Friday, June 26, 2009

Death of Michael Jackson

Who killed Cock Robin ?

The sense of loss when a public icon dies is real. We identify these figures with important moments of our lives. I in no way mean to mock that, but the very potency of the psychological attachment raises some disturbing questions. First, the way the mourning and recapitulation of life and career takes over the news cycle implies a judgment on the part of those selecting the news; projecting the death of a pop star front center on the stage of unfolding history suggests something not entirely right with our collective mental health.

Equally significant: what happens to the object of this public idolatry when the charismatic force is rooted in impossible fantasies, fantasies the stars feel compelled to vicariously live out, a kind of sacrifice, so the fans can have the juice and still go about their normal lives? It would take a remarkably grounded individual to resist the temptation to make those fantasies real: the one about never-ending childish innocence, for instance. MJ must have been especially vulnerable, never having had the opportunity to experience the normal stages of disappointment/loss/impotence of will/and then adjustment that turns us into mature adults.

The self-destructive character of so many ‘stars’ is not simply an individual failure: it’s a cooperative relationship, for the fans, a dance of fantasized life, a dance of death for their celebrated star.

If only he had felt called upon in the “love” he so much needed from his fans, to write a song about growing up… about growing old… How much of that feeling of loss is guilt at knowing we were watching and encouraging a man on a journey that no one could survive?  


  1. just been taking about this with friends - the impossibility of living up to expectations thrust onto one at an impossibly young age.

    This is not a new phenomenon though - look what happened to Caligula!

  2. Makes me cringe every time I see another brilliantly talented child prodigy put on display. Public adulation is as empty as it is seductive and powerful.

  3. Caligula's sister didn't fare too well either...

  4. Now that was a dysfunctional family

  5. I agree. Please see my post on