I feel as though I must weigh in on the passing of Michael Jackson. Actually, I’m not so much interested in him per se, but in the cult of celebrity. People have already begun to eulogize him as a great man. But what is it that makes him so great? Is it that he sold so many albums? Its certainly an admirable achievement, but does that make him great or just successful? Is success a measure of greatness? Consider how many times Edison failed before discovering the correct filament for the incandescent light bulb. Technically, he was only successful once. But he’s still considered great.
Perhaps Jackson is successful because he’s widely adored. Perhaps, but consider Winston Churchill, who was notably unsuccessful within his own land. In fact, he was ousted from power before the end of World War Two.
What it seems to come down to is the fact that Michael Jackson is a celebrity. His fame is his greatest success. But what I’ve been witnessing resembles the type of hysteric loyalty usually afforded to Elvis Presley. I have visions of this man becoming the “King” of the next generation. The reason for this eludes me.
What is it that draws people to celebrity. Do we really believe that someone who can sing is more enlightened, more intelligent that the rest of society? Are actors and actresses more equipped to solve the great problems of society? I should say not. Why is it then, that they should be so universally admired? Why do we treat them as heros? Michael Jackson sold a lot of records, but he didn’t advance society in any appreciable way. In fact, as a person, it could be argued he was quite aberrant. We may feel a sense of loss because he will no longer produce any more music, but he was not a great man. He was only famous.