Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, pop icon, dead at 50

Can you even BELIEVE it?

Michael Jackson was THE pop star of my generation, maybe even the last real unifying star before social media screwed everything up and made it impossible for one star to rule them all.

Jackson was confounding in almost every sense. He forced us to rethink and approach anew cultural attitudes toward race, gender, masculinity, sexuality, and public performance of identity. In many ways it was easier to think of him as an anomaly, a phenomenon so far outside of the world we understood that we didn't need to bother figuring out what he meant to us, and why.

With his death, analysts will probably find fuel to continue down this path--approaching Michael Jackson as a simple freak instead of the product of a complex interaction between the technologies and (human and inanimate) objects of our culture and one person's difficulty in being offered up as a cultural object. If we're lucky, someone will offer up a smart analysis of the cultural tensions that created the two Michael Jacksons: The (damaged, brilliant, trouble, dangerous) person, and the (brilliant, confusing, performative, captivating) public persona. The personal and the public increasingly intersected, especially as Jackson aged into a new media era and suddenly it was more than cameras that surrounded him.

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