Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson: All Aboard the Bandwagon

So, here's my second blog, and it has something to do with Michael Jackson, but that's just a starting-off point.

Michael Jackson was undeniably very talented. The first two record albums (I'm old) I ever bought, when I was five years old, were a Jackson 5 album, and the soundtrack to the movie "Ben" (which is still a great movie, and so is the sequel, "Willard;" anything with killer rats is good.) In fact, on a September Saturday in 1971, I remember waking up my grandmother, who lived with us, to tell her that the inaugural episode of the "Jackson 5" cartoon show was about to begin on ABC -- and I'm sure she was seriously underwhelmed, although I did bring her orange juice, in an orange glass with a clear stem, when I went in her room to impart this world-shaking information.

Having said that, I'm a little gobsmacked, as English people say (or, at least, as English people say in my mind, when they're not saying "Hellllo, guv'nah!" and "Cor, blimey!" and "Crikey!") about what happened after Michael Jackson passed away. After fifteen-or-so years of everybody in the world believing Jackson to be a creepy, child-molesting freak with a chimp and a kid named 'Blanket' and a white glove and a surgical mask and a hyperbaric chamber, suddenly, four days ago, in a period of just under five minutes -- everybody in the world started to love him again. You saw it happen, and so did I.

Now, I've been known to shake my dimpled can every time I hear something from "Thriller" and "Off the Wall" just like everybody does (it must be jelly, 'cause jam don't shake like that) -- but, crikey! Those records were more than twenty-five years ago.

May I remind you that, back in the '80s, nobody liked Ronald Reagan either (I still know some Republican crackpots who get off on everything he did -- it takes all kinds, I'm afraid), but after he died, everybody started talking about how, in retrospect, he was a really great president, because, under his reign, Communism ended and the Berlin Wall fell. (He was directly responsible for neither of those two things.)

What is it with people, anyway?

How can everybody change his opinion about a person on a dime like this? Jackson (and Reagan) are either creepy OR you like them -- but for God's sake, everybody, stick with one opinion about a person, will you? Would a woman ever say, "That man raped me... but I like him, anyway!" Would a Holocaust survivor say, "Hitler killed my family... but I loved his paintings." Of course not.

I already know the answer to the question I'm asking -- my "what is it with people?" question.

In the case of Michael Jackson, I think that most people, in private, still believe that he was a creepy freak. But everybody is afraid of telling the truth, because everybody wants to be liked. And if all of your friends are posting on Facebook that they love Michael Jackson, then you'd better say the same thing too, or you might face the slings n' arrows of being "unfriended."

People -- not just with Michael Jackson, but with everything -- love to be on the bandwagon. It's comforting to like what your friends all (pretend to) like, whether it's Michael Jackson, or "American Idol," or reality t.v., or "The Hangover," or today's "music," or big, bloated CGI movies full of sarcastic animals and transforming robots, or Marriage (antiquated ritual), or Obama, or whatever it is, because there's no argument that way, and you'll always have somebody to watch your dog when you go on vacation. There's safety in numbers, and whoa to anybody in this world who dares to have his own opinion, or her own taste. (After the Lakers won the playoffs, here in L.A., every dillweed in So. Cal suddenly, within the space of eight hours, suddenly had a goofy Lakers flag jutting from the top of his SUV.) In the movie business, producers won't even 'green-light' a movie, unless it reminds them of something else. ("It's Forrest Gump meets Speed: This time, the retard's driving the bus!")

Everybody, since the beginning of time, has always wanted to like the same things that his friends liked, because doing so is very comforting -- hence Organized Religion. Today, in our 21st-century age of too much stimuli, there's more white noise -- more 'content,' more shouting, more Instant Analysis of every world event, more loud haircuts shilling stuff on t.v. --than ever, but there's also less information, and as a result everybody feels cut off and impotent and nobody has anything to grasp onto, and nobody feels anything. So when we all can get "together" as a "group" and revise history to make it that Michael Jackson is the greatest entertainer who ever lived, well then, so mote it be. Now we can feel all warm and toasty inside. (Ahhhhh!)

BTW, I'm not a total curmudgeon: I was fourteen years old when John Lennon died, and that was one of the worst days of my life. In school, the day after it happened, we all stood around Mrs. Giacomazza's 9th grade American History class and talked about how meaningful John Lennon was, and many kids -- including me -- were practically in tears. What I'm trying to say, is that I'm perfectly willing to be on the bandwagon if the person, or thing, being honored, merits such attention. John Lennon, a simple man who celebrated peace and love, whose music was mostly unhyped, deserved such adulation and deification. Michael Jackson, a once-upon-a-time talented guy who devolved into a bizarre freak of nature, does not.

So let's all take a cleansing breath. Let's remember that me, you, and everybody we know is an individual, and that all of us are allowed to like our own movies and music and politicians even if our friends don't share our opinions. Anyway, even if you don't agree with me, I'll still let you watch my dog.

-- 30 --


Hey, everybody!

I'm Chuck Zigman -- I'm a screenwriter (oh, God!) and a journalist and a published author (http://www.jeangabinbook.com/) and I live in Los Angeles, USA, the place that Peter Fonda affectionately refers to as "Smell-A," and I happen to agree with Fonda... although I kind of like L.A., too. (I'm from here, so maybe that's why I like it.)

For the past few years, everybody I know has been telling me that I should blog -- and I've been terribly resistant to it, because there's already so much writing on the internet (the internet has really de-valued writing, in my jaded opinion) and I always worry about adding more gibberish to the already over-stuffed 'net.

Anyway, I started to think about it: I already post little "Status Updates" on Facebook anyway, so I'm already part of the 'system,' even though I pretend I'm not. So I guess it hasn't been such a big stretch for me to start my own blog.

I guess I'll use this space to talk about anything that means something to me, and that means I'll do whatever everybody else does -- I'll rant about movies or politics or just "things that I experience/observe."

Who am I? (Not that you asked.) Born in Los Angeles (on the 4th of July), I attended undergrad film school at UCLA, and then I moved to NYC and attended graduate film school (two fun-filled degrees) at Columbia University. Spent two years as Professor of Film and TV (!) at Augusta State University in Georgia. For the past decade I've been back in my hometown of La-La Land, writing articles and researching writing my book, WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, which was released in 2008. My book is about a famous French movie icon named Jean Gabin, who's kind of considered to be the French Bogart, or the French Spencer Tracy, and you can find it on Amazon. (At two volumes, 2 pounds per volume, it's heavy -- you can use it to weigh-down an area rug.)

More about me in another posting. This posting is just me dipping my long, hairy toe in the cesspool of blogging (yuck!), and so -- more later!