(First published on Click Opera March 13th, 2005.
One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also. The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.
When we look at Michael Jackson, I believe we're looking at the future of our species. Michael is a creature from a future in which we've all become more feminine, more consumerist, more postmodern, more artificial, more self-constructed and self-mediating, more playful, caring and talented than we are today. But it's hard to use those adjectives, because they're Either-Or adjectives and he's from the world of Yet-Also, a world I believe we will all come to live in if we're lucky
, a world where there is no more authenticity-by-default-through-brute-ne
cessity and no more "human nature". A world of pure synthesis, pure self-creation.
Jackson is what all humans will become if we develop further in the direction of postmodernism and self-mediation. He is what we'll become if we get both more Wildean and more Nietzschean. He's what we'll become only if we're lucky and avoid a new brutality based on overpopulation and competition for dwindling resources. By attacking Jackson and what he stands for -- the effete, the artificial, the ambiguous -- we make a certain kind of relatively benign future mapped out for ourselves into a Neverland, something forbidden, discredited, derided. When we should be deriding what passes for our normalcy -- war, waste, and the things we do en masse
are the things that threaten us -- we end up deriding dandyism and deviance. And Jackson is the ultimate dandy and the ultimate deviant. He can fly across our Either-Or binaries, and never land. It's debateable whether he's the king of pop, but he's undoubtedly the king of Yet-Also.
Consider all the extraordinary ways in which Michael Jackson is Yet-Also. He's black yet also white. He's adult yet also a child. He's male yet also female. He's gay yet also straight. He has children, yet he's also never fucked their mothers. He's wearing a mask, yet he's also showing his real self. He's walking yet also sliding. He's guilty yet also innocent. He's American yet also global. He's sexual yet also sexless. He's immensely rich yet also bankrupt. He's Judy Garland yet also Andy Warhol. He's real yet also synthetic. He's crazy yet also sane, human yet also robot, from the present yet also from the future. He declares his songs heavensent, and yet he also constructs them himself. He's the luckiest man in the world yet the unluckiest. His work is play. He's bad, yet also good. He's blessed yet also cursed. He's alive, but only in theory.
There's one way in which Michael Jackson is not
Yet-Also though. He's not famous yet also ordinary. Almost all the other stars in the world, the stars of Either-Or world, anyway, make an exception to Either-Or's categorical thinking in this one instance: given the choice between being either famous or ordinary, they all insist they're both. It's the one instance in which hardline Either-Ors will accept a Yet-Also answer. It's an answer they like because it fills the positions of talent with the representatives of the untalented. It affirms them as they currently are rather than challenging them to become something else. They want affirmation, not aspiration. They don't want their artists and celebrities to embody the values of worlds they don't understand. Ambiguous worlds, future worlds. They want to walk, not moonwalk, and they want their stars to walk too.
And so our creature of Never-Land will be judged by the creatures of Never-Fly. They will almost certainly throw him into jail. Their desire to see him as grounded, categorised and unfree as they themselves are is overwhelming. The grounded, situated, unfree creatures of Either-Or are baying for the clipping of fairy wings. Knives, hatchets and scissors glint in Neverland. There's an assembly of torch-bearing witchfinders. Peter Pan must be ushered back from fiction to reality, from the air to the ground. Back into a race, back into a gender, back into a confined clarity. Assuming he doesn't commit suicide, as he threatens in Martin Bashir's documentary, by jumping from a balcony, Jackson will be ushered away from the fuzzy subtle flicker states of our future, back to the solid states of our past and present. Either-Or will have its triumph over Yet-Also. Yet it will also, unknowingly, "triumph" over its own better future.Also possibly relevant
: The Tragedie of Michael Jackson, King of Pop