I was a kid of the 90s; I grew up with the early days of manga globalization and post-surgery Michael Jackson. Friday had been surreal; I woke up and my father told me that Michael Jackson had just passed away. Surreal, because I somehow knew, that Jacko had been dead for a very, very long time — for as long as I can remember. Yet precisely for that reason he was also an immortal.
He was the reason I loved modern art and dances, aspired to work in music, digital painting, and video editing since I was a kid. Somehow I also felt that Baudrillard wouldn’t have made sense to me had I not known Jacko when I encountered him several years back, and had Baudrillard not made sense I would have probably gone on to learn quantum physics, my high-school passion, without glimpsing more into philosophy and cultural theory.
I remembered the day I knew of Jacko. I was five back then. My father had the “Dangerous” album, in the retro audio cassette glory, in the car. I went and looked through the album art. I was pulled in like I had never been before. Then, upon watching Remember the Time, I had fallen in love — with what? With the world of the future that Jacko inhabits. More than any other shows, even children’s shows, it told me that there is a world beyond; a world we have now, decades after Jacko, famously christened “hyperreality”. Michael Jackson introduced us all to a world of the uncanny, where we all betray the boundaries of life and turn into dancing zombies in all our technicolor glory; where every male is female and every white is black; where every consumption becomes a consumption of consumption itself; where every emotion, despair, death, and suicide becomes enjoyment; where every place is a dance floor, every person is a work of art, whose bodies can be modified, constantly transformed into one another, turned into surreal photographs and videos. As Mark Fisher wrote (about Off the Wall, but I feel this in all his works) his dance was “theology, the songs secular hymns to divine disco itself, the impersonal ‘force’, the inhuman drive, that makes life living but has nothing to do with the vital.”
Which is why Michael Jackson was our hero. He was a walking wax sculpture with no real life, a dancing zombie, a mask with no face beneath, a schizoid being disturbed and deviant, a cultural icon that transcends, betrays, and criminalizes sex in one fell swoop; and we all loved him and hated him for all these things. During these times where we are still debating how to box people into the inbetween (the “third sex”, the “subalterned”, etc), how to properly enjoy life and sex, how to be politically correct with other races and cultures, Jacko had since long ago transcended these boxes, “Peter-Pan-like”, as if they were the most trivial things. As imomus said,
He’s black yet also white. He’s adult yet also a child. He’s male yet also female. He’s gay yet also straight. He has children, yet he’s also never fucked their mothers. He’s wearing a mask, yet he’s also showing his real self. He’s walking yet also sliding. He’s guilty yet also innocent. He’s American yet also global. He’s sexual yet also sexless. He’s immensely rich yet also bankrupt. He’s Judy Garland yet also Andy Warhol. He’s real yet also synthetic. He’s crazy yet also sane, human yet also robot, from the present yet also from the future. He declares his songs heavensent, and yet he also constructs them himself. He’s the luckiest man in the world yet the unluckiest. His work is play. He’s bad, yet also good. He’s blessed yet also cursed. He’s alive, but only in theory.
Perhaps much scorn will be upon me from the Leftist community for giving such high praises to an icon of capitalism gone wild, but if many call themselves children of Marx and Coca-Cola, I am a child of Foucault and Michael Jackson. Needless to say my attitude towards culture has never been, and will never be, one of nostalgia, but one of obsessive forward thrusts in present life, Nietzschean and Wildean in the fullest sense, as embodied by the King of Pop himself. I never hated him; not when I learned of how destructive his lifestyle is, not when I learned of his child sexual abuse accusations, not when I see the “repellent whitened sepulchre” he had become; if anything, I love him even more — aren’t artists supposed to go to the end and break borders of sanity altogether? Jacko was a true artist, in both the best and sickest possible sense.
Goodnight, sweet prince. I have never hated you.