On the passing of an icon

I know that there are many out there who are truly mourning the passing of Michael Jackson. I don’t understand that level of grief for someone not actually involved in one’s life, but I can understand that these emotions are very real for these men and women.

I remember seeing this same behavior when John Lennon and Kurt Kobain died. And, of course, Diana. There was a very public grieving process as we dealt with the September 11 attacks, which has been repeated in Madrid and London and too many other cities to remember.

I guess what concerns me is that instead of mourning well or even appropriately, the media culture we live in feeds the basest emotions that we all have. The tendency toward melodrama and overstatement.

For instance, people have been tossing out the idea that MJ was the “Greatest Entertainer of All Time.” Not sure that we can really quantify that, but there are at least a dozen men and women who could compete quite easily for that crown – it’s just that none of them are recently deceased.

Then there’s the obsessive coverage of every little detail of his life, his home (and former home) and the funeral service. Not to mention the craziness that will be the settling of his affairs. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Matt Lauer of the Today show walking through the completely empty chateau at Neverland – describing what used to be in each room. I mean really, what is the “news” there?

I suspect that there are many people reacting emotionally to this news in lieu of the anxiety, anger, sadness and loss of control they feel in these difficult economic times. Or may be mourning the loss of someone whose passing they let go by before. Or never quite got past. There are many people who had put much passion and energy into being MJ fans.

I wonder if our level of celebrity worship has gotten so high that we’ve built up some sort of tolerance. We don’t even notice it anymore.

Regardless of the why’s and how’s – our family has opted out of the national obsession. We have made a few jokes (some more tasteless than others). We have explained to the FPK that he wasn’t always the strange-looking man whose behavior outshone his music. We have said our very brief goodbyes and moved on. No TV tonight. No commemorative issues of magazines (though we’ll do that for Macca and Dylan, I suspect). No rushing to buy music. Just moving on.


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