Jackson Virus

There are several indications on the tube that tens of millions of lower-middle-class Americans — that plague-culture of coarse, under-educated, fast-food-eating, mall-meandering, Transformers-loving fat asses — are experiencing some kind of profound emotional catharsis over the death of Michael Jackson.

The tipoff for me came last weekend when the folks who live upstairs, the fabled “Hispanic party elephants” who’ve earned their rep and then some by playing loud Latino dance music at all hours and then dancing to it like pachyderm storm troopers, began playing Thriller over and over. That’s when I knew that Jackson Death Mania had spread over-under-sideways-down

Why is Jackson’s legend and memory so big with so many? It’s not just because they loved Jackson’s sugar-pop music but, I suspect (and correct me if I’m wrong) because he lived in a manner that they themselves would love to savor — a kind of whimsically perverted, high-denial, candy-cane existence in which all malignancies are ignored or suppressed in order to satisfy each and every fantasy-dream whim, without compromise or hesitation.

This is why we’re truly doomed — why the country will never do what’s necessary to face much less avert whatever greenhouse-gas, ice-cap-melting apocalypse is coming our way. A nation that worships a monster like Michael Jackson is a nation of undisciplined “I want!”-ers and high-lifestyle drunkards. I don’t want to sound harsh but they’re the kind of manifestations that God wanted to get rid of when he got in touch with Noah. I can hear Morgan Freeman saying to Steve Carell right now, “Things are rancid out there — look at Jermaine Jackson on MSNBC! Look at Joe Jackson! — so I need you to build me a huge ark.”

Jackson lived an absurdly lavish, grossly indulgent lifestyle marked by constant escapes from everything and anything that didn’t feed or support his neurosis — plastic surgeries, all manner of prescription drugs, self-loathing behavior, twisted and predatory sexuality, absurdly reckless spending, and across-the-board Peter Pan values. He was the ultimate fantasy-tripping Frankenstein beast, and now there’s a nation of people out there who are reacting to his death as an excuse to celebrate not just his music but all aspects of the disease.

This tearful, feel-his-pain piece by MCN’s Kim Voynar is nothing short of disgusting. “I never found jokes about Jackson’s life funny while he was alive, and I find them even less funny in the wake of his death. This was a man who’d been used, abused and manipulated from the time he was just a little boy, chewed up and spit out for most of his adult life by the tabloid press, and it baffles me that anyone could find humor in the tragedy of his life and death.” Oh, by all means — let’s all cherish the memory of a ridiculously wealthy man who used the excuse of an abusive childhood to justify the most malignant famous-person behavior in history.

Assemble the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln, John Reed, Isadora Duncan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Alva Edison, James Dean, Bix Biederbeck, Cary Grant, Chet Baker, Michelangelo Antonioni, Edgar Allan Poe, Jimi Hendrix, Lillian Hellman, Federico Fellini, Leland Hayward, Jack Paar, Che Guevara, Django Rinehart, Tallulah Bankhead, Andrew Wyeth, Buddy Holly, Ernest Hemingway, Amelia Earhart, Louise Bryant and Eugene O’Neil, and sit them down before a high-def LCD screen and show them how the news channels are all spraying shorts over the Jackson frenzy, and they’d all be weeping on their knees in a matter of minutes.

The public funeral for Jackson at LA’s Staples Center on Tuesday July 7th is going to be a huge Diane Arbus event, like nothing ever seen or imagined. A Multitude of Grotesques. If I could afford it I would fly the hell out of the country that day, just for the statement value.

In short, a social convulsion of this sort is embarassing and sickening. I don’t live in Michael Jackson nation — millions don’t — but there are so many other millions who are sipping the Kool-Aid right now that it seems as if the whole country has gone nuts. Because the media is paying so much attention to this middle- and lower-middle class movement, because they know that’s where the sales and ratings and page views are.

  • Ghost072

    “dancing to it like pachyderm storm troopers”

    Man, that is classic.

  • lazarus

    Bravo, Jeff. You’re not alone, believe me. I couldn’t stand this creep and most of his soulless, lowest-common-denominator music while he was alive, and to watch this pathetic public catharsis now is even worse–you simply can’t get away from it.

    But be careful where you fly on this fantasy exile: there are other countries (like England, and places in Central/South America) where the fanaticism is just as bad.

  • http://moviebob.blogspot.com MovieBob

    At the end of the day, freakishness or not, in the broad strokes Jackson lived the life that more people want than will EVER admit – even to themselves: Famous and powerful enough to do almost ANYTHING he desired without reprecussion as a reward for a talent which came naturally to him. Take away the “but he was also a nutcase” part, and thats most folks’ idea of heaven on Earth.

  • Ghost072

    A lot of the people you mentioned had their share of demons, Jeff. Sure, maybe they weren’t as pronounced or as accentuated (exacerbated?) by media exposure, but they them all the same. Had Poe or Hemingway lived today, they would have been completely different people I’d bet and neither would have withstood the withering media onslaught that Jackson was under very well. This is not to excuse Jackson’s ultimate faults, but just to say that he was both a damaged soul and a brilliant artist – the rare winner who was also an underdog – and people love an underdog, as well as dragging down a winner.

  • raygo

    Wow. Just when I though that maybe you were too harsh in calling him a monster, I got to paragraph 5, which is as succinct and accurate a description of Jackson as I’ve read anaywhere. Nice job. Still, what way out of this cultural mess?

    CNN is astonishing in its non-stop coverage. They rival Entertainment Tonight. And when I actually wanted some real news this morning, I had to go online to filter out the Jacko craziness.

    The funeral is shaping up to be as undiginified as his last decade. I WISH this was private and done with. We need a grass roots movement that provotes a return to basic civility and personal respect.

  • Howlingman

    Glad my vacation begins tomorrow. Two weeks by the lake. No TV. No internet. No MJ. Bliss.

  • raygo

    Typing without my glasses this afternoon.

  • Wrecktem

    “I don’t want to sound harsh but…”

    Ha ha.

    Wells, you misanthrope, you do know that MJ worship extends far past the U.S., don’t you?

  • joefilm1

    What’s even more interesting is your pathetic, self-absorbed (and surprise, timidly racial) response to other people’s emotional reactions. Why do you care so much? Sickening? Really? Give me a break. I have been astounded at the level of “I’m so sick of the MJ coverage” from people– who I’m sure have listened to his tunes this week. Well, I’m sick of hearing about how people are sick of it. It’s absolutely not necessary to get so riled up about the response of others to his death. It’s not harming you, and not harming society in any measurable way. False outrage over something that will fade quite quickly from our collective conscious. At least unlike, say, Anna Nicole, the guy had talent and shared it. Next.

  • BarryR

    I’m exhausted switching channels to escape Dead Jackson mania. I could see it approaching like a tsunami the moment the news was announced.

  • bents75

    I think you’re reading too much into it – I think people realize he’s dead so there’s no point dwelling on his ongoing weirdness, and they now have an excuse to embrace his music without considering the eccentric and perverse life he no longer lives. He’s no longer a strange person, now he’s simply a legend (who will be whispered about in the background as having been grotesque).

    I mean just look at the business he’s created by dying – 3.3 million digital downloads last week (legal) – versus 52,000 in total the week before. That’s a ridiculous jump.

    And the record companies are just ringing their hands with glee – his death was just about the best thing that could have happened to them. The only thing that would have been better for them is if he had died 10-15 years ago instead.

    I was just reading he supposedly has dozens and dozens of unreleased musical tracks stored in a vault which they can now take advantage of since he isn’t around to have a say in it. They’ll be releasing his albums for a couple more decades if they spread it out enough.

    He’ll be like Tupac or Notorious B.I.G and end up releasing more music in death then he ever did while he was alive. And all there is to accompany it going forward is a name, instead of tabloid stories.

    I’m not personally buying into it – but I think it’s perfectly understandable.

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    Even though it’s my era and Thriller was the uninvited soundtrack of my youth, I’m not a fan. That said, even I would question calling his music “sugar pop.” That’s Debbie Gibson, Tiffany and Rick Astley territory.

    When it comes to music, you seem way out of your depth, Jeff.

    For my wife and I, Jackson’s death seems like another milestone telling us we have indeed become middle-aged as the icons of our formative years begin to succumb more or less naturally. My very in-shape business partner suffered a mild heart attack in his late 40’s.

  • EdHavens

    We’re doomed because people who proclaim not to care about Jackson won’t stop talking about him.

    The quicker we can divert the masses’ attention with another pop culture crisis, the better.

  • bluefugue

    Do people worship Jackson because of his eccentric and bizarre lifestyle, though? I’m not sure I accept that premise. I think probably people have this quasi-reverent attitude because of the magnitude of celebrity he achieved, irrespective of his peculiar private life or his fondness for excess (though to some extent, celebrity is intermingled with such characteristics in general — we raise up weird human statues so we can envy and detest them at the same time).

    Michael Jackson was a megastar, on the level of an Elvis or a Sinatra (though granted, Sinatra’s death didn’t get this kind of attention — possibly in part because he was well into his ’80s when he passed). He had an unusually large pop culture impact, which I think is why people are so wrapped up in all this — though the weird personal life gives it a frisson of drama.

    Was Jackson’s music good enough to deserve a place in megastardom alongside Elvis, Beatles, Sinatra? Probably not, but it was pretty goddamn good.

  • BoshBarnetWonkyDonkey

    They should remake Falling Down with Jeffrey Wells in the D-FENS role.

  • Hispanic party elephant

    When you consider the reaction to the death of a z-lister like Anna Nicole Smith, the Michael Jackson coverage seems almost tepid in comparison.

  • caslab

    When I was growing up, I used to tell myself that my generation would never be like the navel-gazing, nostalgia-huffing baby boomers who canonized every tiny shred of their childhood, including toothpaste commercials.

    But we’re worse.

    It’s a cold comfort, but most of these people aren’t mourning the loss of this monster, they’re mourning the loss of their youth.

  • Travis Crabtree

    This honestly reads like a parody of a Jeffrey Wells rant. (w/o the thread count mention)

    Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with just about every word of it.

  • Travis Crabtree

    How’s THIS for perspective…. here is ABC News’ announcement on the death of Jimi Hendrix…. (a true artist, btw)…
    stuck on the end of the broadcast and read with an undeniable air of contempt…


  • Wrecktem

    “It’s a cold comfort, but most of these people aren’t mourning the loss of this monster, they’re mourning the loss of their youth.”

    Yup, yup. It’s got little to do with Jackson himself, who people really don’t care about, nor his music, which is fun pop dance music with zero lyrical depth. It’s nostalgia for their youth and the shock of his early death.

    This back at the death of Princess Di. She contributed even less to society than Jackson, yet the outpouring of anguish at her death was unparalleled. Folks get really wrapped up in the premature death of the very famous, and it’s something we all have to live with.

  • MilkMan

    Michael Jackson is the physical manifestation of the soul of this country: infantile, grandiose and body dysmorphic. No one wants to be who they are, everyone wants to be the fantasy version of themselves, and he was on the cutting edge of the pathology. Had he not turned out to have severe and chronic issues with his sexuality, or lack thereof, he would have been ever more ubiquitous over the last 15 years because America loves nothing more than a black man who wants to be white.

    Joefilm1: stop

  • Wrecktem

    What would Wells have written about the death of Valentino?

  • George Prager

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  • Sean

    “He was your Elvis, and when your Elvis dies, so does the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure.”


  • http://moviemaniac2002 moviemaniac2002

    The MJ frenzy fascinates me in ita almost
    laser-precision amnesia….the mob has confined its grief and accolades to the 80’s
    Jackson…..erased from the collective memory
    is the monstrous, bleached-skinned pedophile.

    What all this reminds me of, more and more, is the unforgettable, grisly climax of Nathaniel
    West’s “Day Of The Locust”…(clumsily handled in the movie, but brilliantly written in the novel)
    West’s mob – embittered, broken-hearted, dream-shattered Los Angelenos – finally vent and rampage, vomiting out all the pop-culture ‘rich/famous & happy’ progaganda they’ve been spoon fed to keep them docile.
    But rest easy…no riots today…now we have the internet/TMZ/CNN/E News/ etc,etc to soothe
    and stroke the mob with a 24/7 carnival of death in which everyone near a laptop can chime in.
    And yet with the constant flow of information…virtually NO comment, observation or discussion about the overwhelming tragedy of
    MJ’s life….how the world’s most popular entertainer devolved into something not even
    recognizably human….(to use the “Day Of The Locust’ comparision…I’m guessing any such discussion would rile the grieving mob like
    West’s…when they saw Homer stomping on the
    repulsive little boy)

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Caslab just said, “It’s a cold comfort, but most of these people aren’t mourning the loss of this monster, they’re mourning the loss of their youth.”

    You know something? I’ll buy that to some extent.

    People who were tweeners and teens in the ’80s when Jackson first broke big-time with Thriller are suddenly feeling (and for the first time, I’m guessing) the tug of mortality. One of their own has eaten himself alive and before his time. Take away the young-boy fondling and the payoffs and the drug abuse and the European hotel room baby-dangling and the endless plastic surgery operations and the skin bleachings and all the other manifestations of Jackson’s enormous sickness, and this is sort of like the death of John Lennon in 1980 — the first time that boomers suddenly felt older and susceptible from a “death in the family.”

  • PopcornEyeglass

    “Assemble the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln, John Reed, Isadora Duncan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Alva Edison, James Dean, Bix Biederbeck, Cary Grant, Chet Baker, Michelangelo Antonioni, Edgar Allen Poe, Jimi Hendrix, Lillian Hellman, Federico Fellini, Leland Hayward, Jack Paar, Che Guevara, Jango Rinehart, Tallulah Bankhead, Andrew Wyeth, Buddy Holly, Ernest Hemingway, Amelia Earheart, Louise Bryant and Eugene O’Neil, and sit them down before a high-def LCD screen and show them how the news channels are all spraying shorts over the Jackson frenzy, and they’d all be weeping on their knees in a matter of minutes.”

    This is the dumbest paragraph I’ve ever read on this site.

  • Joel

    I admit a certain fascination with Jackson’s death. But it’s hardly because I idolize him. I find his life sad and compelling in the same manner that I am every time I watch Charles Foster Kane slip slowly into isolation and madness.

    His death saddens me not when I think of what he became, but when I revisit what he was – a man with the world at his feet who couldn’ overcome his own broken psyche.

    I have listened to his music a bit, but I hardly feel I’m celebrating his life, since it just depresses me.

  • Phatang!

    I can’t believe so many of you got past the first paragraph.

  • nemo

    And in much more important news, Karl Malden, a much more important American entertainer, died yesterday at age 97.



  • Kristopher Tapley

    I didn’t get past the first word of the headline. I think we all knew where it was going, so why feed the beast?

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to PopcornEyeglass: Can I say something here? If you really and truly believe that the above-quoted graph, which merely says that people of acclaimed character and creativity from America’s past would be sickened and appalled if they could somehow witness their countrymen responding with such sadness and convulsion to the life and death of one of the most perverse boy-monsters in human history, then you are absolutely one of the most clueless people I’ve ever encountered on this site or in real life. No offense.

  • http://somecamerunning.typepad.com.com Glenn Kenny

    Chet Baker was a fine artist and all, but I honestly don’t believe he would weep if you sat him down in front of a Hi-Def LCD screen and showed him all the Michael Jackson coverage. Rather, he would pretend to pay attention for a minute, then look distracted, tell you he just remembered something, ask you to “borrow” thirty bucks or so, and then run out to go cop, and you’d never see him again. And then after you’ve been out late one evening, when you get home your Hi-Def LCD screen will have been stolen. Just saying.

  • http://www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com maxfm
  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to Kenny: That’s pretty good.

  • Spicerpalooza

    I would have been upset if Prince had died. MJ had been irrelevant for 15 years.

  • George Prager

    Actually, before he ran out to cop, Baker would’ve looked back at the screen, just as the photos of the paramedics trying to revive MIchael were broadcast and muttered: “They’re messing up his high.”

  • Travis Crabtree

    Genius, Glenn Kenny.

  • George Prager

    Actually, Abraham Lincoln would’ve told an anal sex joke, John Reed would’ve muttered something about bougeois individualism, Isadora Duncan would’ve disparaged his dancing, F.Scott Fitzgerald would’ve compared him to his wife, Thomas Alva Edison would’ve boasted about his original phonograph, James Dean would ask what exactly Elizabeth Taylor saw in this freak, Bix Biederbeck would’ve tried to score off of Chet Baker, Grant would’ve noticed his resemblance to Dyan Cannon, Baker would’ve left the room already without anyone noticing. Antonioni would’ve said nothing, Edgar Allen Poe would’ve tried to score off of Chet Baker, Jimi Hendrix would’ve said that he was a groovy cat, Lillian Hellman would’ve lied about meeting him, Fellini would’ve mentioned La Dolce Vita, Hayward would’ve asked for a beige colored meal, Jack Paar would’ve made a quip about Emmet Kelly that no one got except Grant, Hellman and Hemingway,
    Che Guevara would’ve hit on Louise Bryant, Django Rhineheart would’ve disparaged Eddie Van Halen’s solo in “Beat It”, Tallulah Bankhead would’ve commented on how attractive Janet was, Andrew Wyeth would’ve said nothing, Buddy Holly would’ve bitched about Waylon Jennings, Ernest Hemingway would’ve asked for a drink, asked Che if he wanted one, then talked about Cuba, boring the shit out of everyone, Amelia Earheart would’ve remarked that if CNN was around when she dissppeared she would’ve been found. Louise Bryant would’ve tried to get Che’s attention without John Reed noticing. Eugene O’Neil would’ve called Louise a slut.

  • PopcornEyeglass

    1. “Boymonster” or not, Jackson was a figure of seismic importance in terms of changing American music, and I think you can both appreciate that and realize that his life also became a grotesque nightmare.

    2. What the fuck do Abraham Lincoln and Che Guevara have to do with anything?

    3. You spelled Django Reinhardt and Amelia Earhart wrong. Burger-muncher!

  • bondjamesbond

    Apparently nobody knows how easy it is to cut off the media, or otherwise they’re living in some kind of Guantanamo hellhole where they blast it at you and you can’t get away, in which case do a little foward thinking and move. But I suspect, instead, that people (including, or perhaps especially, Jeff) have their own addiction to being hyped, then disappointed and upset, and after all bitching about it. Its as if the whole constructed-for-profit persona of some media properties, think TMZ or ______ is only for the purpose of snark and bitch. But bitching has questionable critical or social value, has never accomplished much, and if one is addicted to it he/she might be better off injecting his/her own daily Demerol. Much as I found Michael Jackson rather disgusting, at least he was not known as a bitch. He seems to have had a rather sweet disposition (drug-assisted, no doubt), especially given the context of his life, which was largely imposed on him rather than chosen, as it is with most bitches.

  • Steven Kar

    George Prager has obviously spent some time on Wikipedia today.

  • p.Vice

    This might be my favorite HE post ever. I wish you got this mad when it comes to movies.

  • MarkVH

    I just love that he got through all 700+ words of the thing and the only real movie reference he made was to Evan Almighty.

    But agreed, one of the best HE posts ever. Just awesome.

  • DarthCorleone

    I do think it’s much more about the music than any desire for the “candy-cane” existence. Think about how many Thriller albums were sold and how popular MJ was in the 80s. He might not have been relevant musically for the last 15 years, but his music was extremely relevant in its time, very pervasive, and very influential to this day. I think bents75 assessed the situation well. I’d also add that I agree caslab’s loss-of-youth theory makes a lot of sense.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to believe that many people are connecting to MJ “personally.” How could that many people who would seem otherwise normal relate so deeply to someone who over and over again exhibited bizarre or extreme outlier behavior? That’s not necessarily an indictment of MJ, but it seems to me that Bubbles, Neverland, The Elephant Man, etc., dictate that this level of obsession has to be about the music and his onstage persona. Most people given that level of fortune wouldn’t be quite that eccentric, or at least I don’t think they would. Even if MJ’s unusual behaviors were more a product of his nurturing, his celebrity from such a young age, his removal from any normal sort of upbringing, and the alleged abuse, those behaviors are still outright unusual and personally distancing.

  • byanyother

    Oh do you mean, then, that those in Japan, France, England and various countries throughout the world who worship Michael Jackson are also doomed? Surely you mean all people and not just Americans? Surely you know how famous he is throughout the world and how much the entire world is mourning, not just fat and lazy Americans?

    And who will save us from ourselves, you? I think you write a hilarious “laugh at how crazy Jeff Wells is” post, but I think, as usual, you miss the bigger picture and fail to deliver any sort of profound thoughts on the topic. Kim Voynar is far more eloquent.

  • KC

    The boldface stuff never fails to kill me, makes me think of Wells as Jackie Harvey’s schizophrenic uncle.

    Anyway forgive me if I don’t take opinions on pop music or the embarrassing fixations and emotional displays of a generation too seriously coming from a dude who bought that Woodstock box set


    The first audio casette I ever bought was Bad. The first CD I bought was Dangerous. The first dance move I ever tried to learn was the moonwalk (I’m still a terrible dancer, but it gives me great joy). The reason I’m on this board is because I borrowed my dad’s camera and tried to recreate the effects in the Smooth Criminal video, which gradually led to making short films and trying to get in to the business. The best album of last year IMO was Lindstrom’s “Where You Go I Go Too”, which opened with a 30-minute track clearly inspired by bthe beats of “Thriller”. I was born in 1980, and I don’t think it’s unusual for him to exercise this much influence over people of my generation, based on experience.

    Yes he became a monster, a manifestation of the diseased American Fantasy, and I couldn’t give two shits about him after he was accused of molesting a kid my own age. But I think people here may have gotten a slightly skewered view of why people have started to re-embrace his music. I love Rosemary’s Baby, despite Polanski’s misdeeds. I see the genius of Leni Riefenstahl.

    He was a born entertainer, and while it all seems to have stemmed from tragedy and abuse, carried along through the generations, a guy who made us dance, who danced like no one else ever, well… For people who grew up to love dance music, that’s worth something. Throw in being the artists with the most innovative videos of all time (except Aphex Twin, maybe), and the natural weakness for nostalgia inherent in most people, and I think we can all GET it, even as we see how it makes fools of all of us. Still sort of agree with the thesis, though.

  • ErrantElan

    I see this entire conversation as an interesting look at a certain racial/cultural nexus that involves concepts like “black music” and “dance music”, along with “artistic credibility”.

    Dance music has, and probably never will have, very much respect within the white community at large – they may see it as fun to go out to a club and let their hair down, but rarely do they listen to it at home. UNLESS, of course, they happen to be……12 year old girls.

    And that’s one element I find so interesting about the argument I’ve heard many of my black friends make about how culturally important Michael Jackson’s music was. They’ll be trying to justify him to an artsyish white musicologist and they’ll say something like “but he influenced so many urban/dance musicians today, both black and white, like Beyonce and Usher, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears”. And all I can think to myself, because the white artsy person won’t actually say it, is how they’re literally think that this is Mickey Mouse Club music.

  • ErrantElan

    And let it be said, to clear up, that I don’t personally consider MIchael Jackson to be “Mickey Mouse Club” music. I think his unworldly dancing abilities, not to mention his amazing ability to not only write a lot of his own music, but create some truly, supremely memorably pop music melodies, do indeed position him as a musical talent extraordinaire.

    I just think the argument for his influence is ridiculous. It’d be like saying “The Beatles were great, because look how popular Nickleback are, and they’re rock!”


    ErrantElan, I think that’s an American perspective only. I’m Norwegian, as white as can get and on my way to Sunkissed to dance all night to Space Disco. Dance music is bigger than rock’n’roll many places in Europe, and from Justice to Daft Punk it’s all very influenced by eighties Michael Jackson. And as much as I hate to admit it due to my utter disdain for boy bands and all that comes out of it, Justin Timberlake ain’t half bad. Even Radiohead started making dance music when there weren’t any more Pixies riffs to steal (by their own admission). It’s only in the U.S that this is some kind of resurgence of Jackson. He’s been the go-to guy for the last decade over here whenever the DJ feels indulgent and wants a sure-fire way to make people dance.

  • Rod32303

    Other than Hendrix, all those listed in that dead people spinning paragraph are, well…


    Nothing but opinions stated as fact as usual from the usual suspects. Meanwhile, this Jackson circus goes on.

    Again, vansmith said it better than any of this bullshit. If you were not emotionally connected to the man’s music, then you feel like Jeffrey Wells. If you WERE, in any honest way, then you dug Michael Jackson. I was 13 when Elvis died – we had no CNN, but it was all anyone talked of and all you saw on network news and newspapers and magazines for a month. A MONTH! And the Diana of Wales coverage went on even more than this.

    Have some perspective.

    And get over yourselves, please. This shit will all be done after next week, a little news bite here and there afterward. All of this is as bad as the overdone coverage, but I smile in the fact that the haters still haven’t won – those “other” millions mentioned above? STRONG group of people, and all the nanny-nanny boo boo name calling takes away nothing of the influence “Frankenstein” had on generations of people, especially black folk who loved him as a little prodigy and hung in there with him through the grotesque. It is no doubt hard with this oversaturation, but R.I.P MJ>

  • ErrantElan

    Yes, Magga, I agree, I’m talking about American culture, because that’s where the vast majority of black music originates and spiritually comes from.

    Dance music is big in Europe among whites because there aren’t that many black people. The cultural divide isn’t nearly as pronounced, or even possible, because, let’s face it, much of Europe, particularly your neck of the woods, is overwhelmingly white, and the non-white population is more made up of immigrants, mostly recent.

    I’m talking about a uniquely African-American cultural strain, a people I consider, inarguably really, to be the most culturally important minority in the world.

  • George Prager

    “George Prager has obviously spent some time on Wikipedia today.”

    No WIkipedia. That would be cheating. This thread has become a real drag BTW.


    So you’re saying white people in America don’t like dance music because it’s black culture? I find that fascinating. I completely agree about African-Americans being the most culturally important minority in the world, and I am aware that Elvis became an icon because he made black music accessible to whites etc, but you’re suggesting something deeper, I think.

  • ErrantElan

    And, Magga, may I point out that your contention that in Europe…. “He’s been the go-to guy for the last decade over here whenever the DJ feels indulgent and wants a sure-fire way to make people dance.”

    …that’s exactly what I said in my post. It’s very much the same way in America, with white Americans….go to any bar or club, from New York City to Columbia, Missouri, and put on an 80’s Michael Jackson song and all the white kids will shriek, and will jump up and start dancing. But the point I was making is that they see at as primarily a kitschy, fun, energetic thing to do while out in public with other young people.

    They don’t go home and put on an Usher or Britney Spears record.

    Justin Timberlake might be an exception.

  • ErrantElan

    No, you’re being overly simplistic. I’m not suggesting that white people don’t like urban music. I’m saying they don’t often make it the cornerstone of their musical lives as they may in Europe, primarily for subtle reasons that aren’t really cultural reality in lily-white European worlds.

    Look at an interview the black British musician Craig David once gave, concerning his absolute shock that when he came over with his R&B band from London that had white members in it, black radio stations and video channels were hesitant to show it because they were afraid of a black backlash, i.e. “there are enough white musicians on other channels, this channel is for US”. You don’t get that kind of divide in Norway because it’s not possible. It’s not a slam on either Norway or the US, but things are much more complicated here.


    “This thread has become a real drag BTW.”

    Why? Has it degenerated beneath “Michael Jackson has a fake nose and picks poo from small boys’ asses and everyone who has fond memories of him is a fat stupid dumb fuck who needs to be murdered by God”?

  • mccool

    Che Guavera? You went off the rails with that. Had to slip him in there, didn’t you?

    Anyway, when people die, rarely do we mourn for them. We mourn for ourselves, for our loss, for the hole their departure leaves in our lives. They’re being greeted at the gates by deceased loved ones, or zipping around the cosmos, or getting busy with virgins, whatever it is that you believe … it’s over for them and they’re either better off or don’t know any better. It’s blackness or bliss, so what’s their to mourn for but our own sense of loss?

  • warmsounds


    Big fan of this site. I read it everyday and as a film lover, I appreciate the content that goes into this site.

    Having said that, I really wish you’d avoid subjects that were not film related (with the exception of politics). I feel like you get off the tracks a bit when things like pop culture come into play. I could have just bypassed this entry, so maybe I’m guilty of reading all your words on Michael, but it really left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    This coverage on Michael is to be expected. He was the most famous man in the world. The public knew of him and his talent since he was a little boy, singing songs (that still hold up today) with his brothers. The public got a chance to see this young boy morph into the biggest pop star in the world. And not only that, the music he created in his peak as a solo artist (1978 – 1988) changed popular music forever. Forget “sugar pop”. What he did with Quincy Jones starting with “Off The Wall” changed the way pop music was made from that moment forward.

    His negative traits (skin bleaching, plastic surgery, lavish lifestyle, child molestation accusations) certainly adds to the circus of media coverage going on right now. But at the same time, had Elvis died in 2009 at age 42 via drugs, you can’t tell me the press response would be any different. We live in a world of internet and 24 cable news cycles, mentioning past figures and how they would be “weeping” is totally irrelevant. The world changes, media is constantly changing, given Michael’s dramatic and sad last part of life (1993 and on) this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. If anything I’d like to hope and think that his issues with prescription drugs will call attention to the massive problem that is celebs and their drug enablers (often times being doctors who won’t say “no”).

    It’s your website Jeff, I’ll continue to read it everyday and maybe skip over your posts that are not film related, but I think you’re totally missing the mark on this one. Michael was the greatest singer/performer living. Demons and all, his life really does deserve the attention it is getting after his last breathe.

  • mccool

    there, there, there….

    …and Jeff, we always mythologize our heroes, tending to overlook or rationalize their bad traits. Again, Che? The guy’s buried up to his neck in the 9th circle and you idolize him. For some reason, you don’t want to allow people to do this with Jackson.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to warmsounds: Guys like you are ubiquitous and you don’t quit. “I like your site, Jeff, but would you please not write about this-or-that topic because you don’t know anything about it?” Is it okay if I say “eff you”? No? Okay, I won’t say it then.

  • S.M.

    I’m gonna make a blanket, over-generalizaton, just like the post does.

    I just had a, maybe 25-ish year old guy install some screen doors. As I’m sitting here reading this and other stuff online, his phone rings a couple of times. Ringtone?
    PYT, from Thriller.

    I honestly don’t think he cares one whit about what MJ became (well, maybe he does, I mean, a good part of the mourning and media frenzy is due to that)…he just likes the music. And will continue to.
    And he’s not overweight or from Middle America. I’m not sure he was even born in the US, given his accent. And I don’t know about his education.

    And just as he just likes the music, so do I. I’m 44. Graduated college. Try not to eat fast food.
    Own the Transformers blu-ray cause…well, I’m not sure why. I won’t go see the 2nd one.
    I also own Seventh Seal, 400 Blows and every Kubrick. And Bonnie & Clyde. Tons of high and low-fallutin blu-rays and DVDs.
    So much for the over-simplifying description of MJ fans.

    I’ve got lots of good memories tied to MJ, and sure, the media circus is overwhelming. So was the media circus around his trial. And the media circus during his 2 years of sheer domination of the music scene 83-84.
    The guy just had ‘that’ pull.
    And all the blogging, posting, and talking-heading will never figure out why.

    Except that people liked the music. Lots of people. Not everyone of course. Just a whole lot. And not in a Transformers makes 200 mil kinda way or MC Hammer sold this many albums in a brief time kinda way. No one will remember Transformers in 2 months and if anyone has fond memories of MC Hammer, its due to him ripping off Rick James for one mega-hit.

    We’re 25 years since Thriller, and 40 years since Jackson 5 exploded. The guy died too young, had a white hot spotlight on him for 40 years of his life, much of his or familial doings, and lots of people just like the music.

    Gonna go put on an old Jacksons cut now…

  • Anonymous Bosch

    People who were tweeners and teens in the ’80s when Jackson first broke big-time with Thriller are suddenly feeling (and for the first time, I’m guessing) the tug of mortality.

    I was 12 when ‘Thriller’ came out and it meant absolutely nothing to me. There were records like ‘English Settlement’, ‘Before Hollywood’, ‘Murmur’, ‘The Dreaming’ and ‘Remain In Light’ that displayed their intelligence and showed curiousity about the larger world to listen to.

    But i’m sick of hearing this tenuous theory that the death of a celebrity reminds any generation, no matter how percious and coddled, of their fleeting mortality. Most of the tweeners and teens at the time would be close to 40 by now.

    Not expecting sympathy, but just presenting facts:

    A classmate died of Cancer when I was 10, and my paternal grandfather died the year before ‘Thriller’ came out. My best friends sister died at 8, his mother at 12, and his father at 18. I watched a man die of a heart attack during a hike when I was 17, and had watched my maternal grandfather waste away of Cancer at 18. My maternal grandmother died when I was 22 of Mycenia Gravis.

    My aunt’s baby was stillborn when I was 25. My uncle committed suicide at 28. My aunt died of Cancer 3 years back, my parternal grandmother has been hospitalised for 9 months after a stroke, and i’m in currently nursing my mother through her third round of chemotherapy in 5 years.

    Yet, apparantly, Michael Jackson, who sung bland, trite dance music, and who expected me to be wowed into slack-jawed amazement by that stupid Culkin Kid, some basketball player and the fat guy from Cheers, is supposed to be my first reminder of mortality.

    *Rolls eyes*.

    And if John Lennon reminded the Boomers of mortality, what do you think the Anti-Draft and Peace movements were all about. Boomers, many of whom would have lost older family members in Vietnam, weren’t that naive either.

    The media exists purely to propogate itself, and people are drama queens, who love nothing more than to selfishly make something unrelated All About Them.

  • ErrantElan

    Hmm, Bosch, you make a good argument, but I think you may be missing the point somewhat.

    I think there’s a difference between what you’re describing, which is more like a simple, sad awareness of death, and the “mortality” that the other posters were referring to, which is more about YOUR OWN lifespan, in a temporal sense, passing you by. Pop culture is an excellent measuring stick for the passage of time.

    I’m probably not explaining it that well, but I think there’s a subtle difference. Perhaps saying “aware of mortality” was a bad phrase from the beginning, and that’s all. I think it’s more like “suddenly more aware of one’s OWN mortality due to the passing of time”. After all, the deaths you mentioned above are (or are at least supposed to be) outside the norm….most people die of natural causes in old age.

  • Nate West

    Sorry, but I don’t believe that anyone is envying Jackson’s chosen form of “existence.” He represents, rather, a popular culture “demi-glace,” reduced and intensified over and over again. Peter Pan, the Elephant Man, Vincent Price, Disneyland–Jackson’s hooks are in practically every strand of American pop culture. Thus, when he disappears, this vast web reverberates far and wide across the land.

    It’s happened before. In fact, this “freak show” element, with its celebrities and scandals, has long been a facet of the American experience: P.T. Barnum, Tod Browning, Buffalo Bill Cody,
    Aimee Semple McPherson, etc.

    What’s new is the sheer volume of the stuff, abetted by media technology that Never Leaves Us Alone. But one can turn it off–as I do–and go back to work.

  • Tim

    this is easily a top 5 Wells post ever.

    when you get a good rant going, that has the benefit of ringing true, you’re the best.

  • dangovich

    Bosch, do you need any help patting yourself on the back?

  • Gaydos

    I’ll confess to not reading EVERY word written about the death of MJ, but I haven’t seen anyone connecting him to Reagan.

    MJ, the Material Ghoul Madonna and Ron’s Reaganomics are all inextricably linked and the only one still burping and cashing checks is Madge.

    So far, that error-a has given us the affliction of unregulated Wall Street run amuck, Hollywood blockbuster addiction, a music industry dominated by shuck, jive and lip gloss, amongst other blights.

    I’m pretty torn up by the Harve Presnell thing though.

  • George Prager

    Bosch is da bomb! Something tells me that his pompous 12 year-old ass wasn’t sitting around listening to The Go-Betweens. Give me a fucking break.

  • ZayTonday

    Enough about all this, BILLY MAYS IS DEAD. That’s the real heart wrencher.

  • warmsounds


    “guys like me are ubiquitous?” In what way may I ask? I’m defending why Michael Jackson was such a prolific artist, what made him the most influential pop star breathing until last week. You dismissed his music as “sugar pop” and ranted about the non stop coverage. Could I do without the ongoing stories on TV right now? About his children, how he died? Of course. But it’s the nature of the beast. The most famous person in the world died due to prescription drugs. It’s going to be a story that won’t end for some time, given the circumstances and who he was. That can annoy you all you want, but don’t tell me this coverage is unexpected, etc.

    I didn’t expect you to exactly thank me for asking you to stick to the film coverage vs. your takes on anything but that subject matter. It’s your website, cover whatever you want. I personally am going to skip the entries about anything but film related topics, because that’s when this website becomes less about your journalism and more about your life and view on other unrelated subjects.

    I never stated you don’t know what you’re talking about, I just think your wrong about Michael in this specific situation.

  • warmsounds

    Comment 64,

    That “bland, trite, dance music” artist sold 750 million records in his lifetime.

  • free games

    Wow good work Jeff!