Because everyone has *something* to say about Michael Jackson

It’s not that the death of the King of Pop had been particularly impactful to me. I listened to his music back in the day, enjoyed the videos, the dancing, the ever-growing freakshow around his personal life. Didn’t own the glove. Can’t relate to fans who now say they’ve lost a “family member.” (Really? A family member? Like, a family member who makes you uncomfortable at Christmas gatherings and whom you and your siblings are staging an intervention for?)

And the coverage! Wow — I mean I know it’s SOP for major media outlets to put celebrity deaths at the top of the news report, but haven’t these last few days felt out of all proportion? As funny, funny Web cartoonist Justin Pierce said:

Since this has happened, I have not seen any news about the brutal post-election violence in Iran, the intense bombings in Baghdad or the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan.

Thank you Michael Jackson, for finally bringing peace to the Mideast.

‘Zactly. But I’ve discovered some interesting things in the wake of this media brouhaha. First, my children had never heard tell of Popmusica Rex, and wanted to know who this odd-looking boyman was. Thanks to YouTube, we were able to have an educational evening revisiting all the old music videos. (The face-morphing “Black or White” got the most requests for repeat viewings.)

I was surprised at how evergreen Michael Jackson remains. The tunes, the dancing, the imagery — it all held up, and was just as enjoyable all these years later, for me and the kids.”Thriller,” still rocks, sure, but “Bad”? “Billie Jean”? Good grief, “Remember the Time”?

But here’s something else: Our evening of media intake opened Pandora’s box of parody for my children. Because right alongside all those Michael Jackson vids on YouTube were the Weird Al Yankovic spoofs of “Bad” and “Beat It” (“Fat” and “Eat It”).

Also features "I Think I'm a Clone Now"

Me and the kiddies howled in tandem, a four-part harmony of hilarity. “He’s … he’s making fun of it!” cried Oldest Boy, who apparently has lived nine years without satirical influence. I know, I’m ashamed of me, too. I mean, come on, you’re living a cloistered, unlivable life if you’ve never encountered and appreciated:

How come you’re always such a fussy young man
Don’t want no Captain Crunch, don’t want no Raisin Bran
Well, don’t you know that other kids are starving in Japan
So eat it!

When watched back to back, real video and spoof video, the experience couldn’t be any more fun. The kids were picking up on all the details of the originals (the ripped-off grate that spews air, the solo dance on a diner counter) that got riffed in the spoofs. They couldn’t believe someone was allowed to make fun of someone else this way. They’ve been drilled for years on treating other kids right, having manners, making other people feel bigger, not smaller — and here’s this guy earning a living making fun of people. His parents are not yelling at him. He is not in jail.

I think my children all grew up a bit that day. They may never be able to moonwalk, but they sure as shootin’ will grow up knowing how to find the ridiculous in the sublime.


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7 responses to “Because everyone has *something* to say about Michael Jackson

  1. Kat

    How I loved Weird Al! Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White…Think I’m a Clone Now. Priceless.

    Still a wee disappointed Oldest Boy is just now getting a grasp on sarcasm. What HAVE you been teaching that boy? Shouldn’t sarcasm lessons have followed potty training?!

    • jdrewscott

      I believe our thought train went like this: “Wow, this guy needs no help being a smartass; maybe we should stop giving an inch before he takes a mile.”

      Now he’s like a recovering drunk getting his first taste of whisky in years.

  2. Desert Son

    No doubt the man left his mark on the music industry, and he seemed at least to have a sense of humor about himself (as far as I know, Weird Al has to get permission from the artists to spoof songs because the musical content is, lyrics aside, virtually exact), but Jackson exceeded creep-factor 9 by the end, and clearly the Starship Entersanity couldn’t hold it together, Captain EOmygod. Facial deconstruction aside, the allegations surrounding his propensity to be just a little too close to children . . . *shudder*

    The sooner the world moves on, the better; but, like Elvis, death will probably only serve to further enshrine the man in cultural myth.

    Can we go back to worrying about the world’s real problems now? Probably only as long as it takes to get the toxicology report back.


    • jdrewscott

      Did you see the recent report about the day Elvis died, and how CBS Evening News placed the King’s passing in the second story slot; All Things Considered put the item at the tail end of its broadcast. Both outlets got clobbered for out-of-touch news judgment.

      The gist of the story was that news agencies have learned a lot since then, and always lead with the dead celebrity, early and often and hard.

      Man, I wish we could get us some of that 1977 NPR on our airwaves these days.

      • Desert Son

        The thing is, the burden is less on the media on this one, I think. The media, at some level, is a business, and it’s good business to report on the stuff that generates traffic/issue sales. Fair enough.

        Feeding the fire is always a question, but in the case of something like this (and Elvis, too, for that matter), the burden is born in no small part by media consumers. Back when Warren Zevon died, I wanted to know more about it, but as big a fan as I am of Warren Zevon, I would never have presumed that Warren’s death would somehow preclude the presentation of, say, important news about struggles for election legitimacy in a complex, sometimes antagonistic, and important Middle East nation, especially since most news outlets have room for both.

        But maybe we truly are in the days of empire, and bread and circuses are foremost in the minds of the public.

        Perhaps it’s my own biases showing: I find myself unmoved by the death of Jackson, and hard-pressed to imagine the sentiment of those who are so moved.


  3. You don’t need permission to parody – it’s protected by the first amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in a decision concerning a parody of Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” – but generally Weird Al gets permission from his parody subjects to avoid litigation and maybe hurt feelings. That Michael gave permission suggests a pleasant sense of humor about things, and Al’s song’s do provide even more publicity for the victim.

    But:'t_Give_Weird_Al_Permission_For_a_Parody (“When Al went back almost a decade later to see if he could get Michael’s permission to parody “Black Or White”, though, he got a “no.” Michael felt the subject matter was too serious for parody.”)

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