I gotta say I’m floored.
I write two blogs – one on marketing (blog.grokmedia.com) and this one on politics, pop culture, and whatever else interests me. The other day, I wrote a post on the phenomenon surrounding the death of Michael Jackson. Let me just say that I’ve NEVER seen anything like the kinds of numbers I’m getting on my visitor logs like I’ve seen since Jackson’s death. I’ve seen – and I’m NOT exaggerating – an uptick of approximately 1,000 times more hits.
And I’m not alone – Google originally thought that the search hits they were getting on “Michael Jackson” was a coordinated denial of service (DoS) attack. Nope. Just millions of people, searching for anything and everything they could find on the subject of Michael Jackson. My question is, “why”? I mean, sure, Jackson was a pop superstar (emphasis on the word “was”), but are you seriously telling me that he’s THAT popular now? Here are the possible reasons I can fathom for the current fascination with Jackson:
- He was a beloved figure in pop music, who had significant influence over music, fashion, dance, and pop culture.
- He was a mysterious icon, who increased interest in his story by his reclusiveness and odd behavior.
- He was a tragic, broken figure, obsessed with plastic surgery, who’s bizarre lifestyle was the equivalent of a flame to the public’s moth-like behavior.
- His tabloid-fodder, sensationalistic, run-ins with the law (the two accusations of child molestation, the baby-dangling over the balcony, the marriage to Elvis’ daughter, the surrogate mom(s), et cetera) kept him in the public consciousness, long after his pop star had faded.
- The sum of all of the above represented a train wreck, from which the public had a morbid fascination with – it was impossible to look away.
I vote for “all of the above.” Jackson was obviously a tragic figure. I’m convinced that the combination of the pressure-cooker of fame, his father’s (claimed) abuse, nobody around willing to tell him “no,” his obsessions with privacy, plastic surgery, et all, his medical problems – all of these factors created the sad, freakshow that was the public persona of Michael Jackson.
The real pity here is that the public, in a very real way, helped to create the person Jackson became. Yet, nobody’s pointing the finger at the public, their insatiable need for details, their tolerance of weird – and in some cases deviant – behavior, and their constant pressure that kept Jackson heading down the road to self-destruction.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that, in the final analysis, everybody is responsible for their own actions. For every Michael Jackson, I can point to a dozen superstars that have survived – and thrived – in the public spotlight. Jackson is a tragic figure, and largely a creation of the public. But there are thousands of times he could have put a stop to it, and simply walked away.
What’s the public’s excuse?