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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Voyeurism, Celebrity, and Our Michael Jackson Obsession

The only time that I can remember feeling sadness about the death of an entertainer was the death of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's career spanned nearly six decades. It included an Oscar along with all sorts of musical accolades. I don't remember the media going into quite this sort of a saturated obsession when Sinatra died. It's true that Sinatra died mostly of old age. Yet, Sinatra was exponentially the better singer, actor, and entertainer than Michael Jackson.

Yet, it appears the rest of the world stopped when news broke of Michael Jackson's death. It took all other news off the front pages. The massacre in Iran was no longer all that important. Even passage of the monumental cap and trade in the House took a backseat to the coverage of Michael Jackson's death.

For about a day, cable news couldn't talk about anything else. There was endless speculation about his death, and endless recaps of his life. The whole thing was entirely surreal. Jackson ceased being any sort of a rock icon more than a decade ago. For the better part of the last two decades, Jackson was something akin to a circus freak and even likely something much more sinister.

The most obscene part of the whole thing is this. The story of Jackson's death could be summed up in about ten minutes. The rest of the time the media engaged in endless speculation. It was the sort of repetitive speculation that ultimately didn't advance the story though in any meaningful way. It did, however, I assume advance the ratings of everyone that engaged in it.

So, what is it that makes people watch? Why do people care so much? This story is the perfect confluence of the sort of voyeurism we get in a trainwreck, the attraction of celebrity, along with scandal and mystery. So, a tragic but ultimately frivilous story winds up taking all the oxygen of the media. It's frankly unclear when any other story will find any oxygen left for itself.


Anonymous said...

Sinatra was a legend, and he'll always go down as one of the greats. Compared to Michael ...yes, Sinatra was a better singer (in his particular genre of music), he was definitely the better actor (although the 'I didn't molest little kids' testimony Michael gave was not too bad ...for a lie), and he was far better rounded.

However, Michael was by far the greater entertainer if you compare both men at their peaks, Michael also had a far wider reach, and a deeper depth of reach (in his heyday, Michael could move crowds with a gesture). I appreciate Sinatra, and have his music in my car right now (CD) ...while I do not own any recording of Michael Jackson ....but it is clearly apparent who is the greater entertainer.

Sure, there are many places where Sinatra is considered greater than Michael as an entertainer much the same way that in Jakarta or Melbourne or Lagos there are local acts who are considered greater than more international acts, and obviously there is a taste-bias element (e.g. a rock music fan will consider that genre superior to country music, while a country music fan will consider rock to be simply unadulterated noise). Thus, one has to look at things on the aggregate.

On the aggregate, Michael Jackson may not have been as good an actor as Sinatra, but he is by FAR the greater (not necessarily 'better' since that is subjective to taste-bias, but definitely greater) entertainer.

mike volpe said...

Are you serious? Sinatra's career lasted longer, much longer, than Jackson's life. Jackson's career peaked and essentially ended by the end of the 80's. Sinatra was still singing into his 80's.

Even at their peaks, Sinatra was much better. I don't know how you measure better but it is awfully peculiar.

Euu™ said...

i love sinatra and i'm a big fan of him and like "anonymous" said i own a cd of frank and i lissen to him every they but michael damn i don't have one,i'm sorry for michael because he has some nice songs like Billy jean,smouth criminal,beat it but frank was way to high he got the chance to sing for president of USA(JFK) in brazil 175.000 people went to his concert to see him...but yea nowadays people make money from publicity and he was a good hit for them...and all the way for michael jackson frank sinatra was a star:) is a video when michael met frank). All the respect for bouth of them and thanks for theyr music

Anonymous said...

Careful. Allowing posts like the
ones I just read could get you arrested for racism. The blacks
aren't going to like this