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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, June 29, 2009

I was not inclined to write about Michael Jackson. I suppose it is notable that he was some kind of template for so many things-- race, most notably, but sexual persona as well, and other things. How peculiar that a person so unlike anyone else could nevertheless be the focus of so many other people's projections. The sad fact of Jackson's existence was that his relationship with the world was through performance. An insight from a Christgau article, then: "There's not much point in criticizing him for this, though I suppose that in theory he might have set himself the goal of becoming "normal" rather than the goal of becoming the biggest star that the world has ever known."

And this, via Making Light: "This was a man (it's a mark of how profoundly damaged Michael Jackson was that it feels strange to call him "a man", just as it feels strange to recognize that when he died he was older than the President of the United States) who spent every day of his life embedded in a matrix of perverse incentives. The terrain of his personal landscape was unrecognizable. I can understand the choices that my cat makes more deeply than I could understand the ones Jackson made."

I suppose the same sorts of things could have been said of Elvis, and on that level I'd say the comparisons that have been made have a certain validity. Elvis's overall contribution to American culture is certainly greater than Michael Jackson's, but it makes a strange kind of sense to me that Jackson is one of the few men to have been upstairs at Graceland.

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