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I just listened to David Edelstein’s review of Michael Jackson’s This is it and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s not just the fact that Michael is gone, I’m sad because I feel like a traitor.
I outgrew Michael Jackson. I was also still reeling from the O.J. Simpson trial, which destroyed all the great work Bill Cosby did for the Black image in the 80’s. Therefore, by the time the pedophile scandals hit in 1997-98 I didn’t care to defend Michael. He became another one of “us” who got into trouble, hence an irresponsible embarrassment. I remember I was at Disney and the circle of animators discussed the scandal. What we concluded was: So that’s his sexual orientation. Hmmm…. I argued that in ancient Rome such behavior would be normal and an Israeli colleague vehemently stated that this is not ancient Rome and it’s just plain wrong. Oh yeah, it was the ancient Hebrews that demonized homosexuality in defiance of Hellenistic (Greek) lifestyle in the first place, huh?
Personally, I secretly thought Michael was like myself: asexual. I didn’t know their was an official term for my orientation at the time much less had knowledge that their were others like me, especially those so famous. Recently, I was pleased to find out that many people are asexual and they are workaholics with a quest to realize some ethereal-impossible goal like myself. Morrissey, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Issac Newton and our Michael Jackson to name a few.
People can’t seem to believe that a person can exist without a libido and like so many adults, can think of little else and are motivated by the urge to mate. Micheal’s affinity for children was an escape from this mentality. Children can talk about so many great things for the world is still fascinating to them: where to go, what does this do, how does that work? The average adult conversation falls into 2 categories: Money and Who’s dating who?
Not all adults are machines of course. However, it’s hard as grapenuts to find people who do speak of other things. It’s tough to find your clique. My clique turned out to be the artist community, but even then it’s tough to find people who are driven by their art. Michael Jackson wanted to be an artist and like Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched, he wanted to work for Disney. being an animator would’ve been the perfect venue for Michael Jackson! He could be Peter Pan for the rest of his life, for it’s an animators job to think like a child.
Michael would not have escaped the social demands of adulthood completely in the animation community. At Cal Arts the animation students were obsessed with finding girlfriends due to the disproportionate ratio of males in the program. The opposite was true of the dance department, but why would such desirable girls date underdeveloped animators when there’s a department filled with hunky musicians and sexy fine artists to marry? Getting back to the point, Michael still would’ve found more people to relate to had he become an animator, for at least they would have shared his passion for fantasy. Furthermore, being an animator would’ve kept him away from parasitic modern day courtiers.
Michael had a lot toxic people in his life, starting with his father. I think his father pigeon holed him into the music industry to the extent that Michael could not have changed careers of he wanted to. The Pepsi accident would’ve been the perfect time to fade into a life behind the camera. No one cares what you look like as an animator. An audience just cares about what an animator produces. The circle of friends was a mixed bag Liz is alright, but creep-O’s like that shady malpractice doctor was a problem. Then came the experimental operations. I wonder who put the idea into his head that he had to look like Prince to be successful?
If he had left the performance art industry to live a life behind the camera, I doubt that Michael would have made such a drastic change. I am not insulted that he chose to become a light skin Black with a shaved nose, but gosh, I can’t help but think of what tortures his psyche to do such a thing. If he were part of the visual arts community, I can could see a healthier reason to undergo the change. It would be out of curiosity. Who else could afford such a treatment? Perhaps if he set a precedent the prosedure would become less expensive and benefit other burn victims who developed the same pigment disease. However, I suspect life in the South is what diminished Micheal’s sense of self-worth. The light-skinned Black lives in the best ( ad worst) of both world’s and it’s an enviable color to be. Just look at how Prince and Lisa Bonet soared to superstardom largely based on their beauty. Prince is a fantastic, extraordinary, stupendous song writer but he is an average performer compared to Michael. I bet that weighed heavily on Michael’s mind, so he changed himself to survive.
I still wonder what would’ve changed if Micheal and I had met and became friends when I became a Warner Bros. animation artist in 1995. The animation division was located in Sherman Oaks, just 20 minutes from Micheal’s family home in Encino. I used to fantasize about running into him on my lunch hour at Barnes and Noble, or other Encino hangouts, but I never saw him. In me, he would’ve found kindred sprit. In him I would’ve found another asexual I could be close to. We could’ve talked about cartoons and comics for hours and days. It would’ve been so fun to have him come comic book shopping every Wednesday with the Warner crew after got our paychecks. He would be part of a clique who would have fed in his need of fantasy who never would’ve found his strange for having so many toys. Bruce Timm, who has the most ornate office filled to the ceiling with Batman toys could probably match Micheal’s toy obsession. Can you imagine the Toys R Us trips those two would have? Whatta trip!
Aw, Michael. I’m sad that you are gone. Perhaps the nest go ’round you can return to Earth to kinder parents and less agonizing fame. You live the life of an animator and be celebrated as a genius who makes millions of people happy just like Glen Keane, James Baxter, Jim Henson and Chuck Jones. Except this time you’ll be able to enjoy the world without body guards, and perhaps nurture an echoing secondary talent left over from your previous life with an evening dance class:)