Friday, 26 June 2009

Death of a Celebrity

Michael Jackson is dead. The radio announced it to me while I was driving this morning. He had died too late for the morning papers to report it. I switched on the TV once I reached home. The news was still fresh then and the news channels didn't have much too show. A photograph of him being wheeled out of the ambulance. Lots of archival footage, mostly his music videos. A ticker at the bottom, someone (important) saying he was a part of America's cultural DNA. Another ticker, 'SMS my MJ moment to so-and-so number. Charges Rs. 3 per SMS. (No death is big enough to stop business.) Slowly, the channel (NDTV 24X7), began to get some fresh stuff. The clinical announcement to the media about his death and cause of death. The media badgering a lieutenant about why the police were at his residence. Then someone (close to him), talked about how lonely he was, how he drew strength from his fans' affection, how there was darkness in the corners of his heart. Fans dancing like him on the streets, carrying his pictures. Fans mourning him. 'The first time I saw him, I wanted to sing like that, dance like that, marry him. That didn't work out though.' 'I lost respect for him after the Neverland thing.'
That thing, what was that thing? What made him do what he did? The nose job, the white skin, Neverland, the children's toys... Psychologists have an explanation, I am sure. As a layman, one wonders what was it that he, the man who seemingly had everything, was trying to get? A lost childhood, acceptance into a community that he thought was superior, what?
Celebrities, it seems to me, begin to believe that their image in media is the 'real' them. And fed by a bunch of sycophants, a bunch incapable of giving an honest opinon that a person like you and me can get from a friend, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, they seem to start living and believing the lie. While I was in college I worked part-time in a Bollywood trade magazine. One day the editor-publisher-owner of the magazine showed me a note from a fading superstar congratulating the producer of the latest superhit movie. "He only writes with gold ink!" he pointed out with awe and pride. Later the same superstar had to vacate his plush sea-facing bungalow because of income tax-related problems. Earlier this year, he stopped a bunch of teenagers and asked them, "Do you know who I am?" They didn't. I guess there are enough celebrity-gone-wrong stories. Today, one ended. And we can go back and enjoy his music just like the good old days.

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