Friday, September 18, 2009

Michael Jackson and Cult of Youth

I have been grappling to understand the obsession over Michael Jackson. I am fairly certain there is a general consensus that he was an extremely talented performer. Nobody could captivate an audience like him. I have a vivid memory of watching a Michael Jackson concert on television with my parents and sister as a young child. At one point in the show he was propelled by a zip line with a rocket pack strapped to his back, emitting a flame, as if he was blasting into outer space. I am not convinced however that his extraordinary talent can fully account for the praise and ecstasy over the last months - the bizarre workings of a messianic deification directed toward the person of Michael Jackson.

It is not that we "looked past" his bizarre lifestyle - pedophilia, mutilation of the body, the Peter Pan obsession, and were enraptured purely by his music and dance. No, it was his androgynous sexual ambiguity, his test tube designer brave new world children, his bodily disfigurement, and his Neverland quest that embodies and highlights a dark psychological and spiritual trauma in our culture. Secretly, under the radar, the Jackson obsession reflects a bizarre attraction - a celebration - a peculiar admiration for the freak show drama of launching into outer space to transcend race, gender, sexuality, age, and death itself by any means necessary: bleach, mutilation, and constructing a city called Neverland.

A wicked current of American culture has a religious devotion to what Michael Jackson represents: a refusal to grow up, an insecurity and hatred of the human body, a death denying hatred of the human life cycle. Cosmetic surgeries, face lifts, nose jobs, lips, and virtually every part of the human body can now be altered to fit with ones questing for youth, 'beauty,' or a shifting along the 'gender continuum.' These sorts of cosmetic surgeries are increasing exponentially for those who have the means and wealth to further a neverland fantasy, worshipping at the fount of youth.

Brooke Shields in the memorial for Jackson with tears flowing said "we need to look up where he is undoubtedly perched in a crescent moon, and we need to smile." The mystic projection that Michael Jackson is perched like a bird on a "crescent moon...smiling" taps into this infantile, perverted and depressingly comical world view that is so devastatingly twisted and confused to posit such a bizarre metaphysical contemplation of life after death.

In the Neverland desire to stay young we have cast off childbearing, and now desire a greater Matriarchal role of the federal government. We desire a youthful community organizer to the run the show and create a nanny government to suckle at the teet, as infants. The hope of using human embryos for research is that we might dissect the great riddle of everlasting life, to skirt by death, and stay in Neverland forever. The living memory of Michael Jackson serves as a sacramental image of the death denying, cult of youth.

Jackson's life is tragic, equal to the greatest of mythological tragedies. The cost of feverishly trying to escape our own bodies, transcend creation and life itself, is a route filled with such pain and spiritual affliction that it takes a cocktail of opiates just to temporarily numb the pain. The cult of perennial youth is itself a lie, and will run headfirst into death with a less than beatific conclusion.

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