pop culture, pittsburgh, and potpouri

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The End of an Era....

Michael Jackson had died. People everywhere are collecting their thoughts and feelings to reflect and react to this momentous event. I haven't blogged since April. Major things have occurred since then. I got married, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the Stanley Cup Champions with 20 year olds taking the cup to South Side Bars, the G20 was scheduled to come to Pittsburgh this fall, Perez Hilton was knocked out, Iran is in the middle of another revolution, Real Housewife's of New Jersey came and left, and True Blood returned. None of these things made me want to comment on popular culture. Only this was powerful enough to drive me to take time away from my life and work and blog. 

The reason I think this is so important is not because one of the most famous celebrities unexpectedly passed. It is not because it is a major news story or because the MJ crazies will be out in full force. It is because this passing means so much to pop culture and is going to force people to reflect on what the last 40 years of culture has meant.

Michael Jackson's life and work has been inextricably connected to popular culture for the last 40 years actively and passively shaping, changing, and influencing every American, and most humans, life in some meaningful way. What I am trying to say is that most humans below the age 60 (and this is up for debate) can look at their life and connect Michael Jackson to milestones and events that they will never forget. Like the Fall of the Berlin wall, Monica Lewinsky, both Iraq wars, or Hurricane Katrina, major societal events are etched into our mind and often haunt us. A smell, a song, or a picture can remind us of a time in our life, and not one person can say that Michael Jackson doesn't do this for them. You are not an American if you haven't once danced in front of a mirror by your self... in your bedroom to a MJ song. Everyone can think of something major happening in their life and draw a parallel to Michael Jackson. Culture and history have run parallel and are fused to the life and work of MJ for the last 40 years. Everyone of those societal benchmarks I listed can be lined up with an MJ related event.

No one person has had a greater effect whether directly or indirectly on how culture exists today than Michael Jackson. If you look at the way popular culture has changed by leaps and bounds over the last 40 years MJ is arguably the driving force behind it. Internet memes, gossip rags, blogs, TV shows, reality TV, music, art, movies, and meta-everything have bleed together and become a post modern machine all beginning with MJ. There are figures throughout time that have such a gravely important influence on the shaping of an era. Alexander the Great, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, Queen Elizabeth I, Che!!! Michael Jackson has had the same influence in the history of pop culture. 

You may not be following me here, but one person by burning his hair, being accused of child molestation, making incredible music and videos, marrying Elvis's daughter, selling Neverland Ranch, buying bones of a dead person, dating Brooke Shields, having too much plastic surgery, moonwalking, and dangling a baby named blanket over a balcony single handedly created modern popular culture and has been part of every major cultural development over the last 40 years. In his death, reflect on where we are. Blogging, You Tube, Facebook, following Chris Brown trials, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Phil Spector, Family Guy etc. I could go on forever. All of that is more or less the product of 40 years of cultural development driven by and attributable to the life and work of MJ. 

This is not just a death. This is a chance to reflect on popular culture and an explore where we are today and how we got here. It is unfathomable how important this man was on who we are as Americans. I will never forget Eastern Europeans and "foreigners" coming to our country or speaking about American life without hearing " I love Michael Jackson! I love America!." Thriller is still being bought by thousands of people around the world. It is not just the music. It is what it represents to people. It is American popular culture. It represents everything that people who live in America experience everyday and what people who live in suppressed countries miss out on. This may sound inappropriate, but revolutions like the one that may be brewing in Iran are driven by the desire to have a culture and a life best represented by Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson stands for freedom, creativity, person liberty, and...life. There are stories of people living communist countries secretly listening to Michael Jackson in fear of being caught, singing along and dancing wishing they lived in a country where they were free to do both openly. 

The glove, the shoes, the crotch grab. It has created the world and society we live in. It is our culture. The 24 hour news cycles are Michael Jackson. The entertainment award shows and red carpets are Michael Jackson. Nancy Grace, Geraldo, and Bill Orielly are Michael Jackson. 40 years of American popular culture was Michael Jackson whether his name was mentioned or not. This is not the death of a human being, but the death of a piece of American life. We can all reflect on this and try to understand why it is so meaningful to us, but we will never fully grasp how important MJ was to us and our society. Lets all hope that Michael Jackson is in a better place Moonwalking, crotch grabbing, and "A HE HE" ing all day and night long. Lets all raise a cup of Jesus Juice and toast to Michael Jackson, American life, and modern popular culture! 

P.S. It took everything in me to not make a joke about Michael Jackson being taken to a children's hospital or having little boys running around in heaven. But hey, if anything it just shows the profound effect he has had on every aspect of popular culture from jokes to criminal justice.