Friday, June 26, 2009
On Michael Jackson's death
I was trying to wait for tonight to do this, but when you're moved, you're moved:
There is something very strange happening right now. It may be the first time in my life that it is happening.
The world is mourning.
In my office I'm largely insulated, but going online you can the emotion in a thousand places, people hearts being pulled and torn. You can feel pain through a computer monitor.
I heard last night while driving to see Kathy Griffin. My reaction to the news that he was hospitalized was a huge gasp. When the story was updated and TMZ, all of places, broke the story, I felt muted on a very deep level. It was tough to fully appreciate it then, though, as we were on the road. At the concern, Kathy made a quick topical joke about Michael's death being perpetrated.... by her, and it was sort of funny, but also too soon. She moved on quickly.
We got home at 11:30 and went right to sleep. It wasn't until this morning when I started talking to people and checking websites, and I started to feel very, very sad. The NY Times ran stories about global remembrances, but I think a better gauge of his impact came from CNN about how his death practically crashed the internet.
What does larger than life mean? To me, it means that the person's legend extends to the point where the person is almost lost inside it. They became a caricature, a symbol of themselves. They become timeless - their fame is so large that you never expect anything to happen to the person itself, which is left far behind the hurricane-type force of their celebrity.
So when I heard that he died, I was shocked, because it didn't seem possible for him to die. This sounds silly, and yet fame works this way. Fame makes immortals, and gods can't die. It hurts inside a little, thinking how much one person gave to the world of music, of pop culture, and to you.
Last night people on the radio said - "I'll always know where I was when I heard Michael Jackson passed away," and I thought they were silly.
Today, when I hear people talk about how much he meant to them, when I read eulogies on Youtube or pronouncements by Nelson Mandela, I get chills. It occurred to me that it's as if humanity was wounded, and is bleeding out emotion all over the world. In a very real way, the world is grieving and struggling to understand. It hits me hard that something singular has happened. Maybe this is what an end of an era feels like, like when John Lennon or Elvis died. Did it feel like this?
Posted by Jonathan Rubin