Musings On A Cultural Icon

The passing of Michael Jackson saddens me for a reason different than most other people. No, he wasn’t the soundtrack to my childhood. No, I wasn’t alive when learning the “Thriller” dance was the cool thing to do. But, I am bearing witness, like everyone else this week, to the death of one of the last HUGE household names. I can only think of a handful of stars whose entertainment careers have spanned over several generations, propelling them to superstar statuses: Madonna, Cher, Bono, Bruce, etc.

In this day and age, culture is too fragmented to create these larger than life rockstar personas. When we have our own iPods, Twitters, DVRs, and cell phones, it is no longer as united a front in which to create a mass media. You don’t have to pay attention to the same entertainment as everyone else. The whole country doesn’t flock to the theater to see the same movie as much as in the past. I think I actually might prefer those days in some ways. Maybe I don’t want entertainment to individually always cater to my own interests. It isolates everyone into to their own personal bubble. As if we need that in today’s already divided and unsocial world!

Ten minutes after hearing the MJ news, my coworkers and I were carpooling over the Tobin Bridge into Boston. We had “Billie Jean” blaring on the radio and all of the windows down. Three of the tollbooth workers came out of their booths and slow-clapped and smiled as we drove through Fast-Pass style.  I recall a really weird feeling after seeing this occur: a feeling of cultural unity that is RARE in this country. Call me crazy, but Michael is the Elvis of this generation, and it beats me as to who can fill those shoes out of today’s artists.


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