In the beginning, as usual, it was all about her. How much he had in common with her. His first date (platonic, of course) with her. Her her her. But once Madonna got out of the way, her tribute to Michael Jackson at the MTV VMAs on September 13 was incredibly moving, the first celebrity eulogy that really nailed exactly how I feel about his passing.
“We abandoned him,” she said. And I agree. I admire Madonna for sharing the blame, admitting that she lost contact with Michael and failed to fulfill the promise of their once-budding friendship.
We all abandoned him.
I, for one, never believed the allegations of child molestation against Michael Jackson, and over the years, I’ve had quite a few heated discussions defending my unpopular point of view. I don’t know if people are rethinking their stance now that he’s gone, but it was interesting to see the public react to Michael’s death as if they were just realizing that he made music, too. Suddenly, the man who arguably might not have gone platinum with a new record had he lived had become the best selling artist on the planet. Again. “Sometimes we have to lose things before we can truly appreciate them,” Madonna said. Can I get an amen?
But I don’t stand completely behind everything she said. I’m not convinced that Michael’s general lack of a childhood was the sole culprit for his unusual behavior as an adult. That’s too easy. After all, many stars grow up in the spotlight. Sometimes they turn to drugs and other assorted bad behavior. Sometimes they barely make it to adulthood. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they turn out just fine. But I have yet to see a child star grow up to become what Michael Jackson became: the ringleader of a three-ring circus that, in this case, may have been called the Michael Jackson Show.
It was so much more than a kid not being able to live out his childhood. I think the emotional and physical abuse Michael claims he suffered at the hands of his father were directly responsible for his arrested development, his outlandish behavior and his obsession with children. He not only wanted the childhood that he never had; he wanted to be the father he never had. But I suppose for legal reasons and out of respect for Michael’s father, Joe, who was in the audience, Madonna couldn’t really go there. But I’m impressed that she went as far as she did — and without glancing, distractingly, at written notes. She still comes across as being somewhat mechanical and over-rehearsed, the way she has ever since she discovered England. But speaking from the heart and not from a piece of paper made her words seems more genuine.
“Yes, Michael Jackson was a human being, but dammit he was a king. Long live the king,” she said in closing. Yes, hyperbole perhaps, but what would a Madonna moment be if she didn’t go a little over the top? She was, however, completely spot on about one thing, dammit: Michael Jackson was a human being. Thanks for the reminder, Madonna.