who still truly care about you and who are genuinely interested in your feelings – you just need to reach out and we’ll be happy to help and act on your behalf. But we can only act if we know what’s on your mind. Please let us know and remember that no matter what: We are here for you!
Michael Jackson fans
Lovely video taken by William Wagener, showing some of the birthday momentos left at Neverland this year:
The Future King of Pop, Checking Out His Newfound World
It’s hard to believe that if Michael Jackson were alive, he would be turning 56 today. When Michael died at 50, he joined the ranks of those celebrities who will remain forever young. True, dying at the age of 50 isn’t “young” in the same way that dying at 27 is “young” (as so many of our most iconic musicians have). And we could also argue that artists like Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Marilyn Monroe, who at least made it past the dangerous “2-7″ nevertheless left us much younger than Michael. With Michael, at least we got to see him enter middle age. But by today’s standards, when the average human lifespan is now well past 75, 50 still seems an incredibly young age to leave the world. He may not have had his whole life ahead of him, but he still had at least a goodly half of it. He still had children to raise, and future grandchildren to see.
When Michael died at 50 it still seemed so incredibly young to me, perhaps because now that I am at that age myself, I no longer see it as some ancient mark, but as simply another milestone. Deep down inside, I am still the same girl I was when I turned sixteen. Fifty for me is just another number. But I only have to dig out a photo from 1987, and then hold it to the mirror, to see that, yes, time marches on for all of us.
The Smile That Was Going To Break A Million Hearts.
Michael and I were of the same generation. He would have still been a toddler in diapers when I was born. Because of this-and also because his music was the soundtrack of my generation-I have always felt that inextricable tug of seeing much of my own mortality reflected in Michael’s life. Thankfully, at fifty I still have my health, and God willing, I’ll be around for awhile. When I look at the other former youth icons of my generation, I see us as survivors. Madonna on a good day can still do a cheerleader squat and be reasonably assured that she can spring out of it. Prince has had hip replacement surgery, but he’s still out there; still doing it.
Michael Jackson would have been turning 56 today, which meant he would have been already well past the hump of his mid fifties; inching towards 60. Can any of us really picture Michael Jackson at 60, as an elder statesman? Would he still be trying to pull off the “Bad” era buckles and leather, or the “HIStory” era skin tight gold pants? Or would he have aged gracefully into his silver years, like an old Fred Astaire?
Picturing Michael Jackson as an old man is not easy, and though I have a pretty good imagination, I simply can’t do it. What would he look like today, at 56? Well, one thing we know is that Michael wasn’t going gently into that good night. The surgery; the fillers; the Botox injections, all were done with the ultimate goal of stalling off Father Time as long as possible. I certainly don’t fault him for this. It is the nature of our celebrity and youth obsessed culture. I am certain that Brad Pitt (who is also, ahem, of mine and Michael’s generation) wouldn’t look half so hot these days without a lot of help from his “friends.”
The point is that Michael at 56 would no doubt still be recognizable to us. I wouldn’t have foreseen him at any time in the last six years suddenly deciding to ditch his wigs and hairpieces, foregoing his makeup, skipping his filler treatments and allowing us to see him completely a la’ natural. But what about as he aged into his sixties, seventies, and beyond? I could picture a Michael with silver streaks in his hair, and a few extra lines beneath his beautiful eyes, and it wouldn’t matter because he would still be stunning. But beauty, as the old saying goes, is only skin deep. According to almost everyone who knew him, Michael had a real aversion to ageing, and to the idea of getting physically older. This was perhaps a product of his show business upbringing and especially of being a child star-the idea that with age, something is irrevocably lost. He never wanted to be old, and he got his wish. Perhaps more literally than he wished.
Candid, Mature Pics Of Michael, Sans Makeup And “Frills” Are Rare.
But to get the most realistic idea of what Michael would be like at 56, we need look no further than those who carry a good part of his genetic makeup. For sure, Michael came from a family that has been incredibly blessed with good genes. His grandparents lived well into their 90’s. Both of his parents are now well past 80. Both are in incredibly good health for their age, sharp as tacks, and neither look a day over 70. No doubt, they have money and can afford the best in medical and health care. Katherine can afford the best in cosmetics and clothes to keep her in style. All of these things do make a difference, and rich people can always afford to look better and live longer than poor or even average people. But a lot of it still has to come down to plain ol’ genetics, and no mistake about it, Michael came from incredibly strong stock and with the genetic makeup to ensure a long and vibrant life well into his 90’s. We can also get a good clue from looking at his siblings. All of his brothers are well into their 60’s now, or pushing 60. If you discount Jermaine’s man-boobs (sorry, couldn’t resist!) all of them are still in incredibly great shape, and still very handsome. And his sisters…well, need I say more? Rebbie is 64, LaToya 58, and Janet 49. They are still stunning, and Rebbie could still easily pass for 50. Janet, to me, hardly looks a day older than she did when Control hit the charts. Again, money can do a lot and certainly good plastic surgeons, dieticians and trainers can work wonders, but none of it is going to matter if the genes for long health and longevity aren’t already there.
Michael Came From Hearty Stock
Who knows what longevity Michael’s life may have held in store, had there been no Conrad Murray, and none of the stress that drove him to an early grave? His autopsy revealed that he was actually quite healthy; there was nothing that should have killed him, and certainly nothing that should have prevented him from being with us for a long, long time to come.
With Katherine And Grandma Mattie
However, Michael may never have been quite the physical war horse that his parents have been. A lifetime of entertaining had started to take its toll on his body. He suffered chronic pain from many injuries sustained throughout a lifetime of performing. As Michael aged into his sixties and beyond, the arthritis noted in the autopsy would have eventually slowed the famous moonwalk; his ability to move as gracefully as a lithe swan across a stage would have eventually slowed to a toddler’s gait. Just getting up and about most mornings was probably no doubt already causing him some discomfort.He would have still had that magical voice, of course. But eventually, Father Time has his impact even there, as higher notes become more difficult to reach with age (and sadly, if all the CPR attempts at saving his life had succeeded, he most likely would have never sang again, after all of the damage the CPR did to his trachea).
The one thing Michael never wanted was to be a shadow of his former self. Yet, had he lived, his life might have taken him on a very different path, one where he would have finally found peace, contentment and fulfillment working behind the scenes, perhaps directing or producing films, and quietly raising his kids and grandchildren. I don’t know if the world would have ever been content to allow him that life, but certainly he deserved it. And I believe that, ultimately, it is what he wanted. His intent was to give it “one last bang” and then…who knows. Just maybe, Michael would have finally been content to grow old, with nothing left to prove.
Michael’s life began in typical dramatic fashion, with a mad emergency dash for Mercy Hospital. Katherine described his birth quite dramatically in her book My Family, The Jacksons:
My experience with Marlon and Brandon didn’t dissuade me from getting pregnant again. The following year August 29, I gave birth to another boy.
I remember that day well because my water broke while my neighbor Mildred White and I were driving over to see the new grammar school under construction, Garnett Elementary.
“Oh, my God, Mildred, I can’t sit in your car like this!” I exclaimed.
“Girl, don’t worry about it,” Mildred said, turning the car around.
At my request Mildred drove me home. I called my mother and she and my stepfather drove me to Mercy Hospital.
Shortly after I got there, I began having contractions. Later that night, my son was born.
“I want to name him,” my mother said. I hated her first suggestion: Ronald.
“How about Roy, then?”
“Oh, my gosh, Mama, no.”
She thought for a little while. “I’ve got it-Michael.”
“That’s it,” I said.
By then I was used to seeing my babies born with funny looking heads, so I wasn’t alarmed by Michael’s. The two other things I remember about him as I held him in my arms for the first time were his big brown eyes and his long hands, which reminded me of my father-in-law’s.-Katherine Jackson, excerpted from My Family, The Jacksons
Sadly, his life ended almost exactly as it began, with yet another dramatic, mad rush to a hospital. They say our lives come full circle. Michael’s life certainly did that. But in between, what an extraordinary life it was!
This August 29th, as the world celebrates what would have been Michael Jackson’s 56th birthday, we are left with so many unanswered questions. But foremost is the question of what he would be doing if he was still here. Sometimes I find myself wondering about the little things; the stupid things. The trivial stuff. What kind of era would we be in now? (maybe still an extension of the “This Is It” era?). Would his hair be straight, or was the return of the curls for good? What style would he be wearing now? Would it still be a continuation of the Rushka Bergman/Ed Hardy styles he was sporting at the end? Would it be military? Retro? (For sure, he would have probably continued his penchant for “themes”).
I wonder all of these things, yet as time goes on, I realize how little any of it matters. The real tragedy in all of this is that he died with his mission for the world still incomplete. I mourn for the things left undone; the children unsaved; the songs never sung.
But while we may mourn these things, it serves no purpose to dwell on them unduly. I want to return to something else that Katherine once said. “I think about my son every day, and how his life turned out.”
Whatever we can say, Michael’s life was not in vain. We can mourn for what has been lost; we can mourn for what has been left unfinished; we can mourn for the tour that never was and the songs that will never be written. But all of that is trumped by the celebration of what was accomplished. And by that, I don’t simply mean winning a bunch of awards or selling a bunch of records. This was a life whose impact can never be quantified by such trivial measures. His impact was so vast, so seismic, that the ripple effect of his existence continues to be felt throughout the world.
I once said here that it doesn’t matter that Michael died. And other than arriving at a sense of closure or justice, maybe it does not even especially matter how he died. What matters is that he lived.
Michael In Australia In 1987, Doing What He Did Best…Making Sick Kids Happy!
Conspiracy theories by their very nature are just that-theories. And generally, I try to steer clear of them. But it has already been well established that most of Michael Jackson’s enemies are actually a very small but intimate group. That part is no longer a theory. In 2005, The Veritas Project established a firm and undeniable connection between Michael’s accusers, prosecutor Tom Sneddon, and all the various individuals who were playing a hand either in directly bringing about the allegations or in smearing Michael’s name in the media.
Since then, many astute Michael Jackson researchers have carried the seminal Veritas Project further to establish the very intimate connections between Michael’s accusers, their attorneys and respective therapists, as well as Tom Sneddon, Diane Dimond, and a small host of former friends-turned-enemies. What has been well proven by this research is that the tangled web of relationships between Michael Jackson’s enemies goes well beyond the professional level. Indeed, these people are intimate friends who “stick together” and have one another’s backs. They attend one another’s weddings, birthday parties, and conduct themselves in every respect as long and trusted family friends. This point has by now been so well established that they don’t even bother trying to hide it anymore. Diane Dimond wrote openly and gloatingly about attending Gavin Arvizo’s wedding. Prosecuting attorney Ron Zonen gushes at seminars about what a fine, upstanding, young Christian man Gavin Arvizo has turned out to be, making it no secret in the process that he obviously keeps in regular touch. Diane Dimond and self-proclaimed Jackson family “friend” Stacy Brown can both be found on their respective Twitter accounts, coyly “wink winking” at each other as they openly strategize, pat each other on the backs, and defend each other against “those crazy MJ fans.” Time and again, photos surface of various members of this “happy family” at some personal occasion, toasting each other with gleeful smiles. Mind you, these are not in most cases private photos, but rather, photos they have purposely and brazenly made public as if to rub it in that, yes, they are all best buds; yes, they stick together, and yes, they are united in one very big, common purpose-the destruction of one individual, namely Michael Joseph Jackson. And that furthermore, they don’t care if Michael Jackson fans know it.
The Enemies of Michael Jackson-They Wine, Dine, and Toast Together! Diane Dimond and Ron Zonen On The Left; Stacy Brown (in red) On The Right!
Not that any of them would ever admit, openly, to being such devious, mustache-twirling villains. I’m sure if you asked any of them why they all appear to be as thick as old gravy, they would put it down to something like being united in a common cause or common belief. Maybe they have genuinely convinced themselves that they are standing united against a world that continues to adore Michael Jackson. For many of them, this has been a more than two decades long obsession; indeed, a crusade. That is their common ground. But it begs an even bigger question. Why would individuals who claim to care so much about abused children spend the better part of two decades endlessly obsessing over one individual, rather than spreading their energies equally to include other individuals and cases for which there was obviously much more evidence and where obviously the perpetrators were actually guilty? Why are they more concerned with doggedly trying to prove one man guilty, rather than taking active interests in cases where guilt is obvious?
We know that Dimond, in particular, has a long and vested interest in Michael Jackson ever since she was forced to eat crow after the 2005 verdict. Similarly, many who found themselves embarrassingly on the wrong side of victory in that case have been on a vendetta ever since to somehow “right” that outcome. Not surprisingly, these are the individuals who have gloried in the recent allegations brought by Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck. But could it be more than this? Could it be that some of these same individuals are still pulling far more strings than we know? To be sure, Diane Dimond is definitely thick as thieves right now with Robson, Safechuck, and their attorney. But that still doesn’t necessarily mean she is a mastermind behind the operation. She could just be what she would have us believe-a salivating journalist “with the scoop.”
However, I am going to venture out on a limb to say that Wade’s so-called supporters and friends are, in fact, playing a much bigger role in current events. And while I can’t exactly say who the real masterminds are (give me a break, I’m a teacher and writer, not an investigative reporter!) I can safely say that I have been watching their patterns for enough years to start piecing some things together. Many of you may be wondering where the heck I am going with all of this cryptic talk about “the Australian connection.” Well, I’ll solve the mystery in this post, and will further reassure anyone (especially Michael’s many devoted fans and followers from Down Under) that this is not in reference to some huge, covert operation, but simply the piecing together of a few very obvious facts that I find too interesting to ignore.
But first, I would like to address the psychological mindset of a Michael Jackson hater, and in particular, the mindset of this rather small but highly organized group that is directly responsible for much of the current smear campaign against Michael. How does one even begin to explain why so much obsessive hatred is, again, directed toward one individual? While these people will mock MJ fans for the excessive amount of time they devote to discussing and researching MJ, it is clearly obvious that they are devoting just as much (in fact, even double and triple) that amount of time to Michael Jackson. Indeed, so great is their passion that they put up entire websites and facebook pages dedicated to this cause. They spend countless hours stalking fansites-even posing as fans-going undercover; they obsessively follow all news of MJ; they spam every article related to him, especially those that have unmoderated comments; they often bully and harass fans on social media. However, there is a particular sub group who are even more dangerous and devious in their tactics, since they will also regularly bully Michael’s friends, family, and supporters.
It’s Not So Much That Haters Don’t Do Research; It’s That They Like To Distort and Misrepresent What They Find.
It is a myth that Michael Jackson haters are people who do not do research. Indeed, I would daresay that a good many of them have an encyclopedic knowledge that would seriously challenge even the most dedicated fan. The problem is not that they don’t read court transcripts or do research, but rather, the fact that they will cherry pick what suits their agenda, ignore what doesn’t, and will filter all of it through their own biases. They do not mind purposely misrepresenting information, taking facts out of context, or running with half a truth-if they think they can get away with it. To be totally fair, I know that they level many of these same accusations at fan sites and vindication blogs, and there may be something to be said for the fact that we are both approaching whatever facts we present from a biased perspective. Obviously, a fan who wants to believe in Michael’s innocence will read the same document quite differently from a hater who wants to believe in his guilt. Often, when I see debates between fans and haters on the internet, both sides will often link to documents and info, but in every case, the quickest comeback will be, “That information isn’t reliable. It comes from a fan site” or “That link isn’t credible; it’s just a hater site.” Both sides have some measure of validity to their claim, because in both cases, they are linking to sites with an obvious bias. However, it might be worth noting that if one is looking for a completely neutral, unbiased source of information on Michael Jackson’s “guilt” or “innocence” on the internet, that simply isn’t going to be found. And the reason is quite simple. It takes passion and dedication to invest the hours’ of one’s life it takes to set up a website, and to compile and archive information-not to mention the fact that court transcripts and documents are not given away freely. In short, people who care enough to do all of the above are people who are passionately dedicated, either through love or its polar opposite-hatred. I am sure you all know the old saying that there is a very thin line between love and hate. Well, the phenomenon of MJ hate is kind of like that. The truth is, there is a small but highly organized and dangerously obsessive group of individuals who are as determined to “prove” Michael’s guilt as his fans and vindicators are determined to prove the opposite.
One might ask, why so much hatred for Michael Jackson, a man who who was unarguably one of our greatest entertainers, who unarguably brought the world so much joy with his music and dancing, and who was obviously a great humanitarian who strove to do as much good for the world as possible? What could there possibly be about such a person to invoke such strong hatred, to the point that many individuals will endlessly obsess over it? Certainly there are far worthier figures in the world to project so much hatred and negativity upon.
Why Has So Much Hate Been Heaped On Someone Who Tried To Do So Much Good? That Is The Million Dollar Question.
My guess is that it is precisely because Michael Jackson inspires so much love and devotion. To understand how his haters think, you have to put yourself in the mindset of a hater. There is a general consensus among them that Michael Jackson is a man who was somehow “given a pass” and “got away” with his “crimes.” Rather than being satisfied that he was acquitted, and rather than accepting that there was never enough evidence to convict him of any crime, these people spend their lives on an endless crusade to convince the world that Michael Jackson is undeserving of benefit of the doubt, and undeserving of the accolades he continues to receive as a recognized musical genius. Another trait they often share is a need to somehow tear down Michael’s image and “prove” that everything the world most admired about him is an illusion-and sometimes a case of delusion. There seems to be a consensus that by somehow “outting” Michael Jackson of all his worst faults, they can strip away whatever blinders they think his admirers are wearing. And, of course, chief among those is the belief in his innocence. A common-and often noted-trend among his haters is just how few of them actually seem to be invested in any capacity with actual concern for abused children (though some put up a good cover of such, as I will get to shortly).
While Michael Jackson “hater” sites and facebook pages pop up with amazing regularity-as well as so-called “support” sites for the “victims” of Michael Jackson-how many sites exist that claim to support the victims of actual molestors like Jerry Sandusky, Jimmy Saville, or Ian Watkins? I conducted an informal search prior to this writing and, not surprisingly, found that there are none! So indeed, this seems to be a phenomenon unique to Michael Jackson. Why is that?
Well, this is a point that has been raised before, and not surprisingly, it is often raised whenever/wherever MJ fans and haters are prone to encounter each other and debate-that is, when they can manage to engage in any kind of civil dialog at all, which is rare. And I, too, have raised this question with some professed haters. Why the double standard, and why the apparent lack of interest in proven pedophiles as opposed to a man who was merely accused-if indeed the justification is the protection of children or concern for victims?
The answer is always a variant of the same response. Since those persons were actually convicted, there is apparently nothing to be gained from going on a crusade against them. So the assumed outrage against MJ, if they are to be believed, stems from a sense that justice hasn’t been served. Not only was Michael NOT convicted, but he continues to be loved and honored all over the world. So then, by that definition, if Michael had been convicted in 2005, would everything be just honky dorey peachey keen then? Because to me, that denotes a rather shallow approach to caring about children who have been abused. I am sure that the real victims of monsters like Ian Watkins-all of whom are still children as of this writing- would appreciate if they got one half the outpouring of “support” that these people waste endlessly on Robson, Safechuck, Chandler, and Arvizo. No, let’s be honest. This has nothing to do with the so-called victims, but everything to do with who the accused party is.
But I realize I still haven’t addressed the question of just what I think “the Australian conspiracy” is, or its role in current events. Obviously, I could go on and on all day about what makes haters hate, and still not arrive at any definitive answer, since to do so would involve getting much deeper into the human psyche than I have time and space for. However, since about 2010, the amount of organized MJ hate on the web has increased exponentially, and with it, an increasingly alarming amount of misinformation that is being spread. While this group is small in number, its perpetrators are frighteningly dedicated in their purpose. And because I believe their role in current events to be larger than mere spectators, they are worth looking into.
Why do so many fingers seem to point to Australia as the current hotbed of this latest conspiracy? Well, allow me to quote my favorite character of the stage, Shakespeare’s Iago: “I speak not yet of proof.” However, there are definitely a lot of “coincidences” that seem to be coming together, and which may bear closer scrutiny. It seems that these days-especially in the case of the current allegations being made against Michael Jackson-that there are an unusually large number of Aussies who appear to be sticking quite closely together.
Dylan Howard (left) of Radar Online, Wade Robson Ally and Fellow Aussie
Obviously, we have Wade Robson who is himself from Brisbane, Australia. Not to mention, we next have his web of family and friends (including at least one “cousin” whom Mike Par of the Wade Robson Facebook support page claims to get a goodly amount of information from). Dylan Howard of Radar Online-who has become both Wade’s and Mike Par’s immediate “go to” media source for spreading filth in the media- is a fellow Aussie. This could all be coincidence, of course, but there is something else, too:
The MJFacts website, which seems to be the central headquarters for much of this current hater faction, appears to have very strong ties to Australia. For years, MJ fans have been trying to determine exactly who is behind this website, which mysteriously appeared in 2010 (an early rumor that it was Ray Chandler was eventually debunked). Since I have a life and a job, I don’t have time to do extensive research on hater sites or to try to track down who is behind them. I would much rather put that time and energy into researching Michael and his life. However, about a year ago I did stumble across some very interesting information on this website via Alexa.com, which charts the average visitors to most websites according to age, race, and geographic location (unfortunately, Alexa no longer lists this info for sites ranking less than 100, 000). Interestingly enough, MJFacts seems to have originated out of Australia, or at least its original domain was in Australia. According to Worthofwebcom, its IP address is now a proxy out of Singapore, but a year ago Alexa’s graphs showed that most of the site’s traffic (well over 80%) still comes from out of Australia and that, interestingly enough, its average visitors tended to be white males between the ages of 35-44 (typically, I suspect, the age, gender, and ethnicity of most professional MJ haters. It’s also a bit telling that most of the key word searches for the site seem to come from people researching “Michael Jackson Nice Guy” (which seems an unusual search term, to say the least) and “Michael Jackson Brett Barnes.” Honestly, I know these people are obsessed with the belief that Michael molested his friend Brett Barnes (who is also from Australia) but why on earth would Brett Barnes’s name come up higher in the key word searches for this site than the names of the two kids he was actually accused of molesting? Anyway, I highly suspect that the site is still from out of Australia, and that the Singapore proxy is just that.
A quick check of the site’s Whois history (btw this isn’t illegal stalking; all of this info is freely available in the public domain) reveals that the site does operate on a proxy server, which indicates that for whatever reason, they do not want the site’s exact geographic location known. The administrator’s name and location is listed as “private.” That may or may not mean much; administrators are entitled to keep this information private if they wish, but usually administrators who have nothing to hide do not mind making this info public.
Generally, the IP and hosting histories listed on these sites do not mean much, since they may extend to include websites hosted on those IP’s and servers long before the site in question. The current listing of the site’s Whois history indicates multiple IP and host changes but this will be the case if you look up most any website, including this one. However, it is known that this site has had to change host servers at least once due to a legal suit that was brought against them, when the administrator attempted to impersonate journalist and well known MJ defender Charles Thomson. The resultant legal action taken by Thomson caused MJFacts to be permanently suspended from their then host server Yola. You can read more about that incident at the following links:
However, getting suspended from a host server isn’t a terribly huge deal, since host servers can be switched out as easily as changing socks. (A pain in the butt, yes, but nevertheless, it can be done). So after a bit of down time, MJFacts was back with a brand new host and a brand new “fake” IP from out of Singapore-and a brand new disclaimer. Rather than stating the truth about why they were taken down-that they were suspended as a result of legal action pending from their impersonating of an individual-they lied outright and stated that their move was necessitated by the actions of MJ fans. That is pure bullshit and, of course, they know it. Such lies are infuriating because not only did most fans know the truth, but because people who come to the site will naturally not know the difference. To add further insult to injury, the site administrators offered no recourse for the truth, since all comments from fans or even neutral parties are either blocked or ridiculed to the point that most won’t bother, and instead of having an email or contact info like most normal websites, readers are instead instructed to go to the Topix forum, which as anyone who knows anything about Michael Jackson knows, is nothing these days but a free-for-all hotbed where the sycophants of this website and of Desiree’s blog have taken over.
Both the strategy of this website and of Desiree’s blog-the two main hater sites responsible for the sycophant followers who now attempt to “terrorize” and monopolize most unmoderated MJ discussion forums and articles, have subtley changed over time, and their method is transparently obvious. One thing that every MJ hater is usually most quick to defend is that fact that they are, indeed, haters. They prefer that unknowing readers think of them as merely objective researchers. Obviously, adopting this tone and style would appear-on the surface at least-to give their sites more credibility, and thus, unsuspecting readers might be more apt to trust the information they report as reliable and objective.
However, a quick glance at MJFacts’s past and current screenshots tells the history quite plainly, and since we know that this site has not undergone any change of hands since its inception, it is quite obvious that this site began as a blatantly obvious hater site. What else would you call a site that advertises “Wacko Facts?” (I apologize for even posting these offensive screenshots here, but I really want you to see with your own eyes that this is one and the same website; thus, it is obvious that this site’s administrators have no interest in presenting objective facts).
The various screenshots from the MJFacts website, courtesy of Worthofweb.com, clearly show the site’s transition over the past four years from a blatant “hater site” to a much more cleverly disguised-but still transparent- “hater site” that pretends to have neutral objectivity as its goal. Note how the prominently displayed “Wacko Facts” of the site’s earlier incarnation has now been replaced by the much more neutral sounding “Michael Jackson Facts” and, finally, MJFacts (but make no mistake, it has always been the same site run by the same individual as before!)
Over time, perhaps realizing that one can catch more flies with honey than vinegar (and as a front to ward off the accusations that their information lacks credibility since it comes from an obvious “hater” site) they changed from “Wacko Facts” to the more deceptively neutral sounding “MJFacts” (a misleading name indeed since there are very few “facts” to be found on this website). You can also clearly see that, over time, they have purposely changed their tone and approach. This is for one reason and one reason only-so that unsuspecting readers who stumble onto the site will be “tricked” into believing they are reading more neutral, factual information than they will get from a fan site.
Even more curious is the weird strategy taken by the other notorious hater blog, Desiree Speaks. And for the record, I am one of those who believes firmly that Desiree is neither female nor black, let alone a 20-something-year-old college student as “she” claims. I know there are some who believe otherwise, including the admins behind this counter blog which was designed for the purpose of “outting” Desiree and exposing her many dubious web activities.
However, something about this whole charade just feels very “off” to me, as it has from the get-go. For starters, I work with college students every day. The average college student has far too much on their plate to devote hours on end to researching and writing about Michael Jackson, not to mention the fact that in addition to studies and exams and extraccular activities, most have a demanding social life beyond school. Additionally, most college students can barely afford theirtextbooks, and yet we are somehow to believe that this 22-year-old college student can afford to pay website hosting fees, shell out money for expensive court documents (which even yours truly can only afford very sparingly on my teachers’ salary!) and brag (as she did in at least one entry) of forking out over a hundred and fifty bucks for an out of print edition of Victor Guiterrez’s book! It may be possible that there is a Ladonna Desiree Hill from Las Vegas who is the “Desiree” behind this site; however, identities can also be bought, borrowed, and stolen. I’m just not sure, but since this is splitting hairs anyway, let’s move on.
What I do know is that both of these websites mysteriously sprang up at about the same time, and both seemed to be a curious response/reaction to the outpouring of worldwide grief over Michael Jackson’s death-and, which, in turn, led to a mini-explosion of new fan sites and “serious” vindication sites. I can’t really vouch for what the cyberspace MJ world was like before June of 2009, but I do know that when I first started researching him in those weeks following June 25th, 2009, all I could find for the most part were fan club forums. Other than Aphrodite Jones’s well touted Conspiracy, Lynne Guests’s book and maybe a handful of others, there wasn’t much recourse for those seriously interested in researching what happened to Michael Jackson in 1993 and in 2003-2005. Over the next few months, many individual blogs began popping up, and for the first time (I suspect) there were many websites dedicating themselves solely to the serious research of the allegations made against Michael Jackson. It is no coincidence, then, that these “hater” blogs sprang up as a direct reaction to the sudden proliferation of vindication sites in late 2009. Clearly, someone viewed this new proliferation of vindication sites as a threat, as it meant that for the first time, factual information about the cases made against Michael Jackson could be had with the click of a mouse.
Desiree’s blog took an even more sneaky and circuitous route than MJFacts, beginning innocuously enough as the kind of generic “whatever is on my mind” blog that many young people start up, ostensibly to discuss any topic of burning interest. However, it didn’t take long for Michael Jackson to become the dominant subject of the blog. Weirdly enough, in her earliest entries, Desiree pretended to be a fan, if albeit a fan with some rather unconventional (and, I will admit, sometimes interesting) views. Her earliest entries defended Michael against accusations of pedophilia; defended him as a vitiligo sufferer, and defended him as the biological father of his kids (even if, again, via some outlandish theory that he desired to have “designer” children). However, it didn’t take long for the tune to be changed drastically. By the time of Michael’s first death anniversary, barely a few months into starting the blog, she was already writing posts that took stabs at his sexuality and which began to give more and more credence to sources written by his detractors. In so doing, she tried-unsuccessfully, I might add-to give the impression of a fan who, over time, had become a doubting skeptic. In truth, this was a very sneaky way to lure in fans and lull them with a sense that “hey, I’m on your side.” Within months-if indeed that long-she was responsible for writing some of the most scathing and hate-filled posts on Michael imaginable. And make no bones about it, Desiree is a hater, as I have had enough unfortunate correspondence with her in the past to personally see some of the most vile spewing against an individual-and his children!-I have ever witnessed.
But curiously enough, after many months of seeming inactivity when the blog appeared dead for all purposes, she suddently reemerged with these latest allegations. Like her cohorts over at MJFacts, she has given her blog a whole new facelift and a seemingly (somewhat) new identity. Gone now are all the over-the-top, shrill rantings about “wacko Jacko.” Like her Aussie cronies, she is now making a very concentrated effort to make her blog appear like a neutral place where rational, thinking people can get objective information.
It’s Not About The Kids; It’s Not About “Victims”…It’s All About Michael!
And along with these newest allegations, we now have a whole new “celebrity hater” who has emerged on the scene, the alleged Mike Par who started up the Wade Robson support Facebook page, and who spams and bullies all over the internet under the guise of “allysforwaderobson.” Again, what strikes me as really odd about this whole thing is that I see no other “victim” of any alleged child abuse case-celebrity or otherwise-who gets their own Facebook page of supporters. And again, just as with all of these other organized sites, there is no apparent interest in the topic of child abuse other than as it pertains to Michael Jackson, and no interest in any victims of child sexual abuse other than those allegedly at the hands of Michael Jackson. So again, their topic of going concern is not the sexual abuse of children, but in Michael Jackson as a subject of study, ridicule, and dissection.
Again, I make the distinction between a few, random casual haters and what I call “professional haters” who obviously are riding Michael Jackson’s coattails for their own attention and glory. Individually, none of these people would be worth the time of day. But as a group, they do bear some looking into because they are obviously working as a unit and as co-conspirators. Mike Par may not, strictly speaking, be part of the “Aussie conspiracy” if indeed he’s an Amercian from New England (who really knows, or cares?) but the fact that he is in thick cahoots with many individuals who are directly part of the conspiracy is reason enough.
I have heard the rumors that Mike Par may even be Wade Robson himself; that Robson is the one behind the page and behind the alias. I have my doubts about that, and believe such rumors are stretching credibility a bit. That being said, I will only say that I have seen a very interesting piece of evidence that definitely lends credibility to the theory that Robson has been far more pro-active in this page and in starting it than what they would have us-the naive public-believe. In other words, I have seen enough to convince me that this wasn’t just a case of some abuse victim who felt sympathy for Wade as a fellow abuse victim, and who (as per his baloney story) simply wanted to start a support group for him. I believe this guy and Wade have been in cahoots from the start.
From the Wade Robson Support Group FB page: A phony number bought with ads! 18,346 likes
It has already been a well established fact that Mike Par illegally inflated the “likes” on his FB page by inciting them with ads for products (placed mostly in Egypt) which even though he barely has twenty followers on Twitter and Youtube, managed to balloon his FB “likes” to over 10,000 in a shockingly short time. MattFTR, though he can sometimes be a little over the top in his rants, did an excellent job of exposing Par’s practices in this video:
I will add to this something else I KNOW is fact from just a very casual observation of this page. Most of the regular commentors on this page are fake Facebook profiles. There are a few that may be legit, but the profiles of all the most frequent commentors on the page are quite clearly fakes. They are easy to spot because if you actually click on them, you are led to FB pages that are, in fact, only “shells,” with no profile info, no other apparent “friends” and no indication whatsoever that a living, breathing person by that name actually created that page. Now, granted, that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that the people are fake or that their comments aren’t genuine. The “fake” pages could well be a cover, designed exactly for this purpose-that is, to protect their actual identities from those who come prying. Perhaps. But it still indicates a kind of covertness and seakiness that usually isn’t necessary if everything is on the up and up. There is also a highly unusual number of persons commenting via pages that may have been made by real people, but rather than being personal pages, are simply pages created for the express purpose of commenting on this page. If anyone were to go on my Allforloveblog Facebook page and click on any of the profiles of my usual commentors, you will find in every case that these are real profiles made by real people. The sheer prevalence of these “fake profiles” on the Wade Robson support page indicates they are no random accident. If it were simply random individuals protecting their anonymity, there might be a couple of such fake profiles, but c’mon, almost every single regular contributor? I have a hunch that Mike Par himself probably created most of these pages. Even if he didn’t, the sheer amount of time and energy it takes to put into creating fake profiles and fake pages speaks volumes about the mindset of these people.
Let’s go back to the question I posed earlier. Why do they do it? As I have already pointed out, it doesn’t seem to be about genuine concern for child abuse victims. Their outright mocking of many actual victims of child abuse; their continual harrassment of any of Michael’s friends who insist on his innocence; their use of Michael Jackson’s name continuously to further their own agendas, all contradict any noble ideas that they are in this for any purpose except hate and slander. Desiree has perhaps said it best, via one of her oft-used phrases: “I want to be on the right side of history” (a dead giveaway, btw, when she comments on various MJ articles under her sock puppet pseudonyms; she is so in love with her own phrase that she can’t resist using it). Mike Par endlessly tweets every talk show host and anyone with a platform who might give him five minutes of the day (but so far has found an ally only in Dylan Howard). Like Diane Dimond, who had delusions of grandeur of herself as the journalist who “exposed” Michael Jackson, they are narcissistic sociopaths who are deluded into thinking they are on the verge of some great revisionist epoch; that they will somehow have the power to change how people think about Michael Jackson. They glory in thinking that the world will come beating on their doors, seeking interviews; maybe they think that one day they will get a Nobel peace prize or something.
Really, who knows what the “f” they think? However, when we look at this latest cast of characters in the Wade Robson/Jimmy Safechuck saga, it’s interesting to note that just like with the “big, happy” family that grew out of the ashes of the Arvizo case, we are seeing a coagulation of many of the same names and faces who are banding together. In the coming months, we are no doubt going to see this new “family” joining ranks to spread lies and false or misleading information. There is already evidence that Mike Par and his Aussie bud Dylan Howard are working together to create falsified articles (for sure, he is getting “tip offs” of these articles long before they appear in print). The purpose of this post isn’t to give them more power or attention than they deserve, but as a kind of red flag warning that they are out there. And like I said, though small in number, they are dangerously committed in their purpose.
For the record, I have never joined the ranks of those who have tried to get these sites shut down. That, to me, is censorship and an interference with right to free speech. As much as I disagree with the hater sites on principle, they have the right to exist. It sucks, but it’s the reality. Yes, I certainly question whythe need for them, and I question what kind of individual wants to devote so much time and energy to hate. Nevertheless, I always say to them, “You’re free to say what you want on your own turf; when you come over to mine, it’s a different story.” This isn’t about people who disagree with me. My concern, however, is that the pattern does show an increasing amount of “coming together” within their ranks, and I don’t believe their role in these current allegations is completely incidental. I believe that at least a few of them may well be the movers and shakers behind it all. For sure, they are not, as they would have the naive believe, a grass roots movement comprised of random people who suddenly awoke one morning with a burning conscience about the so called “victims” of Michael Jackson.
However, lest we give any of them more credit than they deserve, here’s something I found that is interesting, and will share with you just for giggles. Out of curiosity, I looked up the rankings of these sites on Worthofweb and compared them to this site. A web site’s worth is based on many factors, but generally, the biggest factors are the amount of traffic and unique visitors the site receives on a daily basis. In other words, a website’s “worth” is directly correlated to how many people are actually reading, visiting, and returning to the site. In turn, these figures directly correlate to the website’s ranking and can be said to be a measure of its overall popularity and, perhaps, influence. So…
Here is the net worth for MJFacts, a grand total of $396!
How much is mjfacts.info worth?
estimated worth, $ 396
WOW Score:40 / 100
Here is the net worth for Desiree Speaks, which tops out at a whopping $138!
How much is desireespeakssolisten.blogspot.com worth?
estimated worth, $ 138
WOW Score:38 / 100
By contrast, here is the networth for Allforloveblog!
How much is allforloveblog.com worth?
estimated worth, $ 1,223
WOW Score:47 / 100
And, just out of further curiosity, I looked up the net worth of a fellow MJ site, Vindicating Michael:
How much is vindicatemj.wordpress.com worth?
estimated worth, $ 1,210
WOW Score:52 / 100
Wow! Maybe-just maybe-love really is more powerful than hate after all, huh!
Next installment, I am going to take on some of the most common myths that this group is using as part of their anti-MJ propaganda.