Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Dethroned Kings and Un-Smooth Criminals: Final Thoughts on Michael Jackson and Conrad Murray

Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor, has been found guilty.  This is a good thing, as I believe that he is.  Murray's primary defense, the notion that Jackson injected himself with the lethal dose of Propofol, never made much sense to me.  Jackson hardly seemed like a prime candidate for suicide, at least not in 2009.  He liked the lights too much to off himself, and the problem with post-mortem adulation is that it's difficult to bask in once you've relocated to a pine box in the ground.  Had Jackson died in the immediate wake of the first round of child abuse allegations, I'd have thought that suicide was a possibility.  By 2009, Jackson was looking for his comeback.  Which he ultimately got, of course, but I strongly doubt he was looking to dirt-nap through it.

I'm sure Murray never meant to pull the plug on the King of Pop.  It was hardly in his best financial interest to do so; after all, corpses no longer have much need for highly-paid personal physicians.  The picture painted of him in Jackson's last hours by the prosecution is a chilling one: a man too distracted by cell-phone calls to his various girlfriends to notice that the most famous living human being on the planet was dying right in front of him.  How much of that is the result of dramatic license is certainly open to conjecture.  Only two people know the truth: the corpse, who isn't giving out as many interviews as he used to, and the accused, who clearly wouldn't think twice about bending the truth.  Et voila: the perfect villain.  Jackson's family and many fans finally have someone to well and truly blame for his death, and that will hopefully move them a good distance closer to closure.

There is one other thing to consider here.  Had Murray's negligence not killed Jackson, I'd still have had a hard time imagining him making old bones.  Jackson was destined to die of being Michael Jackson, of being Elvis Presley, of being a guy whose fame took him so far past the outer boundaries of any available map that there was simply no way back.  This doesn't absolve Murray, mind you, who should absolutely have to pay the price for being at best a quack.  Were it not for those pesky abuse allegations, Jackson would be a completely sympathetic figure, a guy who by all accounts probably never lived a "normal" day in his life.  A man who lived his entire adult life stuck in childhood as the result of never having one of his own.  You've all heard it all before.

But there are those pesky abuse allegations, and they do make Jackson's legacy more difficult than it otherwise would be for me.  I've never been completely convinced of Jackson's guilt; quite frankly, there were few celebrities riper for blackmailing than the Most Famous Man In The World, especially given his penchant for eccentric behavior.  On the other hand, I've never been one to jump on the MICHAEL WAS FRAMED bandwagon, either: there was enough smoke surrounding him to suggest fire.  The very fact that he felt it appropriate to share his bed with pre-pubescent boys was creepy as hell, even if he was not actually guilty of any untoward conduct.  And then there was the petting zoo, and the alleged Jesus Juice, and so on.  Even if all of Jackson's actions were completely on the level, anyone not blinded by hero worship would have to admit that the whole scene looked a bit off.

So what, then, is Jackson's legacy?  For me, it's Off the Wall.  That's a hell of an album, regardless of how whacked in the head the guy on the cover may have been.  I love the same Jackson 5 hits that everyone else with a pulse loves, I admire Thriller even if over-exposure has rendered much of it stale for me, and the rest is hit and miss.  As for the man himself, perhaps he should be seen as a golden opportunity for us to instill in our children a healthy understanding of the difference between the performance and the performer, and how it's perfectly fine - healthy, even - to enjoy the former while having your misgivings about the latter.

No comments:

Post a Comment