The XX Factor

Don’t Psychoanalyze MJ’s Memorial Service

Whew Willa, you offer some tricky psychoanalysis here . None of us can say what the Jacksons were thinking on that stage with Paris, or what they were trying to project to the YouTube audience. What we can safely say is that despite being a dysfunctional family, they are clearly a family in grief. I think it’s unfair to try to interpret their intentions. Would it have been better, or more believable, if they had not embraced Paris and just stood off to the side and whispered to her to suck it up? Is it really that implausible that with Michael now gone they would want to surround his children in a protective cocoon? To pass the love they felt for him-and yes, even dysfunctional families can show and feel love-on to his children? Only a heartless person could have resisted the urge to hug that child at that moment.

As for Janet’s supposed nod to Jackie O, come on. Is it the sole domain of Jackie O to project a certain sartorial sensibility when grieving? I recall Jackie O wearing a black veil at JFK’s funeral, not a very hip black beret. What exactly was so nightmarish about Janet’s outfit? What female star hasn’t dressed glamorously for a widely televised funeral? Call her outfit cliché maybe, but when you point to it as an example of Janet’s inauthentic nature you’re on shaky ground. Janet and her sisters didn’t look any different than lots of rich, glamorous women attending a rich and glamorous funeral. (And by the way, hats, all kinds of hats, are a staple of black funerals.) What should Janet have worn? The outfit from her wardrobe malfunction moment during the halftime show at the XXVIII Super Bowl?

There was no mass denial about the dark side of celebrity at the memorial service; everyone present and the millions watching on television knew full well that MJ was very much a victim of his celebrity and and his upbringing. Berry Gordy for one (no exemplar of high ethical standards himself) made a gentle reference to “sad times and questionable decisions on his part.” Still, after nearly two weeks of non-stop coverage of MJ’s death and countless stories dissecting every dark corner of his life, is a memorial service attended by those who loved and admired him really the place for critiques about how he lived his life? I have yet to see such a memorial for any famous person, or non-famous person for that matter. It’s pretty well accepted that funerals and memorials are occasions where the deceased is celebrated, not picked apart for his failings. The survivors usually focus on the good and leave the bad stuff for another day. I sure hope my family and friends follow this tradition when I’m gone and not treat my departure as some sort of collective analysis of all that was wrong with me. That would surely bum out my spirit.