I have about 20 screenshots hanging out on my desktop waiting for meaningful file names and a purpose. I’m trying to figure out where to start (as addressed in the subject line), and I can’t really think of anything more topical than Michael Jackson.
I know everyone and their second cousin twice removed are talking about MJ right now and how he changed their life, but dudes, he did. I started to wade through my own bank of Jackson memories, and had a great conversation with my mom about us gathering around ye olde television set to watch the Thriller video. I was four when the video debuted, and I’m not sure if this memory is from the day that MTV first played it, or just the first time WE saw it. Either way, I was no older than five. The video is terrifying. It’s one of two beloved pop-culture phenomena that have scarred me for life (the other being Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, more on that in a future post). I made it about two and a half minutes into the fourteen-minute video. When were-Michael looked up with his yellow eyes and yelled, “GO AWAY,” I did. For years, YEARS, I had nightmares about this, and not just nightmares, but also hallucinations. I used to sleep with my bedroom door open and we had a yellow-tone light in the hallway, at night, I would look up and there he’d be, were-Michael, in his red jacket, hunched over about to pounce, yellow eyes glowing and claws ready for the attack. Years. We moved out of that house about seven years later, and the hallucinations stopped, but I still would have occasional nightmares.
Unlike Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, however, I love Thriller. Love. it. Do you all remember all those Michael Jackson marathon’s MTV used to do? When he came out with Dangerous in 1991 I was glued to MTV. I wore that tape out. I grew up listening to Bad and Thriller on vinyl, my parents learned to disco to Off the Wall. The Jackson Five are on all of my “cheer up” or “shake your booty” playlists, also, some of my wallowy playlists, and definitely on “Lea Sings in the Shower: Songs to make the neighbors break their leases.”
I think what has been most difficult, is to me, and I’m sure to many people of my generation, it felt like Jackson died a long time ago. Our MJ was gone, and these increasingly bizarre iterations appeared every couple years or so, but now, we are all celebrating all that he’s done, the many people he’s been, and the staggering legacy of FORTY years of music.
As you may know, I recently watched The Queen, about how Queen Elizabeth II dealt with the public’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death. I keep going back to that, just watching how the mourning swelled, how millions of people were affected, and see that happening for MJ too (but on a astronomically larger scale). I am pleased that the MJ events are celebrations of his life and his art. I can’t wait to hit up a few myself – friends and I went to the MJ singalong for my 25th and I highly recommend it, if you can get tickets.
I also love that Michael Jackson broke the Internet. That is just so amazing to me. He crashed Twitter and AIM, freaked out Google, blew up Wikipedia, and appeared in millions of Facebook status messages. The latter was incredibly powerful for me. My Facebook friend list is comprised of people from the many different phases of my life. There was just something about seeing my elementary school classmates, summer camp friends, fellow former Cleveland-area alternateens, college and grad school folk, just really everyone I’ve ever known – all react to the same event – it just made me think about the universality of Jackson.
Oh man, MJ, I want you back.
MySpace is streaming tons of Jackson songs and videos, here is one of my favorites The Way You Make Me Feel.
What are your favorites?
If you don’t know where to start, may I suggest this?