MJ Studies Today XXX


Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts.


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XXX (14-06-2018).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 5, no. 4 (2018). http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xxx/.


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Measuring our lives by the passing of Michael Jackson – how we commemorate him and how we want him remembered by Kerry Hennigan

People of different ages, from different places, measure the passage of time with different markers.  Each generation has its own “seismic event”, with some events being of such magnitude – whether it be the assassination of JFK or the death of MJ – as to encompass multiple generations and nations.

Such events remain prominent in the mind, despite receding in time.

In a recent article, John D. Rich, Jr., Ph.D. realised with a shock that nearly nine years had passed since the death of Michael Jackson.

If you’re someone with his one foot in the grave like I am, you may recognize a phenomenon similar to this:

 [Newscast] “This June will mark the 9th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death…”

 [Me} “What? That wasn’t 9 years ago. I remember being on the beach when I heard it. I was with Erin and Dave with the kids, drinking beers and having fun. We had just moved to Delaware the year before, and were still settling into our new house. So, let’s see. That would have been 2009. That’s not 9 years ago. Oh wait. That is 9 years ago. Sh*t.” [1]

In addition to breaking millions of hearts all over the world, the events of 25 June 2009, coming suddenly and shockingly on the eve of Jackson’s return to the stage, produced “shock waves” that caused social media to crash and left an indelible stamp on popular culture – a culture he helped shape for some 40 years of his life, a life that transcended so many boundaries, cultural, political and artistic.

“Jackson’s death quickly became the most-discussed item on yandex.ru, Russia’s most popular web portal, while searches for “Michael Jackson” on baidu.cn — China’s answer to Google — increased a hundred-fold in the hours following his death.” [2]

The cultural impact of Michael Jackson’s passing has included a steady growth of public acknowledgement by his industry colleagues of his influence on their lives and/or careers.  Comments by the Weeknd, for example, reflect what many others have committed to record. “Michael, man, that guy was the star. He invented the star. There will never be another Michael,” he said. “I want to make it very clear that I’m not trying to be Michael. He’s everything to me, so you’re going to hear it in my music.” [3]

For the fans, over the course of several years, we have seen patterns of behaviour develop around the anniversary date of 25 June.  While some shut themselves away on the day, mired in their mourning while listening to Michael’s music and watching his short films, others make pilgrimages to Forest Lawn where his body is interred or leave cards and flowers at the gates of Neverland.

Others celebrate Michael’s life as they would if it was his birthday – with music and dancing in community gatherings. [4]  For a lot of us it is a combination of all these behaviours along with personal rituals we devise for ourselves, donations we make or trees we plant in Michael’s memory.

It shouldn’t really matter how we commemorate Michael Jackson on the date that he died, so long as it is in ways that bring harm to no-one, including ourselves. Fans who hold on to the hurt, like it was a cherished gem that needs constant polishing, run the risk of losing the ability to enjoy the art Michael created for us.  Would he really want us to be miserable because of him?

I don’t believe so.  Yet I too have shed many a tear during a “World Cry” event or when watching the final minutes of “This Is It”, and on numerous other occasions.  But overall, I tell myself that Michael, who loved his fans so much, would want us to be happy.  I can’t imagine he would want us to be wallowing in unhealthy misery on his behalf.  Rather, I believe he would prefer us to celebrate and perpetuate his legacy and his message of love and healing in joyful ways.

At this time of year, the media has a propensity to revisit the drama and controversy of Michael Jackson’s life, and death, in the form of unauthorised television documentaries.  For them, Michael remains a ratings winner.  But at what expense to his legacy, not to mention his family?

From his own words, and the notes he wrote, we know that some of Michael’s life was very painful, almost unbearable, for him.  But his children, his art and his fans sustained him, his passion for his craft and his perfectionism drove him to exceed his previous successes, so that he could realise his philanthropic dreams for projects like the children’s hospital he spoke of shortly before his death.

I think we owe it to Michael, not only in this anniversary month of June, but every month of the year, not to focus on him as a victim, whether of a negligent doctor or the tabloid media or anyone else.  This is not to deny the reality of people who took advantage of him or let him down; rather it is about how we want history – as viewed by broader society – to remember him.

Speaking as a fan who repudiates the media negativity, I think it important to celebrate Michel Jackson for the unique person he was – a remarkably talented individual who achieved unparalleled success driven by the belief that he “was chosen as an instrument to just give music and love and harmony to the world”. [5]

Kerry Hennigan

June 2018

 

[1]  Rich, Jr., John D. “Michael Jackson and the Call of the Bassoon” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/parenting-purpose/201804/michael-jackson-and-the-call-the-bassoon

[2]  Krastev, Nikola “Michael Jackson, Dead At 50, Was Hugely Popular Across Former Soviet Bloc” https://www.rferl.org/a/Global_Pop_Icon_Michael_Jackson_Dead_At_50/1763122.html

[3]  Frydenlund, Zach  “The Weeknd on Michael Jackson: ‘He’s Everything to Me, So You’re Going to Hear It in My Music’” http://www.complex.com/music/2016/02/the-weeknd-talks-the-grammys-michael-jackson-la-times-interview

[4] The 4thAnnual MJKOP “A Blue Gangsta Celebration” June 23-24 https://www.facebook.com/events/829571917249463/

[5]  Lewis (Jones), Jel D.  “The Interviews.  Michael Jackson talks to Oprah (1992)” transcript in. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.  The Big Picture, the Music, the Man, the Legend, the Interviews.  An Anthology, Amber Books22005.

 

Photo montage “that time of year” compiled by Kerry Hennigan using her own photograph of Forest Lawn Glendale, taken June 2013, and a professional photograph of Michael Jackson, photographer unknown.  No copyright infringement is intended in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.

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