Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Michael Jackson, Reverend Al, and Acharei Mot Kedoshim Emor

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Rock fans never saw Michael Jackson as one of them. The glitz, the choreography, and the polish were too mainstream for those whose primary fare was outside of Motown. Maybe, I’m wrong. I was in Israel from 1975-1986 and never experienced close up the cultural icons of that time. Consequently, I am profoundly bored by all the attention paid to the death of MJ, and have turned off my radio until further notice. I guess I can only be critical because he never made me happy, so, I have no inclination to countenance his alleged indiscretions/crimes/sins.

The whole notion of celebrity is stunning to me. All these people milling about his star on Hollywood Boulevard, and the Apollo Theater in Harlem mourning a man of dubious character and–I guess prodigious talent–as if they knew him. He may have been a leader of an industry, but he wasn’t their leader. They just liked to watch him sing and dance.

The poet John Berryman in his collection Love and Fame deals with this phenomenon from the celebrity’s side. He offers that fame’s prime motivation is the quest for love of “her”. If I’m famous, maybe she will love me. The love from the audience, unfortunately, is unrequited by design because they applaud, cheer…and leave. He is left without them, and, more imprtantly, without “her”. One can imagine the letdown if, afterward, one goes home alone, or even worse with a surrogate for the object of his desire.

But what of the audience? Why do they feel so close to someone who wouldn’t acknowledge, let alone recognize their presence? They have the songs, they have the films. Truly, what have they lost? Two more live appearances or concerts?

The audience imagines a relationship that will never exist, and as long as that hypothesis remains untested, the fantasy remains. Watch what happens, however, when the object of the audience’s affection snubs a fan, displays bad temper, or in some other fashion, dispells the mythified connection.

“I’m not gonna put no flowers on his Hollywood star–he was sooooo rude!” I’ve heard it said that the fastest way to hate a novel is to meet the author.

Goodness, there are so many pathetic people in the world.

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