Monday, July 06, 2009

idiot savants

this morning in the car i was rocking out to lady gaga and thinking about pop stars. the publicity surrounding michael jackson still amazes me and i admit that i've been following it (although not terribly obsessively, honest!). i was thinking about MJ's decline in past years, about the public's consumption of him as a product, from his early days as a sweet-faced boy in his brother's band, to his amazing early 20's, to his decline into oddity and ridicule. everyone wants to blame joe jackson* for his son's weirdness and inappropriateness, but no one wants to take any blame for it themselves. we had a hand in making michael jackson. we bought his albums, we wanted him to dance and smile and make music we could shake our booties to, we bought the tabloids with the lurid headlines, we watched the uncomfortable and insane interviews, we lapped it up. no one really cared if he was healthy, or mentally okay, as long as he produced for us. it's the same with britney spears; we grew her in a crazy hothouse of child sexuality, money, and conflicting religious beliefs, then watched her shave her head and go batshit. no one honestly cared if she got better, or worked on her post-partum depression, as long as she got skinny again and made more albums. the public was concerned when it looked like she might burn out too soon, so we made it okay for her to get better "enough," put her dad in charge of doling out medication and keeping her home so she can make more albums, go on tours, work her toned body for our amusement. no one gives a shit if amy winehouse actually stops doing drugs because she's already made an album that everyone loves, and watching her skeleton cavort around a tropical island is evidently amusement enough for us. we've all made fun of courtney love for years, but i bet you if she died tomorrow the only photos of her that would be on magazine covers would be during that brief period of time when she was sober and acting and had a good boob job. the tabloids would show her with stringy, stick-figure arms and dark circles under her eyes, lamenting her decline and trying to shock us, and we would pretend that we weren't buying them, but the sales figures would show otherwise.

i'm not trying to sound all bitter and above it all; i'm as guilty of consuming artists, celebrities, this way. i do indeed own a britney spears album from after her nervous breakdown (yes! i know! i like to shake it, so sue me), i do flip through magazines and voraciously read the ones left behind at the hospital, full of gossip and information from secret sources. i love talk soup, and perez hilton and gossip columns. i just think it's time we talked about our role in creating celebrity this way. it's as though we like our stars to be entertainment idiot savants; talented and sparkly for us, but unable to live normal, healthy lives on their own. we talk a lot about how sad it is that certain celebs can't cope or handle fame, but we stand by and watch them self-destruct as gleefully as romans at a christian vs. lion match. i don't know where it comes from, i don't even know if we can do anything to stop it. if i gave it more though, maybe did some research, perhaps i could come up with some reasons we act this way. this is honestly just something i've been thinking about this morning, feeling slightly guilty about my own desire for dance music and celebrity drama. would not buying albums or gossip rags do anything? is there in fact, anything, we can do to change this? what sorts of cultural shifts would have to happen for us to become a society that cared about everyone's emotional and physical well-being, who saw celebrities for what they are; just people, but living under microscopes and pressured to produce for us. what happened with and to michael jackson seems tremendously fucked up; he had for all accounts a miserable childhood, he made a few brilliant albums and danced like his life depended on it, then he became a side-show freak, addled by drugs and trailed by child molestation allegations, and all the while everyone just watched. it was as fun for us to watch him dance like a zombie as it was to watch the painfully deluded man he became give creepy interviews. either way, we were entertained, we got what we wanted. i just hope now he has a little peace.

*this makes me crazy because the kid had two parents. katherine might not have been beating him and calling him names, but she was letting her husband, which i think makes her as culpable. just sayin'.

1 comment:

Amity said...

I read something similar to this previously re: Britney. Basically, it said that watching someone with as much money/power/celebrity/hired help/etc., etc. as she has f-up as a mother, made normal everyday people feel better about their own shortcomings as parents. I think that's kind of spot-on.

Kind of the same as the Jon & Kate phenomenon. I think people who watched the show at first thought, "How can this couple with 8 kids have such a great life, and I only have ___ # of kids and my home life sucks." That's why the public lapped it up when it became known that they weren't as perfect as TV wanted you to think they were.

I love your analysis. Basically, though, we just seem to love knowing that people who have it all live just as (if not more) screwed up lives than we all do... It's pretty sick.