What do you think of Michael Jackson?

By Gary Gray, 16, Sunland Christian School
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Illustration by Oscar Rodriguez, 19

They say he is one of the most controversial people in pop music. From the surgeries to the lawsuits, this artist is no stranger to the news. Recently, the networks aired three primetime "exclusive" specials about him.

You know who I’m talking about … Michael Jackson. Even though Michael has been on the cover of the tabloids for as long as I can remember, I also consider him a musical genius. The self-dubbed "King of Pop" gave us some of the greatest music in history, such as "Billie Jean," "Bad" and "Beat It."

I couldn’t stop dancing

My mom introduced me to Michael Jackson. I remember dancing to the Off the Wall album in the car. My mom would tell me to sit still wherever we were going because I would try to dance out of my seat belt. I wanted to dance like he did on the videos. I wanted to sing like he did on the tapes. And I wanted to dress like he did on the posters. The singing and the clothes didn’t really happen, but I started to practice dancing like him, though I never mastered the backwards Moonwalk.

He also totally changed the way we look at music videos. The video for "Beat It" was critically acclaimed for its fight-like dance sequences. With 50 people dancing in formation, the video gave off a great West Side Story vibe. Of course, we can’t forget the undisputed champion of music videos, "Thriller." This video had the dance sequences, the costumes and great makeup designed to make the dancers look like gruesome zombies. But it’s best known for being a 15-minute mini-movie. They rarely show the extended version on the video shows anymore, but when they do, it’s still a sight to behold.

Regardless of these stellar achievements, many people my age criticize Michael Jackson. When I asked the 20-plus people my age why don’t they listen to him, they all gave me the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard: because Michael is "weird" or "crazy."

A highly publicized interview with British reporter Martin Bashir portrayed Michael as just that. The whole interview was geared toward making Michael look like a fool. During one segment, Jackson mentioned that he wrote most of his songs while sitting up in a huge tree on his ranch. Brashir asked him why a 43-year-old man would climb a tree and then asked him to do it. To me that’s an obvious attempt to try to make Michael look stupid. I mean, what’s the big deal?

In an interview that aired later on Fox, things Bashir chose to edit out were finally shown, like Michael’s opinion on his father. In the first interview, Michael said his father was too rough on him while growing up. But in the Fox special, Michael was seen saying right after that comment that he had the utmost respect for his father.

OK, Michael has had some surgery and was sued by a family claiming that he molested their son who was sleeping over at Michael’s Neverland Ranch. And recently, people attacked him when a German television crew caught him dangling his youngest child for a couple seconds over a hotel balcony. But I think that people who say that they don’t care for Michael just feel that his image is too different from today’s trends. Rather than having his own designer clothing line, he wears sequined military-style jackets and shiny pants. Another criticism is that he is an African-American boy who has grown up to be porcelain white.

Despite all these problems, do you ever turn off his songs or flip the channels from any of his videos because you are disgusted by his image?

Double standard hurts Jackson

I’m going to do a bit of comparing between two worlds. Michael Jackson has been harshly criticized for what he says are two surgeries on his nose. He has in the past been accused of child molestation, which may not be true. A GQ magazine article written in the late 90’s revealed a taped conversation, in which the father of the boy who was allegedly molested says: "And if I go through with this, I win big time. There’s no way I lose. I will get everything I want, and they will be destroyed forever. June (the child’s mother) will lose custody … and Michael’s career will be over."

Even the boy’s account of the abuse is dubious. GQ reported that at first the boy denied anything had happened. His accusation later came out while he was under the influence of a controversial psychiatric drug.

Now let’s look at Eminem and Snoop Dogg. Both have been in court for carrying a firearm. Snoop has been investigated in connection with the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. and Eminem has held a gun to the head of his child’s mother. Now despite all these legal problems that are way more newsworthy, these two artists skate by untouched compared to Jackson. I am an avid rap listener and probably listen to as much Eminem as the next person, but come on.

Michael Jackson is called all sorts of things in today’s society. What some people don’t realize is that in the early 80’s, rap acts like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg looked and acted weird and Michael was the headliner. Michael may be a cover story on the news lately but so is every other rap artist out there. Reporters just don’t see it. Why do we criticize Michael when there’s other artists who have committed crimes? I still love his music. And if you think Michael is played out, the fact that he is selling his concert tickets for $2,500 for a front-row seat should tell you it will be a while before he’s out of the game.