The saturation press and television coverage of the sad death of Michael Jackson highlights the (unfortunate?) ubiquity of ‘theory’ in considerations of cultural events today. One cannot lift a newspaper, or spend some quality time with one’s television, without being force-fed the latest diet of Princess Diana-esque accounts of His story and importance. In death, as in life,
To a degree this is our fault. Nothing seems to fascinate us like a celebrity corpse – Elvis, John Lennon, Diana et al - and so his sorry carcase will be ritually poured over by the very people who scorned him for his own alleged morbid curiosity with the remains of John Merrick. There are even rumours doing the rounds that the infamous Gunter von Hagen has a ‘contract’ to plasticize and display his remains alongside the already-stuffed Bubbles the Chimp. In the 02 arena no less. Whether this is true is almost beside the point. This is precisely the kind of rumour that should be circulating. It ‘feels’ right given what we know about Jackson the man, which is to say nothing.
One of the most inventive tributes I have read this week came from the pen of Germaine Greer who neatly side-stepped all this monstrosity and low-cultural tackiness by dreaming of
He will, of course, be forever associated with the casual omnipresence of Gothic tropes and figures in popular culture, and none more so than the groovy troupe of flesh-eating zombies in the ‘Thriller’ video. Perversely, like the von Hagen / Merrick rumours this now seems to have circled round to be focussing on us as complicit viewers and consumers. As the Goth queen in Titus Andronicus learns, the real horror lies in the moment of being confronted with the precise nature of the body you’ve been eating. But, as
‘The loved Jackson, the gloved Jackson, the wealthy Jackson, the bankrupt Jackson, the Motown Jackson, the moonwalking Jackson, the MTV Jackson, the despised Jackson, the genius, the mutant, the addict, the oddball, the victim, the black, the white, the creepy, the glorious, the narcissist, the pathetic, the gentle, the monster.’
I could get all Deleuze and Guattari on you at this point. And someone probably will. But, enough is enough.
By Dr Andrew Sneddon
By Dr Andrew Sneddon
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