Friday 8 March 2019

Enough is enough: Michael Jackson's music is dead to me now

I accept that great art is often made by terrible people – but sometimes it is necessary to draw a line

Nothing should interfere with my personal listening pleasure. Nothing at all. Great art is often made by terrible people. These truths I have held to be self-evident. Certainly, as a woman, you have to get over yourself a lot of the time because the canon of literature, of cinema, of art, is the canon of lauded misogyny and in order to function critically, you have to inhabit it.

Hannah Gadsby’s wonderful comedy show Nanette includes a takedown of Picasso, but it doesn’t work for me. I like Picasso too much. I can’t not look at his paintings. Just as I can’t not wonder at the words of William Burroughs, who killed his wife (accidentally, we are meant to believe).

Hey, look at me and my wonderful ability to compartmentalise! Then I find myself in a minicab and Billie Jean comes on. Everyone still plays Michael Jackson and the songs he sung about being wronged, and my heart starts to beat a little too fast.

 ‘Jackson turned himself into a monster in front of us in Thriller,
yet he was also always the victim.’
Photograph: Allstar Collection//Sportsphoto Ltd
The idea of Jackson as an abuser is not new. In 1994, he made a financial settlement of $23m with the family of Jordan Chandler. Everyone knew he had young boys sleeping in his bed. This was not normal, we said – but we had decided it was not sex. Oh no. When every big case of predatory paedophilia breaks, we rush to say it was obvious all along, but somehow we looked away.

Jackson turned himself into a monster in front of us in Thriller, yet he was also always the victim. As more and more awful, awful details emerge of boys who claim he abused them from the age of seven, I don’t know what box to put his music in any more. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes we draw lines and it is way too late, but it has to be done. That is how cultural shifts happen. They happen when we say: no more. Enough.

How sad is it that I might not listen to Jackson any more, that this investment in my own past is so morally rotten? In the scheme of things, not so sad. There is so much magnificent music in the world; I won’t go without. He is properly dead to me now.

(Source: The Guardian)

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