Now that the immediate drama of the Jackson family chaos is starting to wind down, I am hoping things can get back to somewhat semi-normalcy here. Of course, as we know, the drama surrounding the Jackson family name is never really “over”-it just dies down until the next chapter opens again.
The real question now that remains is: Who to blame? Well, I wish I had those answers. I really do. But the honest truth is that we don’t know. For the moment, I’ve ceased updating the previous post because, to be honest, I’m at the point now of just sheer saturation. I will continue to post videos that encapsulate the news coverage and any major new developments, but for now everything just seems to be the inevitable tabloid fallout of re-hashing and pointing fingers, trying to figure out who to blame. Who are the bad guys here? Who are the good guys? Do we even know? However, I can say that whatever conclusions one arrives at, there are certain undeniable factors which need to be addressed-and those are my concerns here for the moment.
When I first became a part of the MJ fan community (that is, in the sense of being an active member on the internet) I learned early that there are certain individuals whom we can clearly identify as “the enemy.” Now, that sounds like a contradiction in terms, considering that this is supposed to be all about admiration for a man whose catchphrase was, “I love you more” and who advocated a message of love and brotherhood. The very name of this blog comes from his phrase, “It’s all for love.” But let’s not forget the true connotation of that phrase. It was a phrase Michael would often use when gently chiding those around him, to soften the blow of some criticism. In This Is It, for example, whenever he would have to correct something that one of the backup performers or musicians had done wrong, he would say, “It’s all for love” which was to be interpreted as, “It’s all for love BUT…” (and then it was understood that what followed was going to be a stern critique of what they had done wrong). In other words, “It’s all for love” really became about “tough love.” This was how Michael disciplined his children, by all accounts, and it was how he instilled discipline and respect in those who worked with him or under him. He seldom had to raise his voice in anger, but people knew when he meant business. Fans are continually chided to “follow MJ’s example” although sometimes I think there is confusion over exactly what that means. Michael did advocate love and forgiveness, but he was also a tough person who did get angry; who did fight back; and who didn’t always forgive as easily as the hippie philosophists like to believe (the conditions of his will are proof enough of that). Just go back and give a good listen to songs like “D.S.”, “They Don’t Care About Us” and “We’ve Had Enough” if you think this was someone always advocating that it’s all about love and forgiveness.
This was something I touched on some time ago in an article I wrote entitled, “When It WASN’T Always All For Love.”
I learned early that there were certain individuals for whom the MJ fan community is almost universally united in their dislike. And I quickly learned why, if I wasn’t already aware. It’s easy to understand why people like Tom Sneddon, Diane Dimond, Martin Bashir, Evan Chandler, Janet Arvizo, Conrad Murray, etc., etc.. etc (for this is a very long list!) are so universally despised among fans. I once read a comment on a message forum that said (I suspect only half in jest) that being a Michael Jackson fan is all about “knowing who you’re supposed to hate.” But I think people who say things like that are missing the complexity of the whole picture. Michael Jackson’s life was an amazing life, full of success, triumph, and accolades. But it was also a life filled with betrayal, sadness, and pain. When it becomes very clear that there are certain individuals for whom we can unite and point that finger of blame-when we have clearcut villains-it makes it much easier. For several reasons. Not the least of which is this-having those clearcut “villains”; having those cleanly defined lines between who the “good” and “bad” people are, unites us in a common cause.
But what are we supposed to make of it when suddenly the “bad guys” are Michael’s own family? Suddenly it is not so clearcut anymore, and those clearly drawn lines become blurred with doubt and confusion. This is what I see happening now. Not that it is anything new. Division within the Jackson family stretches back over decades. Even when Michael was alive, there were always family feuds going on. We can go back to the early 90’s, and there is Latoya publishing her infamous “tell all” book. There is Jermaine writing “Word To The Badd.” There is Latoya holding her 1993 press conference to declare her suspicions that her own brother is a pedophile. There is the constant rivalry between Michael and Janet as to who can command the biggest record deal. And on it goes.
Michael’s own feelings about Jermaine could probably best be summed up in this 1991 conversation with Glenda Stein. At the mere mention of Jermaine’s name, all Michael has to say is a sarcastic, “Oh god!” Or more like, “Oh gawd!” As in, let’s not even go there; the very name gives me a headache!
G: Are any of your brothers still married? Or, isn’t everybody married right now?
M: Well, they broke up but, Marlon and Carol have been, they’re trying to work it out. I admire Carol because Marlon was gonna divorce her but she still wanted to make it work.
G: And Jermaine, what is he doing?
M: Oh GOD
Yet, as I’ve said before, when the chips have been down for this family, they have always come together. Look at Michael’s 2005 trial. Look at the Murray trial.
The truth is, this has always been a family with a very complex dynamic, and trying to unravel all the intricacies of that dynamic would require more aspirin than one body could possibly consume. The wisest are those who simply say, I’m not even going to try.
Here is the problem, though. We now have Michael Jackson’s minor children at the center, and so a family drama that might ordinarily be “their own business” suddenly does become the world’s business. Michael’s three children are essentially orphans now-perhaps not in the traditional, Oliver Twist sense of the word, but orphans just the same. They have lost their only parent; one of them has a mother completely unknown to the world and most likely to himself; the other two have a mother who has never been an active part of their lives and has never had any desire to be. Yet these “orphans” need not worry, for they certainly have a very large, worldwide extended family who are looking out for them-and now that they are older, and have learned the power of social media, they are acutely aware of that fact.
Whether this is a “good” or “bad” thing is a subject being fiercely debated, even as I write this. I only have to go to my Facebook page to see every side of this argument being waged. I think there are both pros and cons either way you look at it. On the one hand, the instantaneity of social media does make it all too easy for kids (any kids, not just PP&B) to run to Twitter with every perceived slight. We all know how teenagers can be. Refuse them their allowance, or tell them they have to do their homework before they can go out, and-lo and behold, you have become “the enemy.” Social media can provide a child the kind of instantanous support and villainy of their parents or guardians that is all too tempting and empowering for children at that age. In the old days, we huffed and fumed at our parents and called them names underneath our breaths, but we didn’t have outlets like Twitter to run to with every little whim. Sure, we had phones and we talked to our friends, but usually by the time it took to go to all the effort it took us to communicate in those days, the anger of the moment had already died down, or had been forgotten completely.
Not so these days.
But there is also an undeniable advantage. As Prince’s tweet on Thursday made all too clear, it means that it is going to be more difficult than ever for certain people to get away with bs. The old days of Jackson family drama-when everything could be kept neatly under wraps until/unless someone went to the press-are over. Now “going to the press” is as instant as hitting “Enter” on the keyboard.
For sure, certain Jackson family members may be thinking twice now about ticking off Prince or Paris! For better or worse, Prince and Paris, at least (Blanket remains quiet and out of the limelight) have learned the empowerment of the media. However, it might also behoove them to remember that it was this same media that helped make their father’s life a living hell.
Media, as always, is a two-edged sword. It can work with you. But as the kids will learn, it can also turn against you just as quickly.
Which brings me back to my focus of this article. It’s easy when the villains-the people we are “supposed to hate” are “others.” Outsiders. It’s not so easy when suddenly the “villains” are Michael’s own family; his own flesh and blood. And it’s not an easy thing to reconcile-at least not for me, and I’m sure I am not alone in feeling this way. There is just something very inherently wrong with the entire idea. It would seem that Michael’s family-the Jacksons-and Michael’s fans should be fighting on the same side. So why aren’t we?
Personally, I have never made any bones about the fact that I am a Michael Jackson fan first; a Jacksons fan second. Nevertheless, I have enormous respect for the Jackson family as musical pioneers and for what they have accomplished as America’s First Black Family of Show Business. Words like “American royalty” and ‘dynasty” are not just empty catch phrases when it comes to describing the legacy of the Jackson family (and for this reason alone, I really think they are much more deserving of respect in the media than what they’ve been given-but blame that on the PR spins that have been generated to make them all look like money grubbing fools. It’s the same ol’, same ol’ in America: Give a black person too much power or money, and someone is always going to be trying to tear you down).
But aside from that fact, there are also many old school Michael Jackson fans who are also Jacksons fans. There are fans who grew up with The Jacksons (not just Michael). There are fans still old enough to remember when it was Jackie Jackson and Jermaine Jackson that all the girls wanted to marry, and Michael was just the little kid brother. Where does this current division leave these fans, who still love all the Jackson brothers, not just Michael? Or for that matter, those who are fans of both Michael and Janet?
It’s a sad situation because, really, being a Jacksons fan shouldn’t be about having to choose sides in an all out family war. Nevertheless, we didn’t create that war. I would personally love nothing more than to be on the side of Michael’s siblings and for us to be united with them against a common enemy-lo, if only it were that simple! But when we see that the ones being hurt the most by this drama are also Michael’s own blood-his mother and his children-then it becomes a much more complex scenario.
And I think for most fans, when it comes to choosing loyalty between Michael’s siblings and his children, there really is no contest. A person may love their brothers and sisters. But they will kill and die for their children.
“Over the years we became a family, all of us. You are my family… My children are your children and all the children of the world are our children and our responsibility.”-Michael Jackson, 45th Birthday Speech
“If you continue with your lies I will continue with the truth”-Michael Jackson, Jr.
I think it is certainly very sad and unfortunate that this situation has come about. I can only speak for myself in saying that my utmost wish is for this rift to be healed, and for true Jackson family “unity” to be achieved. Jermaine Jackson should be that funny uncle that we affectionately (okay, sometimes not so affectionately) call “Jerm,” with the weird hairdo and a dozen fly-by-night ideas. But an outright villain, a nasty person who would intentionally put the well-being of his brother’s children in jeaporady? That is still a tough one for me to get my hands around. True “unity” in the Jackson family will probably always be wishful thinking. However, I do believe that over time, this rift will heal as so many Jackson family rifts have healed. We just have to allow this family the time and the space to go through that process, and it won’t happen overnight.
That being said, some things in all of this are still inexcusable. That the kids were left home alone with no contact with their legal guardian for ten days? Inexcusable. That the children were denied access to their grandmother? Inexcusable. That the kids had to go through this emotional trauma? Inexcusable. That these kids are being put into the center of a major family war with Michael Jackson’s estate? Inexcusable. These children didn’t ask to be born, and they didn’t ask for their father to die and leave them. They didn’t ask for his money, either. But Michael, being their parent, made sure they were left well provided for. In short, they haven’t asked for anything, but they deserve to live and to be happy in their life.
It is heartbreaking to see this family feud being played out. However much affection and respect I may feel for the Jackson family, my first loyalty is to Michael’s children. That’s just the way it has to be. I do not bear ill will towards Randy, Jermaine, Rebbie, or Janet. But I do think things have been very poorly handled and their antics certainly did not endear them to Michael’s fans this week.
Michael’s children are Jacksons, too (regardless of what some may think, but I’m not even getting into that issue here, as it is totally irrelevent). I have always advocated hard for them to remain with the Jackson family at all costs, because I always felt that their place should be with their father’s family. I always felt that it was important to send the message to the world that this family is all about unity-including their willingness to defend their brother and to show the world and his fans that they can take good care of his children. For over three years, with but one incident (the stun gun incident, which I think was largely a case of a story blown out of proportion by the media) Katherine seems to have done an amazing job-at any rate, certainly amazing for a grandmother in her 80’s, an age at which many women are in nursing homes.
Now, for the first time, we’ve seen that bond seriously shaken. Hopefully, the new arranagement with shared guaradianship between Katherine and TJ will prove to be a win-win situation, and may lessen some of the stress Katherine has been subjected to. Let’s hope.
In the meantime, the issue of “who to blame” isn’t going to go away anytime soon, I’m afraid.
Next Post: Blame Whoever You Want-But Don’t You DARE Blame Michael’s Babies! (Are some actually going there? Yes! Wanna see me kick some serious butt? I can sure do it!).