Friday, 26 June 2009

In Memoriam

A poster I saw on the way to the internet shop from which I am now communicating with you. 'When Nothing's Black and White. Listen in Colour.' So fitting, on this day of memorials for a man in whom those traditional boundaries had fully dissolved: Michael Jackson... Regicide, and the strange bond between citizen and celebrity, are matters which had been much on my mind of late. Was this event ('the Princess Diana of popular culture') the crystallization of those ruminations? Had I somehow sensed the rumbles before the earthquake?

Exactly when did our relationship with stardom eschew Christian morality for something more Thelemite? If celebrity is, as so many of its members insist, a form of revenge on obscurity, the last twenty years (and the career of Jackson, in particular) have witnessed the obscure exacting a vengeance all their own. Our relationship with our 'icons'- including our monarchs, and our Gods- is sado-masochistic; a thick streak of hatred concealed in the applause. Our relationships with our friends- and lovers- increasingly reflects this.

Are the warped values of internet-culture forcing new neuroses on a pallid and puffy-eyed public; or do the inverted worlds of Perez Hilton and Popbitch reflect a spiritual sickness which pre-dates their emergence? We are informed by the latter that 'The King of Pop referred to semen as Duck Butter. And the booze he gave to boys as 'Jesus Juice'.' Just another of the tiny, myriad acts of despoilation which will be performed in the weeks to come.

Yet for people of my generation, Jackson's regicide was accomplished once and forever years ago: at the Brit Awards in 1996, to be precise. Bursting on to the stage during the superstar's brief set, Jarvis Cocker's upended arse dispelled in a moment the illusion of Jackson's immortality. His protest may have been just, perhaps even essential: yet looking back on it, I can't help but lament the passing of something. Something as alien to the bedsit glamour of Jarvis Cocker (and the best of British music) as a phoenix to the skies over Stevenage.

Cocker's trade is reality, bleak and monolithic; Jackson dealt in magic. Magic is always manipulative; it bends reality, demands a suspension of disbelief. An act of alchemy is needed on the sorceror's part, whose first (and only) miracle lies solely in his ability to conceive his own zenith. But magic can also enchant reality, enrich and transform it... Convincing us, however temporarily, that things could be different.

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