Daily Archives: July 11, 2009

A Question of Greatness


I feel hurt.  That’s the kind of feeling I was not expecting as I’ve been going through the stages of grief over Michael Jackson’s passing.  Yet, I must say, after reading different articles or watching different You Tube videos or even watching some update on CNN, I’ve just been aggravated beyond belief at the level of vitriol and cynicism leveled at the man.  I can’t even share in collective memories and pain with others who adored or admired MJ without some vile creature somewhere posting a disgusting remark that either vilifies him for alleged wrongdoing or ridicules those of us mourning him. It’s absolutely tiresome.

Yet, the final straw for me had to be some idiotic article I came across today by a pseudo intellectual (and I should know since I’m supposed to be a professional one) claiming Michael Jackson to be an “Icon of Mediocrity” (and no, I will not link to it from my blog).  It’s one thing to question the man’s musical genius, but to question his dancing abilities?  Put down the crack pipe, hater!

Sigh.  There’s something about the incessant dismissal, demeaning put-downs,  and negations of his greatness that strangely remind me of the hurt I felt last year when I followed David Archuleta during American Idol.  You see, when other fans quickly told those of us, who were embittered by David’s loss of the American Idol title, to get over it – especially since David himself was so gracious as a runner-up – I could not get over the fact that, out of all the contestants on the show, David was singled out by the media for ridicule.  And it was never-ending: from homophobic innuendos to mockery of his supposed victimization by his “stage dad” to his outstretched hand to his supposed “Chosen One” status on the show.  The ridicule was incessant.  Also in my memory are the mean-spirited posts by AI watchers who boasted of finding creative ways to block David’s phone lines during the finale voting (hence convincing me that Cook won the title due as much to David’s haters as to his fans).

Despite all that nonsense, and despite David coming out on top with his debut album and successful concerts, I still read foolish reviews that are so dismissive of what I see as David’s potential for greatness.  And, I know this kind of thing doesn’t bother David in the least (being as humble as he is), but it hurts!  And it also frightens me.  The level of ridicule that Michael Jackson received (even in death) makes me not ever wish such a fate on David – and yet, I feel he is so capable of climbing to that level of superstardom.

What is it about David that made him a target?  What was it about Michael?  Well, with MJ, you can easily point to his eccentricities, but honestly, I still don’t get why David was ever singled out for ridicule while he was on the show.  Is it merely that he appeared to be a gentle soul?  Did his talent frighten those with less talent?

That’s the thing about artistic greatness when living in a democracy.  We admire it and we consume it – to the level at which we transform artists into rich and famous celebrities.  However, democracy often champions mediocrity in a misguided attempt at championing equality.  So, no sooner do we build up our “greats” than we begin to look for faults so that we can tear them down.  Michael Jackson’s demise was on full view for all to see, and yet so many delighted in his crash landing while my heart broke at the spectacle.  I just cannot understand the psyche of hate and ridicule, nor the culture that perpetuates it as we strip our public figures of their dignity.  It is absolutely disgusting and despicable, and our media, which would still rather talk about his possible drug use than about his role as a humanitarian (if we’re not going to talk about his music), merely expose us for the empty, meaningless sham of a society we have become.

I still cringe when anyone ever questions David’s sincerity or goodness, or whenever someone wants to turn these qualities into some kind of pathology.  David is an artist of great merit with many of the same qualities described of MJ: he’s a perfectionist, he’s diligent, he’s a sensitive and gentle soul, and he’s driven.

David is wonderfully skilled at deflecting the negativity – in a way that MJ was not – but I still have concerns about how an artist can develop to his full potential in a cultural climate that would sooner tear you down before helping you to rise to new heights.  Our society has lost its ever-loving mind, and in such a toxic environment, we must protect our great artists.  Yes, they may have their own inner strength, but I hope the cultural environment in which they must thrive can shift its focus so that we recognize greatness when we see it.  More important, I hope we will not fear such greatness and, in fact, hold it up and let it shine perpetual light upon us.