Sunday, August 8, 2010

"This is it"

A few weeks ago, I watched Michael Jackson's "This is it." I have to say, I never really was a big MJ fan, and I've finally figured out why: I just don't like most of his stuff. Much like the Beatles, for whom I also don't really care, I understand his significance; I just don't like the way it sounds.

One thing I noticed in watching "This is it," is that Michael Jackson repeatedly stated that he was concerned about the environment, but I felt like his words were empty. I wondered about the environmental impact of his show. Was his stage built using salvaged materials? Were his costumes made of organically grown fair trade cotton? Were the lights LED bulbs?

At no time on his video did Michael Jackson make one comment about what he was doing to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Granted, the video opens with the info that it was being shot for his personal archives, so it is possible that there were a number of sustainability initiatives going on that he simply didn't feel the need to declare in a movie he was making for himself.

But I think that's unlikely. I think Michael Jackson was living an extravagant lifestyle but saying he was worried about the environment. and maybe he was actually worried. Who knows? But that certainly would be a good example of do as I say, not as I do. Which is a shame, because even after his death, Michael Jackson is able to engage the attention of tens of millions of people. Even after his death, other artists continue to look up to him, to be inspired by him.

That kind of celebrity could be an amazing vehicle for change. That kind of celebrity could lead by example and inspire millions of people. We saw this with the huge success of "We are the World," in raising money to aid those suffering from famine in Africa. No where on my research about "This is it," which I will confess was not extensive, could I find any information regarding using the concert series to raise money for any cause at all, let alone the environment.

Michael Jackson's death was untimely, for sure. His peaks and valleys of stardom and scrutiny were tragic. But what is also tragic is what he didn't do with his success when he had it. With celebrity comes responsibility. Michael Jackson is not the first, nor will he be the last, to fail in his responsibilities as a celebrity, but it is still a failure. What an unfortunate end to a life already wrought with so much tragedy.

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