What would you do if your idol fell so far from grace that their music stopped being played on the radio? Musicals in his/her name were being canceled? What if the music you grew up with, was written and performed by a known pedophile?
There are thousands of blogs I could write this morning. The creativity synapses are firing on all cylinders for me today. So why write about a subject so glaringly sad, frightening, disappointing, disgusting…I could go on and on. How many of you watched “Leaving Neverland” on HBO last night?
I’m writing about it because I feel like I need to, first of all. Secondly, this subject sheds light on an entirely different angle of fandom that I’d never considered before. Oddly, I haven’t even watched Leaving Neverland yet. (We don’t have HBO) That didn’t stop me from researching, reading transcripts from the documentary, and doing a fair amount of pondering and soul searching last night, and again this morning.
The bottom line here is that this isn’t just some ordinary guy. It is Michael Jackson, King of Pop. Up until a very specific time in the 90s, I believed he was “Guardian of The Children”. Then that first pedophile scandal hit the news. Truthfully, I was taken aback, but I have to admit I didn’t necessarily buy into all of it. I do remember seeing footage of very young boys with him – always boys – and taking note. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire. After that, Michael’s modus operant was called into question. I never looked at him quite the same. I couldn’t, and I wasn’t even a big fan. He was just very difficult to escape. His fame and persona are interwoven with pop culture in such a way, I don’t think he could ever be erased.
I am not a voyeur of the outrageous. I don’t like watching people fall, and I hate epic fails. My interest isn’t really with Michael, or even with his victims – I can’t begin to fathom any of that. I’m curious about his fans, and not necessarily those that consider themselves “Truthers” – those that insist the accusations are completely fabricated. No, I’m curious about the others. How would it really feel to have your idol fall from grace? What does one do about the music, particularly if their fandom really had more to do with the music than the man.
I try spinning this around to bring it closer to home for me. Once, I was a fan of a band named LostProphets. Their lead singer, Ian Watkins, was sentenced to 29 years in prison for pedophilia. I loved their music, but my immediate reaction was to swiftly delete their music from my music library. I couldn’t separate it, and I didn’t ever want to hear his voice in my ears again. I’m a mom. My most important job – one that I cannot fail at no matter what – is to protect my children. I just didn’t think you can listen to a known, convicted pedo while doing that job. So I didn’t.
However, Michael Jackson, or at least his music, is in a completely different universe. Like many of you, I grew up with Michael as a near constant in my life, through his music and fame. Even during the days of Thriller, when I wasn’t very much of a fan, I couldn’t deny his talent. My sister had his posters on her wall. My older cousins drove us to his parents house multiple times, and would gleefully share tales of seeing him in the backyard! (This was before he bought Neverland). I still have his albums in my music library. Off the Wall is probably one of my top ten favorite albums of all time. I’m not a fan of Michael Jackson per se, but I did love some of his music. I 100% learned to moonwalk when I was in seventh grade because of him.
In a strange twist of fate, one of the victims hits entirely too close to home for me. Wade Robson is a prominent choreographer and dance teacher. He has worked with Britney, NSYNC, and has done a fair number of conventions. My oldest has taken class from him more times than I can count. She didn’t really know who he was, and to put this in perspective – at a convention there are hundreds of dancers, but I knew who he was. I couldn’t even believe it was the same person. I knew him as a fully grown adult. Looking back at photos of him with Michael, seeing him groomed and costumed to look just like Michael’s mini-me….I feel ill thinking about it.
How do I reconcile?
How does one separate the music from the man, anyway? Can we? Should we?
I don’t think I can. Can you?