June 15, 2005

Michael Jackson and me

We're the same age, and his troubles reminded me than when we were eleven and I was still in my he-man-girl-hating phase (I invited girls to my 6th and 7th birthday parties, but for the next four or five years after that couldn't recall what madness had ever made me like girls), I felt sorry for him because his family wasn't letting him enjoy his "latency period" (as the Freudians called it). I figured, even then, that forcing him to sing love songs to girls at that age would lead to trouble. (In contrast, I highly approved of his hit "Ben," from the movie "Willard," which was a much more age-appropriate love song to a pet rat )

Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, feels the same way today (not about girls, I mean, but about Jackson's upbringing). In "Arrested Development," he writes:

People tend to throw up hands at Michael Jackson's multifarious bizarreness. But is it really so strange? The boy was forced to work by a cruel and physically abusive father starting at the age of 7. (If he'd been sent into a factory or coal mine, instead of onstage, we'd have more compassion for him.) As a boy, he was denied what even most abused and underprivileged children have: school, friends, and play.

Instead, Michael was made into a performing sexualized freak, a boy whose soprano voice kindled passion in grown women. He was made to witness adult sexuality at an age when it can only have been terrifying and incomprehensible to him. By 10, he was performing in strip clubs and hiding under the covers in hotel rooms while his older brothers got it on with groupies. At 11—the age at which his psyche seems frozen—he was a superstar. "My childhood was completely taken away from me," he has said. Almost everything that seems freakish about him can be explained by his poignant, doomed effort to get his stolen childhood back.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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