Reading Michael Jackson

Reading Michael Jackson

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.

7 thoughts on “Reading Michael Jackson

  1. Haunting…that is exctly the word. Speaking as another former Jehovah’s Witness, I think you have it right. I also left due to issues with self expression late in High School (Theatre and Journalism were the points of contention). I remember the pain of being sat down, quite by surprise, after a meeting, and having my work dissected by the very men I grew up wishing to emulate.

    It took me over two decades of self-destructive overeating, years of therapy, and finally, surgical intervention, to even bring my self-loathing, anger, sense of loss, and bitterness to heel….it haunts me still….yet I still feel joy every day I am alive….I have, and have always loved my life.

    For Michael, I can only imagine the horror of living with so much more unimaginable shear-forces tearing at him… can only have gotten worse as his life went on. I see those forces tearing him in different directions as what broke him…you can almost track the breaking point to 1987…..and separated him from reality.

    The thought of his lonely, day to day life, inside his head, with no one to fully understand, haunts me too. Thank you for your perceptive observations.


  2. Tell me..if he wasn’t the world greatest entertainer, would you be so tolerant and seeking understanding of this pedophile?

    Have you put this much effort into understanding the pedophiles that live in prisons-some near you? Or is this understanding reserved for highly famous and talented pedophiles?

    I suspect it’s the latter. Disgusting. These truly innocent kids lives are ruined and you are concerned with a self-serving adult’s psyche?

    He must sing one hell of a song…

    1. Clearly you didn’t read the post. I said that if he was guilty, he should be prosecuted. In addition, I track the psychology of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their mindset, which all to often leads to child abuse of various kinds, including pedophilia. I had sympathy for Michael, and it is no less than the sympathy I have for other victims. Check out how much cash the Watchtower Society paid out for gag orders so that people wouldn’t testify. Your comment was not very thoughtful.

  3. this is a very good observation of Michael Jackson. He was still a boy trapped in an adults body. He tried so hard to recapture his childhood he never had, but no kids or neverland could fill the loneliness and void he felt. He needed help so badly, and he was slammed at the end.

  4. Hear hear to those who were JWs. “Takes one to know one” in this case. From my own thoughts and feelings, which were echoed here, my guess is you are right on the money. I too think (know) Michael’s actions were merely his reaching out to be understood, to be loved for his true soul self…hard to explain to someone who has not been there. May he rest in peace. If there is a God, and if he truly is a God of Love, we will be blessed with MJ again one day…it’s what’s in the Heart.

  5. I completely agree with this description of Michael Jackson and I must admit that when I heard about his death I felt so sad inside even if I wasn’t a crazy fan of him. He was a child fighting alone probably without true parents or friens capabale to help him. I think there is in all of us a little hurt child and he represent to me that part of me and move my heart to compassion…
    I do not know if he was a phedophile, but I don’t think so.. Children to protect him from the real world made by cruel adults.. haunting me too… regards from Italy to you all and may be rest in peace in heaven..

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