An Ex-JW’s Take
Ok, so here’s my opinion on the Michael Jackson story, offered from no particular professional perspective, but only from my observations of him over the years and my intuitive understandings of the strange psychology of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Michael Jackson does need psychological help. He needs guidance to navigate through the fantasy of magical princehood into some sort of functional adult status. But I do not believe that he is a predator, nor do I believe that he is (at least by any conventional profile) a pedophile.
The most sensitive and talented child in an authoritarian and ambitious JW family, his fame and wealth gave him both adoration and escape. Like an artificial castrato, when he reached a certain age, he became less able to access that escape and tried to reinvent himself. The black glitter glove, like a magic wand, became an early sign of his independence and will, but also reflected a darker side of his psyche. He wanted everything he touched to turn to gold, but he also wanted … protection.
He is, essentially, still a child. He wants to be loved and adored. He is narcissistic. He is playful – all of that is his private world. He is horribly hurt when he is not understood, but he doesn’t have enough touchstones in reality to understand why others can’t understand him, nor to clearly define for himself where the fantasies end and reality begins.
He is a gentle soul – a sweet soul who plays at being bad with a kind of innocence that has always touched me. He really seems to believe that in bringing magic to others’ lives he can avoid becoming a pied piper. If he had left it at the music, it would have been possible – but he wanted to make his reality into his fantasy. His wealth allowed him to do that to some extent, but his world needed a population of children to be complete.
Clearly he has tried to retain the outer image of his youth to match the way he seems to feel inside. He would do almost anything to avoid looking too much like his abusive father, too much like a black man, too much like a man at all. He has wanted the freedom of infinite possibility, without developing mature faith.
The results are plain on his clownish face, but it is a tragic story. He would actually have been quite handsome. If he does have the skin disease, it would be better not to emphasize it with the makeup – his own face has become a mask. His eyes still make me cry.
I have wished for many years to talk with Michael – there is something inside of me that yearns to help heal him.
When I was in high school, I was Hodel in the drama club’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. I got into a little bit of trouble over that, since my JW elders considered it to be exhibitionist, and – at the same time that the Thriller video was coming out – there was some discussion of the appropriateness of participating in the dream sequence that contained “a depiction of the supernatural.” That the whole dream sequence was an elaborate story about a false visitation from a dead wife, told to release Tevye’s oldest daughter from a planned wedding, was irrelevant.
Michael Jackson’s ghoulish face in the video made me laugh, and gave me courage to try all kinds of new roles – and it was also the Thriller video that started his eventual distancing from the JWs. The metamorphosis sequences of spectrums of transposed race and gender – those amazing faces in the later video – were perhaps the best example of morphing technology of the day. And again, I felt he was trying to transcend identity expectations and limitations. It could have been a story of liberation.
And yet somehow it wasn’t. It broke down. Perhaps he’s just in the closet. Perhaps he’s ADHD. Perhaps he just didn’t get enough education. Perhaps it is a version of self-loathing, to try to make everything, absolutely everything, different. Perhaps he has delusions of grandeur. I don’t pretend to understand.
Michael Jackson is one of a kind. I feel so sorry for him.
If he is indeed guilty of something like rape, he should (of course!) be brought to justice. But it’s probably not that simple. I suspect that there is some kind of truth in the charges. Perhaps he was too close physically to some of his child friends and made some of them uncomfortable, especially if they were warned about him – children don’t miss much. Or perhaps this is a way of distancing the child from Michael.
The presence of children is what makes him feel safe – but maybe precisely because of that, he may not really have understand them as true others – maybe to him they are more like pets. It does seem a bit that way with his own children (who I hope will be cared for by some of Michael’s siblings). Or maybe it just started to get too weird for the children themselves to be so near such a charismatic child trapped in an adult’s body. Or perhaps, to be most charitable toward Michael, he’s not really guilty of anything except being a temptation for financial gain by unscrupulous parents.
Normally, I would be offended to see a story such as this take precedence over discussions of the energy bill, medicare, or even the reaction of the British populace to Bush’s visit – but Michael Jackson’s story continues to haunt me. Hang in there, Michael.