Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett: Representatives of a Different Time

I’ll go ahead and file this one in the category of “things I wish I had said but didn’t”…  I recently read a great John Derbyshire observation (most of them ARE great) the other day where he succinctly and accurately made the following comments about the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett: 

“Jackson, like Fawcett, was a relic of the time when we were a single nation, listening to the same pop songs, going to the same movies, sticking the same babe posters on our bedroom walls, laughing at the same jokes, even giving our kids names from a common stock. Whether Jackson should be extravagantly mourned or not, I leave to you to decide; but that era of national-cultural unity surely should be. Requiescat in pace.”  Read the entire entry here.

He’s right.  We’ve become so specialized in the music we listen to, in the sports we play, in the television shows we watch, etc.  When I was younger, there was pop, rock, rap, and oldies on the radio; We played baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and so on; There were a handful of things to watch on network television, and on cable, we had ESPN when it seemed that they were showing 24 hour coverage of Australian Rules Football, plus we had MTV which actually used to play videos.  I know my parents would laugh at the number of choices that I’ve laid out already, but compared to what is available now, that was IT.

These people didn’t have to pitch reality shows to Lifetime Networks and have some dopy crew follow them around with cameras and microphones so that we could sit around saying, “why are we watching these no-talent ass-clowns”?  No, these people were stars because, in a pool of entertainment so limited, not in terms of ability or creativity, but in terms of sheer depth, these people naturally stood out, and had somewhat of a captive audience.

Whatever you think about someone like Michael Jackson, what with all of his eccentricities and his bizzare and downright disgusting behavior, he along with Farah Fawcett represented a time that, for better or worse, we’ve pushed beyond.  My old poet friend and mentor, Jared Carter, argued a decade ago that we’ve turned into a society of producers of art with fewer and fewer consumers of it, and the net result is that those consumers have more crap than art to consume.  I tend to agree with him as well.


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