Archive for January, 2014
I promised you more student essays on “Black or White” and “Earth Song” and here they are. (Not to mention, these are easy posts to do while I am recuperating from a particularly vicious flu bout). As always, I find it fascinating to glimpse how Michael’s work is viewed through the eyes of the current generation, although at least one essay I will include today is from a student who was old enough to remember the “Black or White” premier.
Enjoy, and please feel free to comment. My students do visit here from time to time, and they always appreciate the feedback on their work.
The Cry of a Star by Sierra Adams, Eng 102 Sec 402
Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video premiered on MTV, BET, and FOX on a Sunday night, the main time families around the world view television together. Millions tuned in to see the “King of Pop’s” new hit. The eleven minute video had people buzzing all over the world. The first seven minutes showed Jackson dancing and singing of equal rights for all races, but the last four minutes is what created the upheaval. Jackson turns from a black panther into a human and provocatively dances, grabs his crotch, and smashes out car windows. The overall question is did Jackson decide to come back into the limelight with a vengeance, or was he really creating a statement about racism?
Jackson’s “Black or White” video was his reemergence back into the industry. It was a teaser for Dangerous, Jackson’s first album in four years. Dangerous later became Jackson’s third number one hit album in a row. The video was so overwhelming and provocative that it created an uproar, and many people developed a suspicion of his intentions. Critics questioned Sony and the producers about the video being a publicity ploy, and they defended Michael’s actions explaining that when he gets into the music there is just no stopping him. MTV, BET, and FOX also participated in creating an appetite toward the music video by airing Jackson specials and replayed old videos in the days preceding it. Some sources from MTV and FOX said that they were obligated to refer to Michael as the “King of Pop” in ads promoting the video before they were allowed to show “Black or White.” Michael Jackson and his producers bluntly stated that the ending of the video was not a publicity stunt, but was part of the overall message of racial harmony. I believe that Michael’s video was meant to shock viewers and get their attention. I do not think his intentions were a hundred percent fixed upon making a statement against racism, but I do believe it was his main focus.
“But this was an awesome way of self expression, and he looked very sexy. Jackson’s point was overshadowed by the small minded people of America”-Sierra Adams
“Black or White” was a marketing tool for Jackson, but it was also used to bash racism. Jackson basically kills two birds with one stone by acting over the top to get attention on racism, but it backfires because some viewers miss the point. The Black Panther dance-the reason he turns into one-is because it is the same name as the civil rights activists (The Black Panthers). At the time, his skin color had changed but he was making a point that he was still black. The bits edited out are when he smashes the windows with a Nazi symbol, “KKK Rules,” and “Nigger Go Home” graffiti on them. He’s going against any kind of racial, religious, or cultural hate. A perfect statement for the “Black or White” video, but TV propaganda meant it was all edited, so he could not get his message across. But this was an awesome way of self expression, and he looked very sexy. Jackson’s point was overshadowed by the small minded people of America. When you tie his ending of the video to the beginning, he was saying that it should not matter if we are black or white. We are all created equal, and he ended it with the dance that shows his hatred of each racist group.
Michael eventually apologizes to viewers stating, “I deeply regret any pain or hurt that the final segment of ‘Black or White’ has caused children, their parents, or any other viewers.” Jackson’s pride was hit hard when critics bashed his new video without realizing the deeper and darker meaning. Jackson was not a dumb man. He knew that it would create a ruckus, but he still wanted to get the point of hating racism across. He was rebelling against racism and he wanted to do it with a bang. He was not going to tolerate racism and hatred against another person’s ethnic background or nationality. Unfortunately, his point was overlooked and eventually the video was edited to only show the happy and cheerful first seven minutes. Michael Jackson was ridiculed throughout his entire life. The media criticized him about his skin because they believed he was trying to become white. In actuality, he had vitiligo (the loss of brown skin pigment). This made Michael very self conscious. Michael had to visit therapists to talk about how he viewed himself and learn to love himself for who he was. I believe his lack of self-esteem stems back to how he was raised. Jackson’s father was a failed musician and he became obsessed with making his children successful. He made them practice for hours, and the Jackson children often felt inadequate for him. When they did become successful he tried to control their careers even as they became adults. Michael was slammed and bad mouthed by the media constantly, but he still found ways to be positive and help others. I think we can all learn from him because not every person we encounter is going to love us. The important thing is that we stand up for what we believe in even if it means being hated for it.
In conclusion, Michael was an amazing artist that brought more to the table than just good music. Later in his career, he decided to lash out on inequality and the wrong people do to the world. “Black or White” was a song to bash racial inequality and promote equal rights for all. His point was not interpreted well in the beginning, but after analyzing the video many begin to see his purpose. The video also helped him achieve publicity and sell Dangerous when it hit the shelves.
Symbolism of “Earth Song,” by Robert Price, ENG 102 Sec 401
In Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” video there are many points to which symbolism is displayed. Most of the symbols seem to drive home the same point. The basis of the video and song are understood easily by the majority of the population that enjoyed Michael Jackson’s music. Michael Jackson was in fact one of the most successful musicians in modern history and could be remembered for all time for his contributions to music. Michael Jackson was not just as a musician but as a self-proclaimed artist it is only logical that he would put as much of an imprint of himself in his work as possible; however, not knowing Michael Jackson personally leaves many unanswered questions as to some of the symbolic meanings of his work “Earth Song.”
The video starts off with different settings from around the world, it seems. Each area has been negatively affected by some factor. The factors seem to be somewhat displayed but could this be swaying the opinion of the audience? The African group that is looking over the corpse of an elephant who has been killed for what it seems for no more than its tusks, yet there is no indication as to where the cause of the problem stemmed from. The group that lived in the forest also experienced a life and cultural changing event. The forest was shown as being cut down by man, but no reason is given as to why the forest is being cut. The family in what seems like a European setting is clearly affected by war, but why? All of these events show how negative things can happen to this world, but none of them clearly point to the cause or motives for the action. The causes for all of these events make it appear that the people directly affected by the acts were innocent bystanders, but what if the tables were turned and these people were the direct cause of these problems? Would people have a different feeling about the song? Let’s say the African tribesmen overhunted their lands or made money off of European big game hunters. Would it change anyone’s perspective? Even though the video does not show a single exchange of money, it seems to display that the cause of greed is to blame for these horrible acts.
The video allows the viewer to see a variety of cultures, sexes, and ages. It does not limit the pain and suffering to a single group. From the African plains to the European village the video shows that problems are not just limited to one part of the world. The problems are not limited to a single age group. The problems are not limited to males or females. These problems are portrayed on a larger than life scale which affects all walks of life. Does this drown out the emphasis of the problem or amplify them? It seems that in all fairness, one, being Michael Jackson, would not want to single out any one group for threat of a protest against his work, but at the same time not want to sacrifice the integrity of his work. The point could be a message in itself or a mere pleasing notion to calm the mass viewer’s opinions.
The display of corruption is not shown in the video, which leaves the mind to wonder as to why the problems have truly erupted. There is not a display of wealth really shown anywhere in this video. From the clothes everyone is shown wearing in the video, it would suggest that the affected people have not been truly indoctrinated into the twentieth century. The closest display of modernization would be the family affected by war but almost suggests that the acts have already been committed. Could the video suggest that all of the problems these people are facing have been committed by their predecessors? Could the attire by the cultures express a meaning of purity before the modern age? Even though the clothing may truly be a display of a timeless collaboration of eras, it only shows one aspect of those times. One thing the video is missing from each group it focuses on is wealthy people. In some way it may seem that the rich are immune to such suffering and pain. Maybe it is an indication that the cause of these problems is because of the rich society. Even Michael himself is shown wearing torn and tattered clothing. Not a single dollar bill or gold coin is exchanged. This may suggest that these problems do not stem from greed alone but possibly from human nature. The absence of wealth from the video could very well be an indication as to the cause of many of these problems or just seen as a clutter and less driven of a depiction.
The storm in the video has to be one of the single biggest mysteries of the entire production. Where did it stem from and what is its purpose? All of the different groups drop to their knees and grab the soil in what seems like an attempt to revitalize mother earth. While it may be conceived that all of these groups could be attempting to revitalize the earth, it could also be perceived that these people could have given up all hope and be digging themselves a shallow grave upon which they could join their now deadened world around them. Shortly after the storm begins Michael Jackson started saying “what about us” as if the storm is a way of the world doing an entire reset on the pain caused by its inhabitants. The storm shows the world restoring to its previous state as the trees are being put back in place and the wild animals begin to roam once more. With the world resetting itself, does this point give everyone a chance to correct the problems that got them to this point, or does it give a chance to do it all over again?
Many of the symbols displayed are just what viewers would expect from a quality piece of artwork and that is unanswered. So many of the points portrayed could be interpreted in a different way and that is the way Michael Jackson would have wanted it. To be a true artist, one has to be a magician and not reveal the secret of the show. The more points one person makes the more questions another person will have. The answers to the riddles will now forever be sealed in the memory of the mastermind. Could all of these symbols actually be purposeful and carry true in-depth meaning, or just a lucky decision in an attempt to make a quality production? The work may have very well been an attempt to make the world question its intent, and if that is the case, the intent was met extremely well.
Michael Jackson: Much More Than The King of Pop by Steve Hardiman, ENG 102 Sec 402
Michael Jackson’s life and legacy remain a constant debate amongst the public. Depending on the source, Jackson could be depicted in many different ways. However, what cannot be disputed and what differentiates him from other pop icons was his commitment in helping those less fortunate and tackling social issues. Throughout Jackson’s career he used his status as “The King of Pop” to bring significant cultural problems to the forefront of mainstream dialogue. Although the same can be said for a handful of other singers and songwriters, no one could match the effectiveness of his delivery method. Filled with provocative gestures, over the top theatrics, and an unparalleled ability to dance, Jackson was not only the King of Pop, but a devoted activist with the largest platform in the world. The best example of Jackson’s prowess as an entertainer and activist is the song “Black or White.” In “Black or White,” Jackson looks into the lifelong struggles he and so many other African Americans endure to their race. Jackson also mentions the escalating gang wars in the United States and ongoing territorial disputes in the Middle East, due to ethnicity or religion.
On the surface, much of Michael Jackson’s dancing and antics may seem like a show or a cheap tactic for attention, but this was far from the case. Michael understood that in order for his message to reach beyond the pop music genre, he needed to be innovative, bold, and controversial. Jackson knew that he needed to create a persona with limitless reach, establishing the largest platforms for his performances and music videos. If Michael was a conservatively dressed, mildly theatric artist, his ideologies would most likely have ended at the music fringes. Recognizing this, Michael spared no expense creating grandiose concerts and compiling his music videos. Using his natural abilities and all the theatrics, Michael’s reach and influence stretched far beyond a pop star. While the conversation may have started about his controversial antics and videos, the curiosity and debate led people to the lyrics, and from the lyrics they would inevitably consume the message he was trying to convey.
“Michael Isn’t Asking For Equality, He Is Demanding It”-Steve Hardiman
“Black or White” is one of the most watched videos of all time. Most people would be hard pressed to find someone who hadn’t seen it, or at minimum, knew the chorus. In this song, Michael Jackson makes a loud statement, not only for African Americans, but for all sects and nationalities. The chorus and the initial theme of the song are seen as a plea for equality. However, upon looking deeper into the lyrics, or coupling them with the video, it is apparent that Michael isn’t asking for equality, he is demanding it. Not only demanding it for him, but for all races, and all people. In the line, “I ain’t scared of your brother, I ain’t scared of your sheets,” he takes a direct shot at the Ku Klux Klan and racism in general. When he says, “Protection for gangs, clubs, and nations/causing grief in human relations/it’s a turf war on a global scale/I’d rather hear both sides of the tale,” take aim at gang wars in the major cities of the United States and the constantly disputed territory of the middle east. Jackson is pushing for patience and understanding rather than jumping into wars. Michael’s bold video for “Black or White” removes any subtleties that, however unlikely, might exist from the radio or lyrics. With each verse, sometimes with each line, there is an incredibly blunt, unapologetic image from the video. From the faces changing from black to white by flashing through all of the races in between, to the dancing with indigenous peoples in the jungle, tap dancing, crotch grabbing, destruction to the streets, all the way through Michael morphing in the shape of a black panther. There is a lot written about the various images, their meanings, importance to the song, and deeper subliminal intentions of Michael. Of course the black panther and cat, in some way, represents The Black Panther organization. Clearly the burning cross was about the KKK and coincided with the line “ain’t afraid of no sheets.” His edgy dance moves and tap dancing could mean any number of viable ethnic messages. However, while there is a slant to his message due to his particular race, the intended message is the one that’s easily remembered. Just like the title says, it doesn’t matter if you are “Black or White” or anything in between. Organizations that do not stand for equality should not be tolerated, be it a country, gang, police, or sect. Every word and image was chosen for a specific reason, some of them apparent, others are debatable. More importantly, the idea of equality is force fed to the viewer by the sights and sounds. Opinions ranging from good, bad, or indifferent, as long as people watch, listen, and discuss the song, Michael’s objective was met. Years later, in 2013, we are still at it. Debating and analyzing the song, keeping the idea of equality in our thoughts.
In conclusion, Michael Jackson’s impact on the world could not be overstated. He sold millions of albums; he remained at the center of pop music from the “Jackson 5″ and even after his death through the present. He lived a flamboyant, controversial, but most of all, impactful life. Although his merits did not receive the same publicity as his controversies, Michael Jackson, through his stardom, shed light on so many prevalent issues, he spent countless hours visiting terminally sick children and financing their procedures. Throughout his life he spent untold amounts of money helping the less fortunate. As seen through “Black or White,” Michael did not fear the scrutiny he endured from his outspoken and divisive convictions. If there was an important issue to be dealt with, Jackson gave all of himself to combat it. Jackson used every avenue to express himself and his messages: images, lyrics, dancing, and his attire. Michael Jackson made so many songs, produced bestselling albums and performed on the biggest stages. Throughout Michael’s adult life, he developed and harnessed his immense popularity and wealth, directing it towards helping the needy and the environment. For all his accomplishments as an entertainer, he was equally important as an activist.
“If there was an important issue to be dealt with, Jackson gave all of himself to combat it”-Steve Hardiman
Black or White”: The Mystery of the Panther Dance by Tanya Stallworth, ENG 102 Sec 402
I remember sitting in front of the television back in 1991 waiting for Michael Jackson’s new video to premier on MTV. People were talking about it because it had been years since he had a new song. I was just excited because I was a big fan. I was only ten years old but I loved his music. So sitting at my Dad’s we patiently waited for the video. Finally the video came on. I had a million questions for my Dad and he explained to me about the meaning behind the video. He said Michael Jackson was showing us that racism was bad and we should all love one another. A simple answer that was understood by my ten year old self. We were dancing to the song and having a great time and when we thought the video ended, there was Michael in the alley morphing from a panther. This is where the video got interesting. I always loved his dancing so here I was in front of the television watching him then I got confused because he started screaming and yelling and breaking things. As a ten year old I was utterly confused. As an adult I have a better understanding of what is going on.
“As a ten year old, I was utterly confused”-Tanya Stallworth
In the beginning, Michael morphed from a panther to himself. The panther symbolizes the Black Panther party. I believe he was a strong follower of their beliefs for the equality of black people in America, being a civil rights activist. Cats also are very independent and they move with stealth and grace. In the original video I didn’t remember graffiti on the windows that were broken by Michael Jackson in the video, then later I found out they were added due to censoring issues after the video was aired originally. The graffiti that is added basically shows that Michael was angry about the racism that is going on around us. Honestly, even before they added the graffiti, if you understood Michael’s work you would know he was against racism. He was always talking about loving one another. The dancing, oh the dancing! Michael Jackson is an artist plain and simple. He expresses himself through his music, which is his art. He was also a dancer. I remember the Oprah interview where he said he just moves to the beat. In this particular situation there was no music. So since there wasn’t any music I believe he was doing a dance interpretation of how he felt about the situation at hand, racism.
There was a lot of criticism about the fact that he touched his crotch. Honestly, I have no answer for that because Michael Jackson always touched his crotch when he danced. I think he did it because he knew it would make someone angry. Now I have to agree with Rev. Kauffmann when she spoke of the statement of contempt that he portrayed when he zips his pants during the dance sequence. As an African American I always hear things about “the white man this” and “the white man that” so I can relate to the fact she said that he was basically saying that whites wanted blacks to be quiet and not propagate. I think he was telling them you can’t shut me up! I have learned about the history of tap dancing in Black history classes that I have taken over the years and as fantastic as the form of dance is, the origin is an interesting one. Dating back to slavery when the slaves were on ships and transported to America they were forced to exercise by dancing. Over time, it evolved by being fused with European dance styles into tap dancing as we know it today. So I believe that he used tap dancing to symbolize slavery and racism.
There were also different symbols of events in black history. One that stands out the most is the one that is stated in Rev. Kauffmann’s essay about the riots in Chicago after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in the 1960’s. In the end Michael Jackson morphed back into the black panther, walking away an independent, graceful and stealthy black man into the wild-or as we know it, America.
“When Michael Spoke, Everyone Listened”-Tanya Stallworth
True enough this video has been interpreted many ways by many people over the years and will be for many years to come. What I can honestly say is that when Michael spoke, everyone listened. Years after his death people are still listening. Now let’s hope they hear his message. Stop the hate, love one another, and heal the world.
A True Lament by John Estes, ENG 102, Sec 402
A look back at the history of mankind reveals all the problems and injustice we have endured on this earth. While various religions and groups of thinkers have tried to make sense of our sad history, it seems that individuals who are burdened by these things are the ones who really lament the times we live in. Someone who laments is someone who is sad about the present circumstances they live in and who uses their words to attempt to bring about change. Every age has had someone who sees injustice or other wrongdoings and stands up to address these issues and stop them. Even the words of a song can have the power of a lamentation and a desire to change the world. Changing the world might seem ambitious, but that is what Michael Jackson was. Never was this truer than in Michael’s epic masterpiece “Earth Song.” While none of Michael Jackson’s songs are ordinary, “Earth Song” is especially significant to him on many levels. “Earth Song” is a true lament in every sense of the word.
The first thing to notice about the song is how downbeat it is. It is very sad when Michael begins to ask questions about the various injustices that go almost unnoticed every day. The way he sings it is very beautiful but also haunting. He comes across as someone who is truly burdened by the state of the earth. He reminds us of how people are hurting the earth and each other. But Michael had to go through his own journey of revelation and spirituality before coming to this conclusion. He was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and was made to adhere to their rigorous doctrines. What makes this religion different from others is what they believe about “End Time” and the apocalypse. Michael was taught to believe that these events were inevitable and that God would take care of all the sin and problems on the earth when these events took place. As an adult, he began questioning these doctrines. As he saw the world with its many problems and social injustices, he also saw the beauty that we may one day return to completely. Of course, this was a very difficult time when Michael was struggling with his faith and the beliefs he had grown up with. Ultimately, he broke away from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, coming to the revelation that if we want social change, we must be the ones to make it happen. These were the events that led to Michael Jackson’s lament “Earth Song” and to his newfound beliefs about the world and the change we could bring to it.
The song’s call for a change in these circumstances is also what makes “Earth Song” a true lament. There are several lines in the song that use the word “you” to directly address the listener. Michael is trying to get the point across that although we may be the ones who have let these problems happen, we are also the ones who have the power to stop them. In fact, this is not limited to just one country or one problem in particular. Michael has the whole world in mind when he calls for change. He is telling us that our acknowledgement of the sorry state of the world must also be accompanied by deliberate action to reverse course. When Michael lists these problems facing the world, all of the evil we have done to it seems so senseless. All of the war, destruction, racism, prejudice, death, and disease seem so out of hand and impossible to counteract. But what makes “Earth Song” a happy song as well as a sad one is that we do have the power to bring about change. This is what Michael wants the listener to grasp in this song. This is not merely some fun song to listen to, although it is very enjoyable on that level. But this is a song with a specific purpose in mind. Michael put several years and much hard work into this masterpiece, so it is only appropriate that we as listeners give thought to the words of the song and their meaning. It is especially important to fans because of its link to Michael Jackson’s own journey and spiritual struggle to arrive at these ideas. Toward the end of the song, Michael asks if we really do care about all of the injustice we see around us. He is putting his all into making us understand his lament. It should not be a personal lament, but one that we should share with Michael. The view of the world is one that we need to join. Michael always believed that we could accomplish great things if we tried. During his lifetime, he gave to charities and visited sick children in the hospital, doing everything he could to change peoples’ lives even outside of his music career. He truly practiced what he preached.
“During his lifetime, he gave to charities and visited sick children in the hospital, doing everything he could to change peoples’ lives even outside of his music career. He truly practiced what he preached.”-John Estes
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” should be considered a true lament. It is a song that laments the atrocities done on the earth and to it. Michael’s breaking away from his religion, his travels around the world, and his spiritual journey have culminated in this epic masterpiece of music history. Even after his unfortunate death, Michael’s song is still inspiring people to bring about social and environmental change. The song is not about preaching at its listener, but rather it is pleading with the world to heal itself. We do not have to wait on God to bring about apocalypse on the earth in order to change it; God can work through us and use us to heal the world. This is very similar to God giving his message to prophets about something that needs to change or bad things will happen. Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” is certainly a message to show us about our actions. That is truly what makes it a timeless song for us to think about as well as to enjoy its beauty.
Has The Media Conspiracy Against Michael Now Expanded To Include His Kids As Well?
This has not been an easy week for anyone who cares about Michael Jackson and, by extension, his children. In addition to the sleazy autopsy show that aired on UK’s Channel 5, the UK press also published a fake story about Michael’s youngest child Blanket.
The story, which appeared to have originated with the Daily Star, claimed that Blanket Jackson had produced a “disturbing” animated video titled “Kill Them All” about a young boy who avenges his father’s murder. This story proved to be completely false, as the video in question is actually part of a series by two brothers names Nyarko who just happen to have the first names Prince and Michael-hence, the use of the moniker Prince Michael II in the credits.
But let’s back up. True, it didn’t take vigilant fans long to crack this mystery. But even before we were aware that the story was complete baloney, something just seemed very fishy and “off” about this piece. What is even more “disturbing” (since they love that word so much) is what this latest shameful tabloid scandal reveals about the true nature of the media and its ongoing conspiracy against Michael Jackson and his family.
I hesitated on re-printing the contents of the original article, since the story has now been deleted from most (though by no means all) media outlets who ran it. However, I have to assume that at least a few readers may be unaware of this story and how it was subsequently handled. In order to understand the context of what I am addressing, it may be necessary to re-print it, but only to let readers know just how outrageous this story was to begin with, and also, subsequently how poorly it has been handled since all of these publications have learned they screwed up and slandered an 11-year-old kid. There are times when simple deletion may be good enough, but not once a story has already been put out, consumed by the masses, and copied and pasted around the world. And not when its subject is a minor child who has now been wrongfully labeled as “disturbed” and mentally unstable. I don’t know where anyone gets the idea that something like that can just be swept under a rug. Nothing less than a full apology and formal retraction should be accepted.
But again, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s look at what The Daily Star printed last Sunday:
Horror show vendetta of Michael Jackson’s son ‘Blanket’ revealed in terrifying cartoon
MICHAEL Jackson’s youngest son yesterday launched a “disturbing” cartoon series about a young boy avenging the murder of his father.
By Mike Parker/Published 5th January 2014
Blanket Jackson seems to still want someone to pay for his father’s death.
Long-haired Prince Michael II, who is 12 next month, is named as writer and creator of the five sketches Kill Them All.
But experts have described the four-minute films by the youngster, nicknamed Blanket, as “deeply disturbing.”
The storyline is billed as “a silent stick-man action animation about a nameless boy who witnesses his father’s murder and, 12 years later, begins a one-man crusade to kill the people responsible.”
In 2011, Dr Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for administering a fatal dose of the powerful anaesthetic propofol to Jackson.
Last night a source close to the family claimed matriarch Katherine Jackson, 83, had been “unaware” of the macabre project and had “no idea” who paid the £10,000 for it to be produced and uploaded online.
“This has caught her completely off guard,” our source said. “She’s very shaken by the theme. This is a side of Blanket she never suspected was there.”
“He clearly harbours the belief that someone should be made to pay for his father’s demise”
Carl Nelsen, psychiatrist
New York-based psychiatrist Carl Nelsen said: “Given the unique and well-known circumstances of Michael Jackson’s death, his son’s revenge theme in his cartoon series should be a cause for concern.
“He clearly harbours the belief that someone should be made to pay for his father’s demise, even though Dr Conrad Murray has served his jail time.
“I would say this young man might benefit from therapy – or more therapy if he has already undergone some.”
So far Blanket has avoided the publicity surrounding sister Paris, 15, and brother Prince Michael, 16.
Immediatly, the story spread like proverbial wildfire. It was picked up by Radar Online (doesn’t surprise me that Dylan Howard and The Australian Posse of which he’s a part of should play a hand), The Daily Mail, The Examiner, Yahoo, and many other outlets. It was even posted on some fan sites by shocked and upset fans who, at first, simply weren’t sure what to believe-or what to make of the story.
Even before the story was revealed as complete bs, the sinister agenda behind it was plenty enough to be upset about. Almost every tabloid that ran the story accompanied it with an unsmiling photo of Blanket (none too hard to find since the kid tends to look very solemn in most photos) and it was obvious that this ploy was intended to underline the idea of Blanket as a sinister and mentally troubled child. Or as I put it in one comment, the idea was to make Blanket look like “The Bad Seed” incarnate. Coming as it did on the heels of older sister’s Paris breakdown, I honestly believe these rags felt it would be easy to sell the idea of “Michael Jackson’s Mentally Unhinged Kids”. Okay, so maybe no one put it quite that way but it couldn’t have been more obvious; more in-your face that this was the idea they were selling.
An Expression On A Child’s Face Can Change In A Millisecond. But The Tabloids Purposely Use Misleading Pics Like This One. In Truth, Blanket Hates Paparazzi Attention-And His Most Defiant Stares Are Usually Reserved For Them!
To add further insult to injury, they went so far as to quote a psychiatrist commenting on Blanket’s mental state! And here is where it gets bizarre. They are going to such lengths-even to the point of bringing in a “child psychologist” to comment upon Blanket’t mental condition-without an IOTA of proof that Blanket was even behind the cartoon! And that isn’t speculation. We know now that they never had such proof, when it was so obvious that Blanket was never behind any such video; when the Nyarko brothers themselves have released a press statement stating that this was their production and that Blanket Jackson had no part in it, and when just a bit of basic fact checking on their part would have revealed all of this quick enough.
Stories like this latest-even if fake-highlight a disturbing trend on the media’s part to portray Michael’s children as emotionally unstable. or as victims of an emotionally unstable environment.
But again, let’s reel this back just a bit. Even before I found out it was a completely bogus story, there were some things that struck me as odd about the media’s reaction to it-or at least the reaction they were trying to so hard to sell to the public.
The first revelation for me was that I watched the video and…well, call me desensitized if you want, but nothing about it seemed particularly shocking or disturbing to me-even if a kid had been behind it. Especially given the content of most kids’ video games these days, or the films they typically watch. Many astute viewers picked up on the similarities to “Kill Bill,” the Quentin Tarantino flick in which Uma Thurman’s character returns to seek revenge against those who had tried to kill her. To be honest, my first thought was that if Blanket had indeed produced this, then he must be one heck of a brilliant, creative kid. We’ve all seen his cam videos that were leaked awhile back, and he certainly seemed like a very imaginative kid.
But…even if we gave him that, it was pretty obvious that this video is not the work of an 11-year-old kid. While crude in its way, it is still much more sophisticated than anything an 11-year-old child, even a very brilliant one, would be capable of producing. Frankly, nothing about this story was adding up.
Secondly, nowhere in the video is the name Michael Jackson-or, for that matter, any specific names associated with Michael Jackson-ever mentioned. So even if, let’s say, these writers genuinely believed this video was made by Blanket, on what were they basing the automatic assumption that the storyline was supposed to be about a plan to avenge his own father’s death? Couldn’t it have just as easily been a case of a kid with a vivid imagination who has seen one too many action-adventure movies?
Nothing About This Video Remotely Hinted That Its Storyline Had Anything To Do With Michael Jackson Or His Death…Yet That Didn’t Stop Sleazy Tabloids From Running With This Story
What I’m saying here is that even before being made aware that this was a fake story, there were a lot of problems with the way the story was being handled. It was already a case of a hasty assumption, and again, this was even before the press release from Morphline Productions. So clearly, there was a conspiracy afoot. These tabloids knew they had no proof that Blanket was behind the video. But what’s more-even with the coincidence and circumstantial evidence of the name “Prince Michael II” appearing in the credits-they had no direct proof or correlation that this was a story about avenging the murder of Michael Jackson. Someone simply decided to draw that conclusion, obviously because it would be sensationalistic and would generate headlines. It is bad enough that they obviously didn’t bother fact checking to make sure that there wasn’t a possibility of someone other than Michael Jackson’s son being behind this-like maybe-duh!- someone else who just happened to share the same name. Oh, no, that’s bad enough, but then add to that the fact that they couldn’t even be bothered to find out if their false assumption was correct (because to do so would have ruined a great headline). No, it was much easier just to run with it and truth be damned.
Ah, but the story doesn’t end there. As I said, it didn’t take long for the true identities of those behind Morphline Productions to be known. And, even more bizarrely, it took a little known outlet called Mosh News to do one simple task that none of the bigwig publications could be bothered to do-that is, to actually contact Morphline Productions. They were also the first to report that it was a false story.
Blanket Jackson’s name was used by the Daily Star in a story talking about a YouTube series called “Kill Them All”, and according to a source directly within the company behind the YouTube channel, Jackson “has nothing to do with the series.”
In a story by the Daily Star, the tabloid used the headline, “Horror show vendetta of Michael Jackson’s son ‘Blanket’ revealed in terrifying cartoon” — they also claim a source close to the family told of Katherine Jackson’s concern and being “unaware” that Blanket was venturing down a path of getting “pay-back for his fathers death” which is what the Daily Star keep going over. In a small snippet below an image of Blanket the publication stated, “Blanket Jackson seems to still want someone to pay for his father’s death”
We spoke to someone behind the “Kill Them All” series and they have made it clear that Blanket Jackson has no affiliation with the company. The closest the company have with the Jackon’s is the names of the two brothers behind the project, Prince and Michael. They told us, “We used to use the name Prince Michael II as pseudonym but after we registered our show on IMDB and found out there was some one else called Prince Michael II we changed it to Prinse Micheal II”
And from the get-go, Michael and Prince Nyarko were adamant that Blanket had nothing to do with the video series and that the whole thing was a case of a terrible misunderstanding.
Here is a link to their Twitter account, where they discuss the issue with fans:
And here is the press release that they sent out to the media:
PRESS RELEASE FROM MORPHLINE PRODUCTIONS
Monday, 06 January 2014 7:28 AM
“Prince Michael aka Blanket Jackson II has and has never had any connections with the KTAshow.
We, Morphline Pictures want to categorically state and deny the rumour spread by the Daily mail and other tabloids that Prince Michael Jackson II (“PMJ II”) has had or continues to have any connection with our show. PMJ II is an innocent 11 year old whom these tabloids are smearing with this false rumour.
“Kill Them All” is an animated series produced by Morphline Pictures and written by brothers “Prince” and “Michael” who used to work under the pseudonym “Prince Michael II” which is not connected to and has never been connected to PMJ II.
We, Morphline Pictures would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Jackson Family especially Prince Michael for any harm this may have caused.”
Some have questioned the intent of the Nyarko brothers and their role in all of this. Could it have all been a publicity stunt? Did they intentionally use the name of Michael’s son and the tragic circumstances of Blanket’s father’s death to promote their KTA show? They have denied such accusations vehemently and without further proof, we should probably at least extend them the benefit of the doubt. From what I am gathering, it looks as though they have been very generous and cooperative with fans in setting the record straight. Some have asked how could they not know that Michael’s son is named Prince Michael II? That’s a good question but we have to remember that very few people other than Michael’s diehard fans are even aware that Blanket is only the child’s nickname. So it’s certainly possible that they didn’t know (although I did find it interesting that the name of their production company also sounds a lot like “Morphine.” Coincidence?).
Regardless, one thing that is for sure is that what happened this week just may well rank as a new all-time low for the tabloid press. They displayed an all too trigger quick desire to portray Michael’s eleven-year-old son as a mentally disturbed individual, and as I commented on social media earlier this week, this seems symptomatic of a much bigger problem with how the media in general has been treating Michael’s kids. When it became apparent that Michael had been a great father and that his kids, via their public appearances, had come across as “surprisingly normal and well adjusted” (those adjectives the press always liked to use) it seemed from that point forward there was a desperate search for any chink-any sign that all may not be well. When Paris attempted suicide, it was a foregone conclusion that the media would stop at nothing to expose what some may have smugly perceived as the dysfunction of Michael’s children.
Paris’s Recent Issues Should Serve As A Reminder To The Media The Precarious Situation And Vulnerability of Michael’s Children-But Instead, They Only Look For Any Excuse To Further Exploit Them
It is a double-edged sword because, on the one hand, these kids do have a lot of public sympathy (at the very least, lip service public sympathy). Few would dispute that they’ve certainly endured enough trauma in their lives. Yet, while feigning sympathy, the media is always ever ready to exploit their tragedy.
Then, of course, comes the ever convenient excuse to bash the “dysfunction” of the Jackson family-yet another excuse to highlight what a poor choice of guardian Katherine is. I suspect that may have been at least part of the reason for the story. They were banking on the idea that even if the story was built on the flimsiest evidence, it would generate controversy and hits by stirring up the usual anti-Jackson sentiments.
However, this highlights another important reason why the publication of this story ranks as despicable and unethical journalism. Michael Jackson’s children are vulnerable. Between the stun gun incident in 2010, the “Grannygate” episode of 2012 which resulted in Katherine’s loss of sole guardianship, and Paris’s suicide attempt, they are under the ever watchful eye of Child Protective Services. Anyone who has ever had to live under that yoke knows that it is hell. Did anyone think-while publishing this fake story to get hits-of the repercussions it could have for Blanket’s life? Or that it might bring more unnecessary intrusiveness and trauma into his life?
That a media conspiracy existed against Michael isn’t just fan paranoia. It is all too real, and the actual evidence of it continues to pile up. Consider, for example, this recent piece in which Charles Thomson illustrated exactly how the UK press conspired to create the phony myth that Michael was booed at the 2006 World Music Awards:
The UK press, for whatever reason, has been and remains an especially guilty party to this conspiracy. What we saw this week was little more than another play on the same old spin-only this time they got caught.
But instead of doing the ethical thing, which would be to admit their f*&%-up and offer an official retraction, the biggest players in this fiasco have taken the coward’s way out by simply tucking tail and deleting the story. Yes, that’s the way. Let’s just pretend this whole bit of embarrassing unpleasantry never happened.
Meanwhile, the story still remains up on several of the sites who simply cut and pasted the initial story, thus continuing to perpetuate this lie to any readers who will not be savvy enough to research it any further.
Here are some addresses and contacts that have been shared with me on social media, and which I will gladly share here.
To register a complaint against the UK tabloids:
To contact those outlets still carrying the story:
In closing, I’ll just add some final words about Blanket. I read a lot of what is said about him-by fans, by haters, and everything in between. It bothers me that the false picture keeps being painted of a morose and sullen youngster. “Blanket is so quiet, so shy,” people say. “He never seems to smile. He never looks happy.” I even see the cruel speculations as to whether he is, in fact, “normal.” People ask, Is he slow? Is there something emotionally wrong with him?
Hogwash. I have seen Blanket interacting with his siblings, his family, and the fans. He laughs. He loves to joke and pull pranks. He has a contagious smile and giggle that lights up the sphere-just like his dad. From what I have observed, he can be a bit stubborn when he doesn’t want to do something. He is very much his own kid. But in that regard, again, not any different from his famous dad.
He is shy, yes. But I suspect only with strangers. I’ve seen a lot of kids like him, and he is not at all unusual in that regard. He is a normal kid who, like his siblings, just happened to be born into extraordinary circumstances. And who, let’s not forget, has endured a terrible tragedy. No doubt, that trauma has left its mark on him. But he is coping and adjusting as well as can be expected for any child.
Like his siblings, he is making the best of those extraordinary circumstances and the tragedy of losing a parent, and is living his life.
I wish this could be the last time that I will say to the world, please let him alone and let him live it.
If only it were that easy.
ETA 1/12/14: Although I posted this article last night, I wanted to add one more thing. You know how sometimes you get these nagging thoughts that just won’t go away? Here is something to consider: Why does the media only seem to insist that Michael was murdered when it is convenient for them, in order to sell a good story, while they paradoxically spend the rest of the time trying to convince the public that Michael was responsible for his own death?
An interesting riddle, isn’t it?
Since Michael’s “Smooth Criminal” Was Inspired by 1930’s Gangsters…Well, This Photo Seemed Appropriate For This Piece!
The recent airing of a cable TV movie on Bonnie and Clyde renewed what had been for me a childhood fascination with the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the infamous lovers whose inter-state crime spree held America enthralled for over two years before they met an untimely and bloody death when ambushed by officers on a rural stretch of highway in Gibsland, Louisiana in May of 1934. I was only about eight years old when I saw their “death car” at a local county fair. In those days, before the famous bullet-riddled Ford V8 finally came to rest at a permanent museum, it was often toured as an attraction at county fairs.
Bonnie and Clyde Death Car
I can still remember the reverent awe I felt as I stood on tiptoe, trying to reach the passenger window of that bullet-riddled door so that I could peek inside. I didn’t know it at the time, but since I was standing on the right side of the vehicle, I would have been looking directly onto the seat where Bonnie Parker died. When the officers had approached the car, someone with a 35 mm camera filmed the graphic scene. This was long before the days of the internet, social media, or even TV. But the newsreel footage would make it into every movie theater in America, to be shown as titillating “entertainment” before and in between films; as scantily clad “news” that was in actuality passing for morbid entertainment for the masses-sound familiar?
Graphic Footage Taken At The Time Showed Bonnie’s Body Slumped Against Clyde’s On The Front Seat. Combined, The Two Of Them Had Been Shot With Over 120 Bullets
The footage showed Bonnie, her body slumped onto Clyde’s and (according to some reports) her half-eaten breakfast still clutched in her hand (they had made their last stop, to grab breakfast to-go, at a diner about eight miles from the ambush site). Some reports at the time also said that Bonnie had a machine gun across her lap. I never believed that; even for hardened outlaws as them, it would have been a major inconvenience to be riding with a machine gun in one’s lap; not to mention, just plain stupid for safety reasons. Perhaps she might have grabbed the gun from their artillery in the back, in the last second when they realized they were being ambushed, but given the amount of reaction time they would have had, even that seems highly unlikely. Perhaps someone planted the gun in her lap (such a thing would have certainly been right in keeping with what Bonnie’s mother wrote later).Perhaps, in truth, there was no gun at all, but merely another bit of media sensationalism added to the story of Bonnie and Clyde. What we do know: Her body, along with Clyde’s, was riddled with over fifty gunshots. Her right hand was mostly blown off.
As a small child, tiptoeing to see over the edge of that door and into that shattered window, I know exactly what I was hoping to see. Blood, and lots of it. Alas, I was somewhat disappointed. The blood stains were still there, of course. But after fifty years, they had long darkened with age, and what remained had mostly soaked into the upholstery. Bonnie had bled out the most of the two, and the still visible dark stain that covered a sizeable portion of the back of the seat on the passenger side would have come from her.
I couldn’t have realized at the time that the morbid curiosity that led me to peek inside that car (hoping, of course, that I might be rewarded with lots of blood and overlooked body parts that had somehow managed to survive fifty years’ worth of morbid curiosity seekers-while normal enough childhood curiosity on the one hand-was also symptomatic of a much bigger and problematic issue. One that goes to the heart of our humanity.
You might be wondering what any of this has to do with Michael Jackson, or why I’m writing about it on an MJ blog. Well, bear with me for a moment and read on because this is not off topic. It is all going to tie together in due time, I promise.
In the eighty years since Bonnie and Clyde died, their story has often been glamorized, Hollywood-ized, and told over and over from many perspectives. Whether they were true “heroes” pitted against a corrupt government and an even more corrupt law system, or simply low-life thieves and murderers who deserved what they ultimately got, seems to depend largely on whatever political climate they are being viewed from. It’s not surprising that the current film, just like the Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway classic that made them cult heroes in the late 1960’s, has come about at a time of economic downturn and government distrust. Every so often, the political climate becomes rife for the anti-heroes to take root. Bonnie and Clyde themselves were victims of the Depression, and like many of their criminal contemporaries, became cultural heroes and icons as much as villains. Every few decades, it seems, their story goes through a revisionist process. Any version of their story is always going to be colored or clouded by the perceptual lenses of our own time, and thus, we may never know the full truth. At the height of their “fame,” it became easy to pin any murder or robbery on them, and there is ample evidence that this happened more often than not. Yet Bonnie and Clyde, two young adults who seemed to glory in the infamy they created, didn’t especially go out of their way to prove their innocence in these cases. What would have been the point? Regardless, their fate had already been sealed. By the time they died, they were damned if they did; damned if they didn’t. If they were innocent of at least a portion of the murders penned on them, who was going to believe it at that point? The story of the real Bonnie and Clyde, far from being a glamorous Hollywood story, was a story of two sociopathic but nevertheless very frightened kids who, when faced with the reality that they were in over their heads, lived a hard and desperate life, on the run for two years, before being gunned down in a hail of bullets.
Whatever you can say about how Bonnie and Clyde lived, their deaths were a tragedy that brought out the worst of our morbid fascination with celebrity deaths. Within mere minutes of the ambush, their car was surrounded by a mob of onlookers; their bodies molested by the curious; their respective funerals a nightmare for their families.
Bonnie Parker’s Funeral. Both Funerals Became A Circus-And A Nightmare For The Families. “It Was A Roman Holiday”-Emma Parker
While I was aware of this, it wasn’t until I began researching them again in the wake of my renewed interest that I discovered a surprisingly enlightening article written by Bonnie’s mother, Mrs. Emma Parker. According to the website where I found this, the article was included as part of the epilogue of a 1968 book titled “The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde” but the quotes were from much earlier, probably dating from about 1934 when these events were still fresh in the mind of Emma Parker. (For the record, Emma Parker died in 1944, outliving her daughter by a mere ten years).
Now, here is where it gets very interesting to me as a Michael Jackson fan, especially with yet another TV show upcoming that will be dedicated to the subject of his autopsy. It is interesting to note that Emma Parker, a humble and grieving mother who, in 1934 was still struggling to come to terms with what had happened to her daughter, struck a cultural nerve that still reverberates to this day. There is much insight here that can be equally applied to most any celebrity-famous or infamous-whose deaths have evoked this same kind of mass hysteria and morbid fascination.
These are Emma Parker’s words:
The horrible things which occurred both in Arcadia and Dallas, following the death of Bonnie and Clyde, were the sort of revolting episodes which shake one’s faith in civilized humanity. We didn’t expect people to have respect for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. They were due no respect. But the state of death deserves respect in any land, and this was denied them.
Dr. Wade, the coroner at Arcadia, related afterwards that when he arrived at the scene of the killings two hours after it occurred, officers were still milling around. A crowd of several hundred had gathered about the death car, and Bonnie’s dress, which was shot to ribbons, was almost cut from her back by curiosity seekers who were gathering souvenirs. Clyde’s blood stained shirt and undershirt were in the same condition. We still have these garments, bearing mute testimony to the truth of this statement. Bonnie’s hair had been clipped away, also, and someone was trying to get her diamond rings off her fingers. One man was reported to have been rifling Clyde’s pockets when the coroner and undertaker arrived. They stopped them. Other people had ripped open the trunk on the back of the car and scattered its contents. Some enterprising onlooker was attempting to remove the hub cap from a wheel. Every piece of broken glass was eagerly picked up. The spot where the officers had lain in wait was trampled level by those who hunted for empty shells to take away. The crowds even cut down the trees and dug bullets from them…I was told by a man who was there that he stopped some unknown person in an attempt to cut Clyde’s ear off. This person wanted to preserve it in alcohol, he said.
The bodies were not brought to Arcadia till noon, and then the undertaker was held up for two hours for the inquest…..
When the bodies arrived in Dallas on the morning of May 24, people behaved in about the same manner as they did in Arcadia, but the Dallas police made an effort to control them. Twenty thousand people jammed the street in front of the funeral home where Bonnie lay and almost as many came to view Clyde. It was a Roman holiday. Hot dog stands were set up; soda pop vendors arrived to serve those who waited to view all that was left of the South’s most noted desperadoes.
The final grim and sardonic touch was the great loads of flowers that arrived. It was impossible to hold the crowds back and they were wrecking both the place where Bonnie lay and the establishment where Clyde had been taken. Some newsboys contributed money for wreaths for Clyde and Bonnie. A small bouquet of lilies arrived with a note asking that they be placed in Bonnie’s hands that night. The sender said that another bouquet would be sent the following day when these flowers had wilted, and asked that the wilted bunch be saved and given to me. I don’t know who the person was. …..
We had planned to bring Bonnie home on Friday night. They tried to talk me out of it, but I was determined. “It was her last request,” I said. “She wanted to come home and she’s coming home.”
They asked me then to look out of the door at the crowds who were waiting at my home. I realized the hopelessness of the attempt and gave it up. A car with a police escort was sent to bring me to the funeral home. We fought our way in. We had lived through so many things that none of this penetrated to our minds. We were finally past being hurt by anything. …..
We buried Clyde on Friday afternoon and Bonnie on Saturday — not together, as they had wished. Each family wanted the privilege of placing the body in its own private burial plot…..Both funerals were nightmares. Nell was unable to get within forty feet of Clyde’s grave. While the curious fought their way toward the grave side, as a last fantastic touch, aviators swooped low and dropped flowers on the bier. All of this hysteria, for and against, was enough to make one lose one’s reason and go mad laughing. But none of us cared. We were past caring. The long trail had ended. Bonnie and Clyde had sinned and suffered and paid the price. They had broken the laws of God and man, and Death had come to meet then on a morning in May
Emma Parker Escorted From Bonnie’s Funeral. An Interesting Bit Of Trivia: That Is Bonnie’s Sister On Her Right. Her Name? Billie Jean Parker!
Mrs. Parker referred to the spectacle as that which “shakes one’s faith in civilized humanity.” It’s interesting that she includes among this description not only the mob-like mentality of those who gathered to gawk and rifle the corpses for souvenirs, but also even those apparent gestures of goodwill that, in her confused and grieved state of mind, simply seemed to add to the bizarre, circus-like atmosphere of her daughter’s death. The Barrows and the Parkers were not especially friends (each family, to some extent, blamed either Clyde or Bonnie for the other’s death) but, for a brief time, they were at least united in their grief and their support for each other against the media indignity and mockery that had been made of their children’s tragic deaths. Think on that one for just a minute: The morgue photos of your children’s bullet-riddled, bloodied corpses are splashed across the front pages of every newspaper in the land. Not on the back pages; no, this is front page news. This is what people are enjoying over their morning cups of coffee!
Emma Parker seemed to be under no illusions. She wasn’t begging people to change their ways, or for the media to stop, nor even making excuses for who her daughter was or the choices she made. She was simply offering an observation of a personal nightmare. In doing so, she just may have offered up one of the most insightful accounts of what the cult of celebrity truly entails.
While The Morgue Photos Were Grisly and Graphic, This Rare Pic of Bonnie’s Casket Photo Shows The Morticians Did Am Excellent Job Of Covering Up The Damage. “She Wanted To Come Home, And She’s Coming Home”-Emma Parker
To this day, curiosity seekers routinely pilgrimage to Las Vegas and, now, Washington, DC, to gawk at the death car. Their ambush site and graves in Dallas are tourist attractions. Photos of their ghastly, bullet-riddled corpses can be found with just a click on the internet, and are even sold as post cards in the former diner (now a museum) where they bought their last meal. It is said that a sign near the museum door warns underage visitors that they will see graphic images. Yet that doesn’t stop them from displaying those very graphic images right at the front counter.
Bonnie Parker’s Grave. Some Have Said Only A Mother Could have Written This Inscription.
And, more or less, it doesn’t matter. Through the years, we have become so desensitized to such images that I doubt even kids find them particularly disturbing.
Which brings me to Michael Jackson. Michael was certainly hounded by the media and, both in life and death, received little respect. Yet there is a bit of a misconception among the fan community that Michael is somehow unique in this regard; that he and he alone has been singled out as a kind of celebrity scapegoat and martyr for posthumous disrespect. To that, I have to say that the answer is both yes and no. I think it is important to keep some things in perspective when we look at Michael’s celebrity status and his treatment in the media. This is by no means to excuse what the media did, and continues to do; rather, it is about accepting the fact that the situation isn’t entirely unique to Michael. The public’s morbid fascination and crass interest in celebrity deaths is alive and thriving-and remains both a huge and profitable business.
The public’s morbid fascination and crass interest in celebrity deaths is alive and thriving-and remains both a huge and profitable business.
Years before Michael died, there had been (and still are!) an abundance of websites featuring the autopsy photos of JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Tupac Shakur, and other celebrities (generally, the ones who died controversial deaths remain the most popular, and I suppose with good reason-after all, the autopsy of a cancer victim just isn’t as alluring). Just a couple of months ago, during the 50th year anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, photos from Kennedy’s autopsy were splashed across newsstand tabloids everywhere.
Sometimes we do try to make a valiant effort to look away from these things. But how can we look away when they very cleverly paste such images on the very papers that we have to look at while standing in the check out lane?
JFK, Marilyn Monroe, And Tupac Shakur Are Just A Few Of The Celebs Whose Autopsy Pics Have Been Circulated For Years.
JFK was the president of the United States, but this goes to show that no celebrity is off limits to this kind of degradation and invasion of privacy.
I can’t say that I’ve never been curious enough to look up these celebrity autopsy photos. I am not only morbidly curious by nature ( as most of us are, if we are honest with ourselves!) but have always had an interest in pathology and forensics. I am not one of those squeamish people who are bothered by seeing a dead body. But ultimately, my curiosity always ends up fighting a moral battle with what I feel is “right.” Just because celebrities are public figures, should that give us-the public-the right to this kind of intrusiveness?
With Michael, it has always felt different. I think it is because a part of me almost views him more as “family” than as just another celebrity who has died. I think that for many fans, it is the same, and perhaps that’s why it is so hard to accept any public display or discussion of his death as objectively as, perhaps, we might with other celebrities.
I Can’t Truly Explain Why It Felt Different With Michael. Perhaps It Was Because, For The First Time, It Felt More Like A Family Member Had Died Than A Celebrity.
All of us, for example, had known that the autopsy photos of Michael’s body existed, as well as the post mortem photos taken at the hospital. There had always been a kind of unified dread that, eventually, those photos would be leaked to the press. I will admit that sometimes, even while looking up the autopsy photos of other celebrities, I felt a secret satisfaction that Michael-so far-had not been subjected to this final indignity. It seemed he had been through enough in life. In death, he at least deserved that final bit of dignity and privacy, if not for himself and his fans, at least for his family, particularly his minor children.
A double standard? Perhaps. Fair? No. But I will address all of this in a bit. Just know for now that, yes, I was aware of my own hypocrisy.
Eventually, of course, the death photos and autopsy photos were leaked to the press during the Conrad Murray trial. Should we have been shocked when these were then plastered all over sites like TMZ, and featured on the cover of The National Enquirer? Again, yes and no.
From the perspective of the celebrity death cult, no.
From the perspective of what we know, innately, is the decent and human thing to do? Absolutely, yes. We should have been not only shocked, but morally outraged.
Okay, so now I have seen Michael dead. I have seen his body on a gurney, and naked on an autopsy table. I processed it and moved on. I am not even particularly offended by the gurney pic (unlike the autopsy pic, I find it rather beautiful in a strange way that is hard to explain; perhaps because something about it had an ethereal, almost saint-like quality). But what about his kids? I have heard that haters, among other despicable things, tweeted that autopsy pic to Paris. No doubt this sort of behavior led, at least in part, to her suicide attempt. (And I will also be addressing the recent, despicable outrage that has been perpetuated against Blanket, which has raised an altogether different issue in regards to tabloid ethics, but that is a different topic for another post).
It Seemed A Victory When This Gruesome Discovery Channel Documentary Was Canceled In 2010. But Eventually, What Goes Around, Comes Around…
All of this brings me to a show that will be airing in the UK on Tuesday night, “The Last Hours of Michael Jackson.” It is being promoted as a three-part series in which a “pathologist” named Dr. Richard Shepherd will supposedly examine in detail the autopsies of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Anna Nicole-Smith.
In 2010, fans and the estate of Michael Jackson successfully waged a campaign to keep a proposed documentary from airing on the Discovery channel that was to have featured a reenactment of Michael’s autopsy. It was the particularly gruesome aspect of a reenactment that really prompted me to take a stance against this proposed doc.
When I first heard of Dr. Shepherd’s program, however, my first impulse was to give it the benefit of the doubt. Mostly because I was (admittedly) suckered in by this statement from Channel 5 commissioning agent Guy Davies:
“When each of these icons died it was global news, but the public version of their lives and deaths were largely built on rumour and conjecture.
“Our programmes use the hard medical facts of the actual autopsy findings – examined and interpreted by a world respected pathologist – and first-hand accounts by those who really knew them – to intelligently piece together these shocking stories, and reveal the reality behind their final, desperate hours.”
So when I saw fans on Twitter and elsewhere expressing disapproval of the show, my first thought was, “Wait a minute. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty. After all, much of Michael’s greatest vindication is in the results of that autopsy.” Thanks to the findings of that autopsy, we know he actually did have vitiligo. We know that his organs were in incredibly good shape for a man of his age. We know that the only drugs found in his system were the ones that Murray gave him that night. We know his death was ruled a homicide, thus eliminating any crazy theories of self-induced drug overdoses. But what do these people really mean when they speak of “the reality?”
I thought this show might actually deal in the hard facts of the autopsy, and would dispel some of the public misconceptions. But I started to have my doubts when I was sent a link to this promotional blurb:
What are they saying? Well, here’s a start:
In the first of three hour-long documentaries, world-renowned forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd investigates the death of Michael Jackson, ‘The King of Pop’. He was the biggest-selling recording artist of all time, but when he suddenly died at just 50 years old, he left $400 million in debts and more questions than answers.
The evidence revealed by his autopsy shows a severely sick man. Jackson was plagued by complications from his many plastic surgeries, suffered from two rare skin conditions and was riddled with arthritis. His lungs were severely damaged, he had an enlarged prostate, and was still suffering the effects of a horrific accident that left him partially bald.
The most startling evidence, however, uncovers the bewildering number of drugs that were coursing through his veins, bearing witness to a number of addictions that had spiralled out of control. It was Jackson’s desperate battle against insomnia, however, that would ultimately cost him his life.
The second paragraph of this blurb alone is riddled with lies. The autopsy did NOT show that Michael was a “severely sick man”-at least not until Murray began treating him. It does not reveal in any particular way that he was “plagued by his many surgeries” (in fact, his nose, contrary to popular myth, was proven to be intact). Perhaps this could be a reference to some of the scars noted, but again, there is no particular emphasis on them in the autopsy report; certainly they had no direct bearing on his death or state of health. Now, as for the mention of “two rare skin conditions” that could be a good thing; it means that his vitiligo will most likely be discussed. He did have arthritis (normal for a person aged fifty) but to say he was “riddled with it” would be a bit of an exaggeration, as is also the statement regarding lungs that were “severely damaged.” The “horrific accident” refers to the Pepsi commercial accident, which might be good for the layperson to know (the accident was much more serious, and had much further reaching long-term repercussions for Michael than most people realized) but then they cap it off with the lie about the “bewildering number of drugs” coursing through his veins. There is nothing remotely “bewildering” about what was found in his system other than to wonder, What was Murray thinking?
It’s hard to say, sometimes, just how balanced or fair these types of shows, ultimately, may prove to be. Often, they will toss out the most salacious bits in hopes of hooking viewers, even though the program’s actual content may serve to dispute or debunk those claims. With no way to preview the show’s contents in advance, it’s hard to say. But my doubts have been further solidified by this write up:
Channel 5 announced today new series “Autopsy: The Last Hours Of …” which will air in Quarter 1 2014.
Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Anna Nicole Smith – three global celebrities who died suddenly, unexpectedly and tragically. In the wake of their passing, claims, counter claims, wild rumours and salacious theories were everywhere. But the real truth about how they died doesn’t lie in trashy biographies or internet rumours – it lies in their autopsies. These cold hard medical documents establish exactly what killed them and how and why it happened.
In this series of three one-hour films, world-renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Richard Shepherd will navigate us through the bodies of each of these three celebrities. Dr Shepherd was forensic pathological expert for the Inquiry and Inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Mr Dodi Al Fayed. Amongst his other work was providing the Attorney General with a review of the forensic pathological aspects of the death of Dr David Kelly and he was the forensic pathological expert for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Dr. Shepherd says: “The fascinating thing about an autopsy is that if you know how to read it correctly, it doesn’t just tell you how a person died, it can tell you even more about how they lived. And furthermore, autopsies are non-judgmental; they are simply a scientific acquisition of facts, so in the case of a person that is well known, that objectivity can allow you to see them with fresh eyes, up close and personal and as if for the first time. The fact that they are a celebrity makes no difference at all.”
The evidence revealed by the autopsy is enhanced by interviews with those who loved and laboured with the stars each film reveals the key life decisions and events that set each of them on an inevitable path towards death. A worker at Michael Jackson’s dermatologist claims that the King of Pop was injected with massive doses of opiates several times a week in the months before he died. The ex-boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith tells how the breast augmentation that made her famous nearly destroyed her. Whitney Houston’s chauffeur recalls how the singer’s extreme drug habits almost set his car on fire.
This unique approach will investigate the life and times of each of these globally recognised icons and offer new insights into their untimely deaths.
Guy Davies, Commissioning Editor Factual, Channel 5, said: “When each of these icons died it was global news, but the public version of their lives and deaths were largely built on rumour and conjecture. Our programmes use the hard medical facts of the actual autopsy findings – examined and interpreted by a world respected pathologist – and first-hand accounts by those who really knew them – to intelligently piece together these shocking stories, and reveal the reality behind their final, desperate hours.”
Ed Taylor, Executive Producer, Potato, added: “The lives and deaths of these three global icons are surrounded in mystery and speculation. Each of these three films reveals extraordinary facts about their lives and how their lifestyles ultimately contributed to their untimely deaths.”
First of all, what does any worker at Dr. Klein’s office have to do with how Michael died? (And anyone want to offer up any bets as to who this mystery “worker” might be? I’m guessing none other than the ever reliable Jason Pfeiffer!). It is also quite disturbing when the last statement is all about how “their lifestyles ultimately contributed to their untimely deaths.” So on the surface, it seems this is little more than another attempt to blame the victim.
Now, let’s take this paragraph and examine what we can TRULY expect by reading between the lines (my comments in bold):
Our programmes use the hard medical facts of the actual autopsy findings – examined and interpreted by a world respected pathologist (in other words, we will take the hard facts from the autopsy and have our “expert” pathologist put his own spin on them)and first-hand accounts by those who really knew them (i.e, the vultures and scumbags in their lives who live to sell them out) to intelligently piece together these shocking stories, and reveal the reality behind their final, desperate hours.” (we will make up whatever crap we feel like and hope you are gullible enough to buy it).
Not to mention that when they say Dr. Shepherd will “navigate” us through the bodies of these three individuals, it sounds like they are planning a reenactment-the very thing that propelled most of us to so vehemently protest the Discovery program.
Michael’s Body…We Loved It, We Adored It. But Do We Want To “Navigate” Through It With A Hack Pathologist As Our Guide? Nah Thanks, I’ll Pass!
However, while blasting the bad taste of this show, I want to get back for a moment to my original focus. Is Michael Jackson, alone of all celebrities, singled out for these kinds of indignities? Well, obviously not. This show is planning to feature segments on Whitney Houston and Anna Nicole-Smith. It’s a bit cringe worthy and ironic (in a not funny way) when I see comments on this series that proclaim, “Only Michael Jackson gets treated this way” when there are obviously two other celebrities being featured and subjected to the same lack of respect. And it’s funny that there are no comments at all from Whitney fans or Anna Nicole fans; only MJ fans. Do they not care, or are we just a unusually touchy bunch when it comes to our Michael?
Well, consider this. Why do you think they purposely made Michael’s installment the first part of the series? Why are they using his name-first and foremost-to promote it?
There you go. Michael isn’t the only dead celebrity being sold out for sensationalism, morbid curiosity, and ratings. But I daresay, with no exaggeration, that he is by far the most profitable. And therein lies the problem. Just as his name generated guaranteed ratings and profit in life, it continues to do so in death.
It’s easy to say I can’t concern myself with what should be another fan base’s battles. But I can’t help but feel a little sad that no one seems to be similarly speaking up for Whitney and Anna Nicole, the other “victims” of this three-part series. Ultimately, we can’t abide by a double standard. If we wish to demand respect for Michael in the media, we must demand that all deceased public figures, who cannot speak for themselves, be accorded the same respect.
This Poster, Intended To Argue For The Legalization of Marijuana, Is Intended To Be Humorous. However, It Is Indicative Of A Real Problem And Common Public Misconception Of How Michael Died. It Doesn’t Appear That Shows Like “The Last Hours of Michael Jackson” Will Be Doing Anything To Dispel Those Myths.
There also seems to be an unspoken assumption that celebrities who led controversial lives (or who were the subjects of media controversy, at any rate)are somehow more “open season” targets for exploitation. Ever notice it is almost always the same names that crop up over and over in these types of shows? On the one hand, you could say these are the celebrities that the public is most curious about. But then who is responsible for feeding that curiosity? Who, for that matter, is responsible for having provoked much of it?
Sometimes it does seem like a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does the media create our insatiable and often morbid curiosity, or (as the media’s most ardent defenders like to say) is it simply a mirror reflecting the worst of our own humanity? It’s sometimes hard to know the difference, and as someone who can honestly admit my own hypocrisy in this regard, I know that we continue to be as much a part of the problem as its solution. Alas, there is a reason why the gossip industry remains the multi-million dollar industry that it is. It is an industry that feeds on the gullible, and the curious.
But the words of Emma Parker stand as a testament. No matter how big (or notorious) the celebrity, there is an often overlooked human story. These people have families-parents, children, siblings-who are continuously affected by our curiosity and the industry that perpetuates it.
“All of this hysteria, for and against, was enough to make one lose one’s reason and go mad laughing. But none of us cared. We were past caring.-“Emma Parker.
Barring any last minute miracles, I doubt protests will prevent “The Last Hours of Michael Jackson” from airing. It took action from the estate in 2010 to finally stop the Discovery program from airing, and so far I haven’t seen as much effort being generated to stop Dr. Richard Shepherd’s farce. Perhaps many, like myself, were lulled into a false sense of hope that this show might be different from the macabre freak show that had been promised by Discovery; that here we might actually have something about Michael Jackson’s autopsy that could actually prove to be informative and educational for the public.
No, not at all. It looks to be the same old, sensationalized crap. The same old lies, recycled and manufactured for everyone who didn’t bother to read the autopsy report and didn’t bother to follow the Murray trial.
But then, what should we expect? That a show about Michael’s autopsy might actually be handled with good taste and integrity?
Who are we kidding?
As the airing date for this show approaches, we should keep in mind those words uttered by Emma Parker eighty years ago:
“The state of death deserves respect in any land.”
That respect was denied her daughter. Well, some might say her daughter Bonnie made her choices, and deserved what she got. All the same, her account is difficult to read without a sense of revulsion. And yes, it can certainly shake one’s faith in civilized humanity.
Michael Jackson was not an outlaw (though I suppose one could argue that the allegations made against him branded him, at least in some eyes, as a potential criminal). What was he then? Only one of our greatest entertainers, humanitarians, and philanthropists-a musician, a dancer, a songwriter, an author, a husband, a father, a brother, a son.
Yet, despite all of the accolades and the tributes and a memorial service fit for a king, we see in many crucial ways all of the same elements and the same trappings that drove Emma Parker to write her tirade in the 1930’s. Michael’s death in many ways was treated with the same curious mixture of mob mentality and circus-like spectacle. Perhaps they didn’t rip the clothes from his body, or try to cut off parts of his body in hopes of selling them (though I’m sure some would have done so given the opportunity!) but certainly these things have all been done to him in a manner of figurative speaking. He has been dissected, probed, analyzed, and ripped apart in just about every way imaginable that a human can be.
If We Are Going To Demand Respect For Michael, We Must Demand It For Everyone. And We Must Demand It, Not Because He Was Michael Jackson, But Because He Was A Human Being First And Foremost.
But ultimately, if we demand respect for Michael Jackson, we cannot demand it because he is Michael Jackson, or because we love him, or because he is any more deserving than anyone else. In the end, we must do it because he was a human being, and for no other.
It’s not just what we owe to Michael. It’s what we owe to everyone. Including ourselves.
UPDATE: 1/06/2013: The estate HAS issued a statement in regard to this program:
Message from The Estate of Michael Jackson: Although it is not possible for the Estate to bring legal action to stop the broadcast of the program about the autopsy performed on Michael, the Executors want Michael’s fans to know that letters have been sent to the broadcaster and station owner expressing the Estate’s disgust at those who heartlessly work to profit from the most banal, salacious details of Michael’s death. In part, the letter from John Branca and John McClain asks Channel 5 to show good taste and common decency by canceling Tuesday’s planned airing of Autopsy: Michael Jackson’s Last Hours. The letter also states: “Despite Channel 5’s cynical and disingenuous promotions claiming Autopsy ‘separates fact from fiction,’ it is nothing more than another sleazy tabloid program exploiting Michael’s tragic and untimely death…..Separating ‘fact from fiction,’ the Michael Jackson his friends and family knew was a loving father, a global entertainment icon and humanitarian devoted to making the world better. His children do not deserve to see their father’s death callously exploited out of greed because a new TV series desperately wants to attract viewers.” The Executors share the fans hope that Channel 5 show the good judgment to cancel the broadcast of this distasteful program.
This was the same tactic that resulted in the cancellation of the Discovery program. Will it work this time? Guess we’ll find out!