Wednesday, June 15, 2005

jacko is us. yuck.

One of Michael Jackson's defense team, while righteously chastising those who would slander her now vindicated client, said, "Anyone who doesn't want to hear about Michael should just change the channel!".

Lady, I don't know what cable service you have, but the 138 channels Comcast offers in this town provide no quarter from the Jacko freakshow. Believe me, I have sought refuge.

Luckily there is still tombstone rubbing. And mah-jjong.

How have we brought this upon ourselves? When did we convince the all powerful media that we have no life? That we actually care what MJJ did or didn't do? That HisSentencing or acquittal could be relevant to anything that matters, anywhere, ever?

I console my forlorn self in the knowledge that most folks in the real world, deep down, could give a rat's ass about Michael Jackson. Yet I cannot escape the creeping sensation that somehow Jacko is the embodiment of our frantic, almost panic stricken, flight from reality.

Since the Brangelina rumor mill is quieting, we fix our insatiable gaze on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Now, there's a braindead match worthy of George A. Romero. Katie, incidently, has informed the public that she is opting out of the Catholic Church on Tom's behest to immerse herself in the ersatz world of Scientology. Batman might not even be able to save her from that crowd.

Sean Penn is covering the elections in Iran for the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, who does that flatter? Penn? The Chronicle? Certainly the Iranians are enjoying the sideshow. It apparently wasn't enough that we have to see this guy on the news, now we have to depend on him for it? I think Sean Penn is a great actor, but as a journalist how could he ever be credible?

The NY Times ran a piece on Monday titled Forget About Milk and Bread. Give Me Gossip! The article reports that sales of celebrity tabloids have climbed impressively in recent years. US Weekly, Star Magazine, In Touch, People and others have not only tightened their grip on the check-out line at Waldbaum's, they've actually increased the number of households that subscribe(!!) to them. With such success in view, other publishers are planning to join the ranks. Soon we will have even more authoritative updates on Britney's pregnancy and Lindsay's eating disorders. Whew.

The article ends with a question: how to explain the appeal of all this celebrity saturation? How much of Jessica, Brad, Beyonce and Paris is enough?

In search of answers a high school senior is confronted. She says she reads two or three celeb publications a week. Why?

"To get away from it all."

To get away from all of what? Cheerleading practice? Listening to her Minipod? Hanging at the Mall? I'm curious as to what exactly she's fleeing from. And why she's fleeing to Star Magazine.

Isn't it like escaping from Fruity Pebbles to Cap'n Crunch?

It's like, "Man, I'm sick of McDonald's! Let's go to Wendy's..."

Incredible. We live in banality and we seek refuge in frivolity. Not that people don't need an escape. Not that we can't enjoy a movie, or a TV show, or a magazine without scrutinizing it to death. Not that even the Exorcist couldn't lighten up once in a while...

But I sincerely believe that we, as a society, fear - and therefore avoid - the truth. The big questions. The hard choices. The onerous quest for meaning. We prefer the non-stop motion of a world that chases its own tail. We gladly exchange surfeit for substance. We cling to the uninterrupted distraction of the minutiae that fill the void we hold so dear...

It's the only way I can explain to myself how on God's green earth anyone could stand even hearing about what J-LO's new fragrance smells like, or what Nicole thinks about Tom's new flame. It is inconceivable. We are so afraid of reality that when we tire of our own vacuousness we gratefully indulge in someone else's.

If it were just a filler, something to mop up all the free time and spare cash, maybe it wouldn't be so worrisome. But it has become the life goal of many, way too many, of our young people.

I asked around the sacristy the other day - these are church kids - and, with one exception, they all said they hoped to be singers, dancers, actors, maybe pro athletes. Everyone wants to be the next American Idol. Our kids now aspire to vapid futility as their goal in life.

Am I the only one around here who thinks that we can do better than that?

If Michael Jackson's travails rivet the nation and the world for months on end, there is a reason. We are Jacko and Jacko is us.