Superstar singer/dancer/celebrity Michael Jackson is dead of mysterious causes at age 50. Jackson billed himself as the “King of Pop.” He was also the King of Weird and the King of Excess: the more successful he became, the stranger he became. His multiple plastic surgeries and skin-bleaching efforts left him as a sad caricature, while the millions he spent on turning his “Neverland” property into a personal amusement park/circus/zoo that he somehow couldn’t pay for were just mind-boggling, and his alleged unhealthy fascination with young boys was deeply troubling.
I confess that I was never much of a Michael Jackson fan. I was a bit too old to fully appreciate the Jackson Five, though I enjoyed their music, and I was too straight-laced to “get” the fascination with Thriller and Bad. Mainly, however, I’ve always had a hard time admiring anyone who not only believes his own press but feeds it. Though his many makeovers left him looking more like a queen than a king, Jackson’s self-ascription as “King of Pop” and his short-lived marriage to Lisa Marie Presley gave the impression he was trying to become bigger than Elvis Presley, traditionally known by fans as “the king.” In some circles, he will.
Jackson’s death is sad, certainly, but I also find it saddening to see how such a self-indulgent and self-destructive life can be so lionized by the media and idolized by millions of rabid fans.
The real heroes I know are living in obscurity while translating the Bible into obscure languages, or serving those who are impoverished, or just humbly seeking to live and love as Jesus did.
Even considering the lack of media in the first century, when I observe the massive outpourings of grief and slavish tributes to the “King of Pop” and compare them to the few stunned disciples who once mourned the King of Kings, it gives pause for serious contemplation about the human condition.