Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Since No One Else is Talking About Michael Jackson…
ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons recently had author Chuck Klosterman on his often-entertaining podcast. The two discussed Michael Jackson's passing for the first 20 minutes or so, before moving on to some sports topics. The Jackson talk is actually quite fascinating and a bit of a departure from the general public reaction to his death. M'man Movie Joe Reid and I had an email exchange about the podcast and since I'm all about the blog fodder, it's cut and pasted – with some minor edits – below. Without Joe's permission!
Aaron: Hope you've had a chance to listen to part one of the Chuck Klosterman interview. As always, the highlight is CK obliterating Simmons and his fragile ego. CK calls BS out on his public slap fight with Mike Dunleavy and hits all the right notes. I'm torn on the Michael Jackson parts of the podcast, though. Klosterman seems to be offended by the hyperbolic reaction of Jackson's "fans", which I guess is understandable, but is also something that happens when EVERY celebrity dies. Everyone from Chris Farley to Tupac is deified for a few weeks, then reality sets in and their lives are placed in the proper context. (Note: not applicable to Tupac). Although, listening to Simmons butcher Jackson's sing-along gibberish lyrical catchphrases was high comedy.
Joe: I have really come to love Chuck Klosterman. So happy I can count on him to call Simmons on EXACTLY the thing I most need someone to call him on (that embarrassing Dunleavy Twitter-rant). Even Chuck's anti-Twitter stance comes across as much more reasonable than the kneejerk techno-phobic stance most would have. I love how irritated Bill gets whenever Chuck constantly turns the conversation to the subject of Bill's tremendous fame and influence. Just brilliant.
And yes, I definitely agree the low point was the Jackson talk -- that IS what happens with every celeb death. Also, I'm not sure I agree that this whitewashing of Jackson's personal life when praising his music is new. It's kind of always been that way, and it makes me wonder if Chuck has ever really spoken to a black person about MJ. (Not to presume or anything, but I've heard this kind of compartmentalizing of MJ's music from his life for YEARS.)
Aaron: Even Buddy "Fallout Boy" Hodges didn't want to discuss Dirk Richter's bullet-riddled body nor the bordello in which his corpse was found. The thing about MJ is that any appreciation of him requires compartmentalizing. Has there ever been an entertainer whose career is so overtly delineated? The "Jackson 5" version is not the "Off the Wall" version which wasn't like the "Thriller" version. The "Bad" version could never live up to the commercialized expectations from the "Thriller" version, while the "Dangerous" version sowed the seeds for the MJ caricature he'd eventually become. Even conceding that I'm probably chopping up his career *too* finely, I think that still makes it easier for us to have a distinct memory of whichever version of "Michael the Entertainer" we want while (inexplicably) giving equal weight to "weird Michael" and the many allegedly darker aspects of his life.
I don't think I'm making any sense, so I'll agree with you and say that the first thing I thought as I was listening to Simmons and CK on the subject was: "do they know ANY black people"?
Joe: With 90% of "untimely" celebrity deaths, the death affects the way you view the artist's output thereafter (Brokeback Mountain takes on a tone after Heath Ledger's death; even something silly like Tommy Boy, you can't watch it quite the same now). But next Halloween, when "Thriller" comes on, will I view it any different than I did before? I kind of don't think so. We've so separated THAT Michael Jackson from the one who was alive a week ago. If "Thriller" MJ died, he died a loooong time ago, and we'd all accepted that.