Michael Jackson's death has brought mixed emotions to the millions of people who knew and loved his music. Yet I cannot help but wonder what the incredible response to his death says about our society.
The online activity to his death has been historic and mindblowing. Yahoo's story on his hospitalization reportedly got 800,000 pageviews in ten minutes. Google News had so many searches for him that they thought they were under an automated attack, and they saw one of the largest mobile search spikes they have ever seen. On Twitter as many as 30% of tweets related to Michael Jackson on the day of his death.
Yes, he was the legendary King of Pop and millions enjoyed his music but I cannot help but wonder if in our fascination with his death, we are missing many of the ways that we supported the problems he struggled with his entire life. Deepak Chopra wrote here on Huffington Post, "He declared often, as former child stars do, that he was robbed of his childhood. Considering the monstrously exaggerated value our society places on celebrity, which was showered on Michael without stint, the public was callous to his very real personal pain."
Yet isn't the "monstrous exaggerated value that our society places on celebrity" us? And how much of the response is just this? While at one level, our culture puts celebrities on a pedestal and adores them, we seem to get more satisfaction when they fall -- and the harder the better. There is a part of our culture that seems to relish and find satisfaction in the suffering of celebrities. As people wait to hear the coroners reports of how Jackson died, how many of us secretly hope to learn that he was on numerous medications to dull the enormous suffering and isolation he faced? Sure, we love of our celebrities, but we seem to love them more the more they suffer.
So while people are posting tributes and comments on blogs and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, possibly the best tribute that we can make to Michael Jackson is to end the "monstrously exaggerated value our society places on celebrity," particularly as it relates to young stars. We can do this by refusing to consume media that feeds this beast, that sets celebrities off as special and then highlights their inadequacies and downfalls. In doing so, maybe the next young great entertainers will not be robbed of their childhood, and can live a rich, quality life.
How beautiful if Jackson's death can help our culture transform how we view and relate to celebrities. The culture is, after all, only us, and we decide what to support or not in every action we take.