M to tha J

Here’s the thing about Michael Jackson that you might not remember. He was really cool.

I know that goes without saying, but I mean that he was cool in the way that the things we like now are cool. He wasn’t cool like Justin Timberlake or that hellspawn Ashton Kutcher. He was the youngest brother of the Jackson 5, clearly the most talented and also clearly blown away by the attention. He was just this dork, this kid, like us, like everyone.

You gotta put yourself back in 1983, back before John Hughes stole our childhoods, back when dorks were still totally dorks. You can tell me all you want that punk rock hate entered America, but I can tell you that all I knew back then was that The Right Stuff was the movie, Ronald Reagan was the man, and goofiness was, to use the right phrase, *hurtin’*.

Off The Wall had come out and some of my black friends had it, but MJ was flying way under the radar. He was a flat out dork who seemed to spend all his time practicing how to walk backwards in his room. Man, when Thriller came out, frickin’ Billie Jean… are you kidding me? Suddenly this dork is talking about how girls are trying to claim he’s their baby daddy? And it was like everywhere he walked the ground would glow.

I remember dancing with Nicole Black and whispering the lyrics to Human Nature in her ear and feeling her body shudder under my hands. She made out with me for an hour, and I was 26% zit cream at that point. I remember everyone trying to do the choreography from “Thriller” and I was the only one who could pop and lock. But I also remember the video for “Beat It” and thinking, “uh, he’s wearing a tee shirt with a cartoon on it, right?”

He was cool like a shy Jack Black. He was wearing these retarded clothes and everyone stole the look and made it awesome. He was singing the songs he liked, just doing his thing, but he was also spending hundreds of hours perfecting the sound and making the videos. He hired real directors to direct his shorts, he gave them plots and made them, if you’ll excuse me, thrilling.

You remember if you were a kid then. People don’t understand why there are thousands of normal fans yelling his innocence, but it’s because at one time we thought of him as one of us. I honestly feel that the reason he clutches children when he sleeps, the reason he has demolished his face, the reason he lies and lies and lies about the stuff he does, is because he couldn’t take what happened to him in the exact same way that none of the rest of us could.

Ashton Kutcher is gonna be fine, he’s gonna grow old gracefully, he’s gonna keep making movies that everyone hates and he’ll marry four times. But Michael can’t pretend that the whole world staring at him doesn’t scare him. I couldn’t have handled it, you couldn’t have either.

Just remember, the fact that he has trashed his life and his face beyond recognition doesn’t mean he is guilty of abusing a child. If he has lost his moral center, if he no longer understands that being strange and freakish is wrong, you can’t blame him. Every other fucked up (and every other normal) thing he did from 81 to about 93 was embraced, by all of us.

They had better *prove* he did something wrong, because with all he’s given us, and all he has done for children’s charities around the world, this is one guy that definitely gets the benefit of the doubt from me.