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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

WHAT MICHAEL JACKSON'S DEATH TELLS US ABOUT OURSELVES


Michael Jackson's untimely death is unfortunate, but his passing has taken on a life of its own, and just as strange as the entertainer's life. We've seen a lot of major entertainers pass over the years, such as Sinatra, Elvis, and John Lennon, but I don't think we've seen anything that quite measures on the Richter scale like Jackson's death. Normally funerals are quiet and dignified affairs reserved for family and close friends, but Jackson's service was more of a three ring circus, commanding the media's air waves and causing a lock down in Los Angeles, both on the ground and in the air. I don't think we've seen anything quite like this before, and hopefully we won't again.

The frenzy behind his passing makes you wonder if his fans are mourning or celebrating. It also tells us a lot about our society and its values. For example:

Although the coroner's report has not yet been published, his death most likely will be linked to drugs. This certainly won't be the first or last time an entertainer succumbs to drugs; e.g., Belushi, Elvis, Garland, Ledger, etc. Undeniably, there is a drug culture in the entertainment industry, something we've known all along yet do nothing about. What message does this send when all of our popular entertainers are hooked on drugs? Also if the media is run by drugs, how does it influence our perspectives and lives?

Jackson's death also tells us how sensational our press really is. To illustrate, it was difficult, if not impossible, to find a channel on television that wasn't covering some aspect of the story. Lot's of conjecture, load's of speculation, but few facts. Then there were the media pigs, like Al Sharpton, who seized on the opportunity to gain exposure for themselves. It seems that every entertainer who ever had a close or remote encounter with Jackson was interviewed. As an aside, I thought it was funny that everyone claimed they were his best friend. I wonder where they were during his trial.

In addition to promoting entertainers, Jackson's passing represents a marketing bonanza for people who want to profit from his death, e.g., selling of Jackson related paraphernalia, scalping tickets, etc. eBay alone has literally thousands of Jackson items for sale. Believe me, these people are more interested in the almighty dollar than Jackson's demise.

I find it curious how his fans have blind faith in an entertainer with questionable moral values. We saw such allegiance by his fans outside of his infamous child molestation trial in 2003. His public persona was defined by his soft talking, his skin bleaching, the white glove and grabbing his crotch during performances, his views on marriage and children, sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, purchasing the remains of the elephant man, etc. Regardless of whether any of this is true or not, the public's perception was that something was "Wacko with Jacko." Nevertheless, his loyal fans quickly forgave and forgot, which makes me wonder what lessons he taught them. For example, is it okay to emulate a man who didn't pay his bills and incurred substantial debt?

If anything, Jackson's death tells us how perverted and powerful the entertainment industry is, and how easily people can be swayed like lemmings. Does Jackson deserve all this attention, even in death? He was certainly not a President or head of state, nor an inventor, builder or Nobel Prize winner. Regardless how good you think he was, he was nothing more than an entertainer of questionable moral character. And the world applauds this? Boy, have we got our priorities messed up.

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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