George Orwell once said that a man has the face that he deserves at age 50.
And while I’d agree with that sentiment as it relates to just about every single post 50-year-old walking the planet today — think Dick Cheney — I’d have to take exception with how that curse applied to Michael Jackson.
Dead at 50 and possessing a face with which no one should ever have to contend. Mike’s adult face was actually a mask. A direct creation of self-hatred, plain and simple. That and the way our own ghoulish fascination with his self-loathing spurred him on. An obsession that was prodded, secretly I think, by that part within each of us that dislikes parts of ourselves: wrinkles, sags, spots, dots; imperfection. Given unlimited wealth and time, Michael could nip, tuck, tweak and freak to his heart’s content. Only he could never get away from the self-loathing.
But enough bummer talk. Michael was a genuine puer aeternus. And no self-respecting puer, worth their essence in gold records, should ever live into his fifties. Michael was just taking leave on cue, true to his mythology. It makes perfect sense to me.
Mike’s key astrological signature reads like this — and is cosmic code for us to understand just about every aspect of his career: Uranus conjunct Venus in Leo. And Pluto conjunct his Virgo Sun. The Uranian aura — the dazzle, electricity and ingenuity to his performance style — mixed with a distinct charm and innocence. And the strange shadow catcher condition represented by his Pluto Sun conjunction. As I mentioned earlier, Michael’s Frankensteinian relationship with his own body and face fostered the perfect condition for the public to project their own obsessions with youth, beauty and perfection — and how those always remain elusive.
There’s no accurate birth time for Jackson, so I don’t venture to read house placements for his planets, but my experience with Sun Pluto individuals is that they often act as a focus or channel by which the culture encounters the unsavory, the taboo or the repressed subjects it prefers to keep hidden. Pluto Sun loves power, prestige and lots of money — and when those proclivities are flaunted the blow-back can be vicious. Strong reactions are set off in bystanders. People deprived of those ‘gifts’ often go out of their way to target those who seem to be enjoying everything in life that the disenfranchised can not. It’s a vicious cycle. And we saw this repeated over and over again with Michael’s bizarre, tabloid-propelled legal entanglements. Pedophilia, drug and substance abuse, fraud, bankruptcy — those events swirled around Jackson like a set of satellites — each one pinging back to us, the hungry gossip lovers, putting us a little bit in touch, through projection, with our own shadow issues.
And then there was Michael’s sensitive, Peter Pan-like, musically inclined Pisces moon. Distanced by opposition, far away from his Pluto problem. Oppositions are generally split in two by the psyche; where we side with one planet over the other. And Michael’s identification with ‘never growing up’ and ‘saving the children of the world’ became his identity of choice. Though occasionally Michael would find ways to merge and express the Moon Pluto opposition. Not surprisingly it was the song Thriller, with its ghoul-infested video, that marked his ascendancy; becoming the biggest selling recording artist of all time. A very Plutocratic sort of pop culture dominion. All set in motion by bringing the dark, unsavory elements of horror and death — favorite Pluto themes — out onto every dance floor across the globe. Brilliant.
And that’s how I’ll remember Jackson. By how much I danced.
Michael Jackson delivered so much musical joy in my life I feel like I need to send a truck load of money — right now — over to Barry Gordy and Sony Records. Like those folks who can tell you exactly where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was doing (and who I was doing) the day I picked up Michael’s Thriller album. I became the local hipster in one fell swoop, debuting the album for a gathering of friends that same night: Hawaii. Manoa Valley. Early December. And I was involved with a handsome guy named Mark — meeting furtively down at our local graveyard no less because I was cheating on my boyfriend. Thriller indeed.
Even Michael’s most wacko derailments will never detract from his legacy — the real magic he sprinkled across pop culture. His keen music, cinematic videos and otherworldly dancing — especially when he was on his long legendary “roll.” Though he’d never top the mega-gonzo super reach of Thriller, there were still dozens of golden moments and songs to follow. So many of them perfect, just the way any true blue Virgo likes them.
I was watching his stellar Man in the Mirror performance on Youtube earlier tonight, from a 1988 Grammy Awards show. There are a couple of lines in the song that have always made me go soft — like the way a sad poem fuzzes up your world for a moment. But tonight the words hit me doubly hard, the bit about: “A willow deeply scarred…Somebody’s broken heart…And a washed-out dream…They follow the pattern of the wind ya see…Cause they got no place to be…”
Who wouldn’t cry?
And then like everyone tonight (I think the internets almost broke at some point, right after Jackson’s death was made official) I haphazardly, randomly, clicked my way along a string of rather dullard Jackson reports until I landed on Mark Morford‘s SF Gate column. Mark wrote it so well, in that pointed, occasionally ‘cosmic’ way that he can write. So I’ll close with his thoughts and simply add: “What he said.”
“How many millions rushed home on hearing the news of his sudden death and put on Off the Wall and cranked it full volume, and swam in the memories, and are still doing so, right this moment? They say pop culture is generally meaningless and transitory and has no lasting effect, lowers the bar of discourse and poisons the intellect, is the junk food of the human soul. All very true. Mostly.
Let us pose the impossible question: How do we measure what’s truly important? How do we parse and separate and decide? There is bloodshed and death and revolution happening, right now, in the streets of a fiery foreign country. More than one, actually. There is meltdown and oppression and disease and countless huge-hearted people working against impossible odds to improve the lives of others in immeasurably honest, profound ways.
And yet over here is someone like Michael Jackson, his music, his dancing, his genius, his odd persona, well, it’s like it’s some different realm entirely. Strip away the cheese and the tabloid and the bizarre, freakish spectacle of his rather tragic life, and what’s left?
Well, you might say it’s a kind of sheer happiness, a kind of freedom like you can’t even speak about because it’s not really an intellectual thing. It’s just a simple joy. It’s also fairly essential to our survival.”