Jacko: a Very English Death Scene
I was reminded of this today, when I switched on the news and could find no channel where anything but the death of Michael Jackson was being discussed. His death is very sad -- whatever his problems or faults or sins, three children have lost their father, siblings a brother and, if his parents are still alive, mum and dad have lost a son. What is interesting (though hardly unpredictable) is the way in which the media have focused on the grief of all these people who never knew him and served it up as entertainment.
I never liked Jackson's music but he was clearly a hugely popular and talented entertainer. And he continues to entertain in death -- not just because his records can be played but, at least for a week or two, because the media are able to play his death as one more big showbiz event, burying the tragedy of real death, real bereavement, and really shattered and terminated relationships under the schmaltz of the faux-bereavement of his fans through the sanitizing and distancing medium of television and video. Of course, the response to his death by the people on the street says a lot about the importance of entertainment in our age, indeed, about the idolatries of the modern world. But is also tells us something about the entertainment media. Like casinos in Las Vegas, come rain or shine, the House always wins.