Magazine article Herizons

Michael Jackson's Swan Song

Magazine article Herizons

Michael Jackson's Swan Song

Article excerpt

Michael Jackson's life is a textbook case of what happens when genius meets abuse. We can learn a lot about what went wrong in the life of this extraordinary talent by remembering what we know about the impact of damage done early in childhood.

On stage since he was five, Jackson was a young boy exploited from the start. His father, Joe Jackson, knew a meal ticket when he saw one. It was Daddy Jackson who conceived of the Jackson 5, choreographed them, managed them and kept the young Michael in line with consistent physical abuse. The famous interview Michael did with CBS News features a side conversation with Joe Jackson in which Martin Bashir asks the patriarch outright if he'd ever beaten Michael.

His reaction is telling and hopelessly delusional. "I never beat him," Joe is quoted as saying. "I whipped him with a belt. I never beat him. You beat someone with a stick." The abuse stopped only when Michael, as an adult, told his father, "Hit me and I'll never sing again." The strategy worked.

But the damage was done - the young, mercurial talent never learned who to trust, consistently surrounding himself with either toadies who never encouraged restraint from the young star or exploiters, like his dermatologist, who took advantage of Jackson's securities while ravaging his face in a series of horrifying plastic surgeries.

Jackson's inability to discern who exactly was on his side is classic behaviour from abuse survivors. Researchers note that many survivors of abuse, especially at the hands of family members who are supposed to love them, have difficulty determining when they are in unsafe situations and therefore put themselves into situations where they can be revictimized. So it went with Michael.

And his sexuality was hopelessly messed-up. His introduction to the pleasures of Eros came via lying in a hotel room on the road as his older brothers had sex with the groupies who flocked to them. Not a promising beginning.

Queer advocates wanted to embrace Jackson as gay and, I admit, he seemed as queer as a three-dollar bill. …

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