My earliest memory of Michael Jackson was when I was in second grade back in the early '80s and some kids in class were talking about him and I was all like "what is he a comedian or something?" and yes they were quite brutal about how out of touch I was. (I also wasn't aware he was black, though in my defense he would be bleaching himself by the end of that decade). This was because I was a product of a family where no emphasis was put on raising me "cool" and "with it". That's a mistake I won't be making with my kids! Hell, I didn't even have a radio until I was in Junior High School.
Of course, second grade was when Jackson was releasing his big hits and would be pitching Pepsi product (he took the wrong side in the Cola Wars, but for the healing process we can forgive him for that) and showing us white folks how to moonwalk and wear a single glove. He took weirdness and made it cool, which was common in the '80s because no one had any sense of style--we were still in a hangover from the polyester hell of the '70s, and black folks had given up cumbersome afros for gross-looking jheri-curls while white folks were discovering the joys of high top fades and mullets which are thankfully part of our past except in parts of Northern Maine. Jackson also dominated the pop charts and was huge internationally.
Of course, he also had relations with young boys that could best be described as "strange"--it's entirely possible he never molested any of them, as he could just have been enough of a weird guy that he just saw no problem in a grown man having a slumber party with kids. It was speculated that since he was robbed of his own childhood he was trying to live a child-like existence as an adult and just could never grasp that such behavior is still inappropriate if not illegal. Also disturbing was the long series of botched plastic surgeries, committed by doctors who should have had enough ethics to refuse such absurd treatment.
In reflecting on his life, it's sad to see that it was such a disturbed one, in which a man of obvious talent and fame and money could let himself self-destruct over the years.
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