Not too long ago, my kids discovered Michael Jackson. In typical fashion, once they discover something that they enjoy, they can’t get enough of it. Until, of course, they get bored, and quickly move on to something else. Regardless, at this present time, B and J are constantly talking about MJ this and MJ that.
However, if I can keep it 100 with ya (word to Larry Wilmore!), I was a little conflicted on this newfound interest. I mean, while you may or may not be a fan of Michael Jackson’s music (count me squarely in the ‘mays’), there’s no arguing that he owned it. He was the King of Pop, for real.
Aaaaaaand then there are the accusations and rumours about his personal life.
Look, I don’t know what’s true or what’s not. I’m not here to pass judgement. I’ve heard stuff, like you’ve heard stuff. Sure, a lot of it is unfounded/unsubstantiated, but it’s still out there.
On the one hand, as a parent, yeah, it did make me a bit uncomfortable that they’ve chosen this guy to put on the ol’ pedestal.
Yet, on the other hand………
Go back in time in your mind, for a minute. Try to remember yourself at B and J’s ages (five and almost three years old). You’re all naively innocent. That line between reality and fantasy is blurred. From this perspective, Michael Jackson is DA MAN, son! He’s a borderline superhero! Think about it:
- He started his career when he was young. Small children are fans of other talented small children. It’s all about the emulation. B keeps going on about being a singer/dancer, while coming up with names for dance moves that he hasn’t even made up yet. Forget the Moonwalk, watch out for ‘The Knee-Bender’.
- Not only was Jacko talented, but his brothers and sisters were, too. B is fascinated with the Jackson 5. He calls them a team (Jermaine, Randy, Michael and Chico, in his words. I know that it’s not quite five, and that the names aren’t all correct. Whatever. It’s close enough). He asks me stuff like who’s the oldest, who’s the second tallest, who’s the toughest etc. Pretty sure that he thinks that, after they were done making music, they used their instruments as weapons to go beat up the Foot Clan or something, like they were the Ninja Turtles.
- Similar to the Ninja Turtles, the Jackson 5 even had their own freakin’ cartoon. Not surprisingly, lil Mikey was the breakout star, and got into all kinds of animated hilarity.
- Young MJ’s music is fun. It appeals to all ages. Songs like “ABC” and “I Want You Back” are great to bust a child-sized groove to. “I’ll Be There” has a nice message to it, too. “Ben” is mad weird, though, no doubt. A love song to a rat? WTF. When B and J first heard “Ben”, I had to do some verbal tap-dancing when they asked me about it:
J: Who’s Ben?
Me: Michael’s friend. He went away. This song is about how much he misses him.
B: Where did Ben go?
B: To a different city?
B: What city?
Me: Uhh…Gary, Indiana.
B: Will he ever see Ben again?
B: He can come over to his house and play?
And that was it.
The moral of “Ben”? MJ now has a long distance buddy! How dope is that?!
- Michael Jackson has magic powers. As seen in the “Billie Jean” video, the ground lights up when he walks. Also, he apparently can make himself invisible, so villains can’t catch him. To a child, this is an important trait.
- “Thriller”! I saw the video for the first time when I was like six years old. It scared the heck out of me, and I didn’t watch it again for 14 years. So, of course, B and J think it’s the greatest thing ever. Michael Jackson’s a werewolf zombie with dancing zombie friends? He likes to play tricks on his girlfriend? AND he likes to watch movies of himself while eating popcorn? It really is the best video of all time! And yes, B thinks he’s braver than me, since he watches “Thriller” and doesn’t get scared.
- What do GI Joe, Barbie and the Avengers have in common with Michael Jackson? Why, they’re all available as toys, of course!
My old action figure.
- He’s bad, but not bad. Kids tend to root for nice people. More often than not, MJ portrays himself as a hero. Side note: trying to explain the song/video “Bad” to B was worse than Abbott explaining who’s on first to Costello:
B: Is Michael Jackson bad?
B: But he says ‘I’m bad! I’m bad!’
M: Yes. Well, no. It’s a different bad.
B: Is that guy bad (pointing to Wesley Snipes)?
M: No. Well, yes, he’s not being nice.
B: Are those guys Michael Jackson’s friends? Who’s tougher? Who’s badder?
Me: I don’t think that they fight. They just dance. Badder isn’t a word.
B: Are they bad dancers?
Anyway, confusing 1980s slang aside, MJ comes across as a straight up badass. More kid bonus points for that.
- In the “Black or White” video, he’s homies with MacCauley Culkin A.K.A. Kevin from Home Alone. I’ve mentioned before that B thinks Kevin is basically the greatest child who ever lived. The fact that Michael Jackson actually hangs out with him?
Oh. My. Gosh.
- Speaking of black or white, Michael Jackson changes colour! J has this doll that changes from pink to purple when it gets wet. Jacko’s kinda like a real life version of that, going from light to dark, depending on what we’re watching on Youtube. B and J aren’t that concerned about the skin thing (it don’t matter if he’s black or white); it’s just another characteristic that they seem to think is cool.
Anyway, you get the idea. Through the eyes of babes, he’s all that and bag of chips with a can of Pepsi. I haven’t even mentioned to them that he had a pet chimp! And lived at an amusement park! And that he’s, uh, not alive anymore. #kidsmindsblown
At some point, they’re going to see or hear something about their new hero, and they’re going to be disappointed. I’ve explained that MJ is an entertainer, and that his videos are all make believe; he chooses to come across in a certain way to us. Thing is, though, B grasps this concept, yet he still pretends that he actually is what he sees on TV. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being a child. You can believe whatever you want to, and who can fault you for it? If my children have no issue with the idea of a heavyset dude with magic reindeer delivering presents, or a giant rabbit hiding chocolate eggs, or a fairy flying around buying up teeth, then can I really blame them for liking a singing, dancing, magical, butt-kicking, colour-changing werewolf zombie?
Eventually, the truth will come out about all of those characters that I’ve led my kids on about. No need to blow up their spots now, however.
Besides, I’m sure they’ll be onto someone else soon enough, anyway. Hopefully whoever it is, is less controversial.
Britney Spears, maybe?