So many will heave a sigh of relief at the verdict in Conrad Murray’s trial: guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Does this mean that this tragic circus will finally pack up and move on? Probably not. The unfortunate thing is that in death, as in life, anything related to Michael Jackson will always have the air of tawdriness and ridiculousness. This is just the latest chapter of a nonending book, that’ll just keep going as long as there are hangers-on, siblings, friends, associates, etc. that will tell “their side” of the story.
Jackson’s two older siblings – LaToya and Jermaine – both have released books in the wake of their brother’s death, and are reportedly working on new music, no doubt capitalizing on their new-found resurgance of fame because of Michael Jackson’s death. Other “experts” have also weighed in and this verdict will undoubtedly be fodder for the news magazine shows, The View, and FOX News. Even Jackson’s father, the infamous Joe Jackson, has been found to parlay this renewed interest in his family in hopes of promoting entertainment and business ventures he’s planning, which includes a record label. Furthering the sadness of this situation, are all the aborted and ill-planned tributes that have been hastily cobbled together, each seemingly more inept than the next. Jackson’s label has also been keen to maintain a steady release of new music, dipping into what is probably a vast mine of unreleased recordings, waiting to be polished and sold. The (not so) final indignity is the release of the photographs, showing a pale, thin, dead Micahel Jackson lying on a hospital bed.
Throughout all this hoopla, it’s easy to forget that Michael jackson was a person. He was a father, friend and brother. He brought joy to millions of people with his incredible talent. He also courted the media, tried to manipulate it so that he could craft a mythic story on par with B.T. Barnum, but found that the narrative quickly slipped out of his hands and spun out of control. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have the presence of mind to realize just how badly his public persona morphed from gifted prodigy to stunted freak; his attempts at damage control, often inflicted further pain and embarrassment to his image (remember the disastrous Martin Bashir interviews?).
As with O.J. Simpson, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, the Menendez brothers and William Kennedy Smith, this confused and awful show will eventually fade away as some new celebrity scandal monopolizes the news. It’s a sick testament to the drawing power of Jackson’s celebrity that the story is still going on, unabated some two years after his death. It has shed an uncomfortable and glaring light on the public’s seemingly insatiable need for gossip and dish. In this age of whole cable channels being devoted to celebrity gossip, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it also doesn’t make it any less disturbing.