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DVD Review: Michael Jackson – The Life and Times of The King of Pop 1958-2009

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More often that not, the thirst for anything Michael Jackson-related has increased exponentially after his passing. Even hardcore fans who know everything there is to know seem to have broken down and accumulated more Michael Jackson memorabilia – well, at least the many hardcore fans that I know are doing that.

As for me, I have been redirecting my energy toward understanding. I guess it’s a typical nerd-like way of dealing with such a situation. I’m especially struggling to understand what kind of world we live in that allows for talent to be perverted in such a way that a young black child who sang with such soul and possessed such talent turned into a broken man with white skin, a reconstructed face, and the inability to produce music as touching as his talent should have allowed him to.

So when I saw the title of this DVD, I decided to pick it up. After all, we cannot isolate Michael Jackson from his social environment; and so, to understand what happened to him, one needs to understand the times during which he lived.

Unfortunately, the title doesn’t reflect the content of the DVD. I should have done my homework better rather than simply snap it up. I was expecting a DVD centred on the life of Michael Jackson within the context of the times in which he lived. Rather, this DVD (running time: 79 minutes) is about Michael Jackson’s passing; stripped down to the basic events, it traces the timeline from the fateful 911 phone call made by  Jackson’s bodyguard to the memorial service, then traces some of the moments in his life that, according to the producers, contributed to his demise. Even the presentation is stripped to the essentials — no inside leaflet, no extra features, just the footage.

The memorial service isn’t included in its entirety; rather, it too has been stripped down to its most important events, including the Berry Gordy speech, putting it in context (when Berry Gordy mentions the 25th anniversary moonwalk Michael Jackson performed live, the speech pauses for a few seconds while the clip is played, something that did not happen at the memorial), Smokey Robinson reading the letter from Nelson Mandela, Brooke Shields’ speech, Ervin “Magic” Johnson’s speech, Stevie Wonder’s heartfelt, inspirational, and touching short speech and his performance of “Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer,” the speech of Reverend Al Sharpton, Usher’s performance of Michael Jackson’s “Gone too Soon,” Jermaine and Marlon Jackson’s speeches, as well as the unplanned yet touching tribute Paris Katherine Jackson gave her father. It also includes interviews with fans who were at the memorial service as they left the Kodak Center afterward.

There are also numerous tributes included in this DVD. One is the opening of Madonna’s July 4th concert, which featured a Michael Jackson tribute. Unfortunately, it was dubbed to a remix of Aaliyah’s song "Rock the Boat." Others are singing and dancing tributes from fans.
But although it wasn’t quite what I expected, the DVD did offer many occasions for me to reflect on the topic that has been weighing on me since June 25, 2009. The raw footage that follows the above-mentioned in the second part of the DVD provided much food for thought.

After the montage from the memorial service, we are taken a few months back to the final press conference Michael Jackson gave in London, the one in which he announced his last series of concerts. It seems a little unsettling at first – everything up to now seemed to follow a chronological order, after all – but soon it becomes clear that this is the raw footage available to fans to reflect on the reasons why Jackson died.

About Sahar

  • just a fan

    If you really want to understand Michael Jackson watch his Private Home Movies, read his autobiography (Moonwalk), listen to his Oxford speech from 2001, watch the unauthorized interview from 1983, watch the Making Of Thriller, watch Live in Bucharest and don’t read the tabloids! And listen to his music. And be grateful for being alive during the Michael Jackson era.

  • Elizabeth

    Interesting reflection! I do have some questions myself about how this great, talented and beautiful man ended up surrounded with such ugly people. By the way the passage of the Bible Michael referred to in that interview is in Lc. 46-48; Mt. 1-5 and Mr. 33-37.

  • Nancy c

    One of the things I am most surprised about is the increasing number of reflective articles and comments about Michael and his life in the spotlight. Among other things, the 2003 accusation and 2005 trial are being reexamined to see if the ordeals contributed to Michael’s increasing frailty and isolation. I am a latecomer to interest in Michael Jackson so I am learning a lot about his life and his music. Whether these reflections will have any good effect on our obsession with celebrity culture remains to be seen.

  • melanie

    i would like to make a comment on michael jackson living in a cocoon..hence, not living a life that would make him a forgiving and patient person..i believe his ordeal make him forgive those people who have done him wrong, judged him and rediculed him. patience? watch this is it. the way i look at it, he is the most gentle, patient human being ive ever seen..i believe he already practiced patience in many areas of his life, knowing he is at a center of a “media circus and people crazy at him” most of his life. though, i find this reflection pointed out to a well observed basis. yes, at the end of the day, michael jackson is still a man..and people should learn to realize that fact..im certain that michael is a spiritual, child like and most of all giving & caring person. we should respect him for his contribution in our society through his music and his effort being a humanitarian.

  • antony njugi m

    yes i havent yet come to term with the death of this great icon of all the time 5 months down the line.ooooooh!

  • Christi

    Apparently you haven’t listened to Michael’s music if you think he didn’t produce “touching” music til the end! Just because songs don’t reach #1 by appealing to the masses or the mainstream, doesn’t mean they are not good. In fact, just the opposite in my opinion. Michael just kept getting better with age. I thought I wouldn’t like the Invincible album when I first heard it, but I kept listening, and then I couldn’t get enough. MJ was not about just one kind of music, and most of his music is timeless. Music with a meaning and a purpose, and an occasional “catchy tune.” Like him or not, he will never be matched for all around talent and genuis. Despite all his so called “weirdness”, people should open their hearts and minds and try to understand him, and try to imagine what it was like to be him.

  • Elizabeth

    Sorry! I gave the verses but missed the chapters in my prior comment: Lc.9, 46-48; Mt. 18, 1-5 and Mr. 9, 33-37.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Thank you everyone for your comments!

    just a fan: I have already read/listened/watched all of the mentioned documents. And while it does help understand a part of Michael Jackson, I don’t think it’s enough. For one, these are usually rehearsed and planned events. While they let some of Michael’s personality shine through, you have to place it within the context of what was happening around him at the moment – the social processes that gave birth, justified and were influenced by the fact that Michael Jackson did/said all these things.

    Elizabeth: Thank you so much for the references (and the corrections)! I don’t have access to my Bible at the moment, but as soon as I get home, I will definitely check it out. And I have the impression that one of the reasons such a great, talented and beautiful man ended up surrounded with such ugly people is two-fold: one, they fed into his ego, which made Michael blind to their negative effect, and two, they were the consequence of a rising culture of consumerism. Of course, the whole answer is so much more complicated that this, but those are the two that stand out to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    Nancy c: It’s true, there are a lot more such articles out there. Personally I think it’s a great thing; the entire celebrity culture has really gone crazy in the last couple of years. Perhaps it’s only a reflection of the exhaustion fans and celebrities alike are starting to feel because of this relationship? Hopefully it will yield fruit and we will enter into a healthy relationship, where actors/entertainers are appreciated but not deified, and celebrities are really those people who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of humanity :)

    melanie: I have seen the movie ‘This is It’ (and the review is actually right here on Blogcritics!). And it only makes me repeat: think of how much of an even better person Michael could have become had he been given the ability to develop all of his virtues within more (both in quantity and quality) normal social interactions. This is what strikes me as extremely sad. Because we deified this man, we took away his opportunity to make an even bigger difference, by putting him in a cocoon that didn’t allow him to do so.

    antony njugi m: I’m sorry you are still in pain :( I hope reading articles such as this one will help you to deal with your grief.

    Christi: Apparently you haven’t read any of my other numerous Michael Jackson-related reviews, either on Blogcritics or my personal blog :) If you had, you would have known I have been an avid MJ fan since I was 3 years old. Amongst other things, I stated that Invincible was one of the most underrated MJ albums ever, because of such gems as ‘Lost Children’ and ‘Whatever Happens’, both of which I fell in love with instantly. But compared to his album Dangerous, in which almost every song is touching, elevating and inspiring, Invincible is, in my opinion, a step back, in that Michael was, understandably enough, sinking deeper into his anger and confusion at how the world was seeing him. Which is why, had we had a healthier relationship with Michael Jackson, seeing him as a lovely & talented man rather than a deity, he might have had more (both in quantity and in quality) normal social interactions which would have had him avoid the feelings of anger and confusion that ultimately contributed to his demise.

  • tia

    Michael Jackson was the most famous human being a lovely,talented men on earth and the greatest entertainer of all time. When a king dies, the heir or a peer takes over the throne. The passing of Michael Jackson, The King …

  • kat

    I absolutely agree with Christi.
    And as to the article: good review, but it shows some of your personal immaturity in grasping the overall personality of someone like MJ. In particualar when it comes to your comment re: “While an adult trying to remain pure might be admirable, clinging to childhood is only a denial of the nature of adulthood.” Contrary to what you believe here, Michael was not childish; he chose to be child-like, which makes a huge difference. He was very much an adult and was very mature and evolved, yet very sensitive to what adults often degenerate to–which is what he rejected about adulthood.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Sahar, thank you for your reply and your thoughts. Yes, maybe both of the reasons you have given all together with the fact that Michael was taking powerful prescription medication made him blind to their negative effects. Reading about Michael’s finals months of life I have come to the conclusion that he didn’t have any way out. He was ambushed by his entourage. He allegedly dies as a consequence of gross negligence by the doctor, but if it hadn’t been this way he would have died anyway on stage while trying to abide by the “50 shows” agenda of the producers. It is a notorious fact that these people didn’t care at all for Michael’s wellbeing up to the point that having the opportunity to work with the greatest entertainer of all times, he dies in their hands. They only cared about making a profit out of him and they did, but at the cost his life. Surrounded by these kind of people the results couldn’t have been different. It is really disconcerting and sad that such a great artist ended up this way. Yes, maybe these are the consequences of a rising culture of materialism when there are not limits to it. That is why justice is so important in this case.

  • Helena A.

    i think people forget that Michael was a human being.i think people(sony,media,etc)made him feel he had to be Michael Jackson.a thing not a person.he was ticked that he harmed no one but everyone always found a problem with him.he was sensitive about his face-a fan said he looked ugly when he was a teen and his dad made fun of his looks growing up-and the media decided to talk about it all the time.they even talked about his skin condition-which he was sensitive about you can see in the oprah interview.it didnt help the media called him gay and a pedophile even though he was not gay and he would never hurt a child-i dont know why everyone kept calling him that stuff when in 93 there were recording proving the case was extrotion and 03 was one and he was found not guilty(come on people OJ did it not MJ).i dont think he held on to childhood persay but with adulthood he had to be a certain way almost chained down with “rules” of adulthood.he chose to be child like because it meant stay pure,innocent, and free from judgement, sadly because he wanted those things he was a “freak” and a joke, but it should be something we all want.freedom to be whatever or whoever we want.its also sad how today the innocence of childhood is stolen,tainted with greed,egotistic people, and materialism.if Michael didnt have people around him who always took from him without giving back i think he would have been better off.he was kinda like the shy sweet kid alone on the see-saw never given a chance to act normal because he was different and bullyed for it

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Thank you for your comments!

    tia: Ah, yet another MJ fan :) We are all banding together on the Internet, are we not. I have to be honest, but I do hope Michael Jackson never get an heir, as I wouldn’t wish the kind of life he had on anyone else. Also, Michael Jackson was a fruit of the particular social processes at work during his childhood and, most importantly, during the ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Thriller’ years, which were the foundation of his international success. Those social processes have been forever changed, and so, I don’t think they can be replicated, nor can we hope for the same type of situation to occur again. Perhaps this is the age of many mini-kings, rather than a hegemony?

    kat: You say that rather than being childish, Michael chose to be child-like; I would like to point out that choosing to be child-like is even worse that being childish. Being childish means lacking the maturity to act in any other way. Being child-like means making a conscious choice to act like a child.

    The nature of adulthood is severely misunderstood nowadays. We think that being an adult means being boring, being impure, being burdened with responsibility. The definition of adulthood has been infused with so much negativity that it’s inception is being delayed as much as possible. Instead of rising up to fulfill their potential, teenagers and young adults are extending childhood as much as possible.

    However, adulthood isn’t by nature boring, impure or burdened. More specifically, with regards to the misconception of adulthood being related to impurity, being an adult doesn’t immediately preclude being impure. By the same token, choosing to act-childlike will not keep the adult pure.

    A real adult who understands the true nature of adulthood will acknowledge that purity is a state he should work to achieve; he will also acknowledge that children have an inherent purity he can learn from and inspire himself with; and he will also acknowledge that being child-like doesn’t mean being pure. A child is pure out of his innocence and lack of experience. An adult is pure because of his continual efforts at shedding mental, spiritual and physical impurities.

    I don’t disagree that Michael Jackson seemed like a great man, a spiritual man, someone soft-spoken, patient, and that these qualities were reflected in his music – however, it can’t be denied that acting child-like, be it a choice or not, wasn’t conducive to his overall health (as demonstrated by the steady decline of his emotional, mental and physical health in the second half of his life).

    Purity is an excellent quality to have, especially as an adult who has been made aware of all the perverseness of society. However, being child-like in the way Michael Jackson was isn’t the same thing as developing purity akin to a child’s. Being mature means being able to grasp the different between being child-like and consciously working on retaining/further developing the qualities we all had as children, like purity, while doing away with childish & immature acts such as spending money one doesn’t have, like Michael Jackson did.

    Elizabeth: It does seem that the corporate machinery intent on profiting from Michael Jackson’s talent has a direct link with Michael Jackson’s demise. It makes me wonder, as a consumer: how can I not participate in such a corporate machinery and yet still enjoy entertainment (legally)? There are still many entertainers who are stuck in that corporate machinery; does it mean I should stop listening to their music? I don’t think so but, quite honestly, I can’t think of anything else I could directly do to make a difference. Thoughts?

    Helena A: I think your reflection is extremely interesting: “i dont think he held on to childhood persay but with adulthood he had to be a certain way almost chained down with “rules” of adulthood.he chose to be child like because it meant stay pure,innocent, and free from judgement, sadly because he wanted those things he was a “freak” and a joke, but it should be something we all want.” Isn’t it sad that we live in a world where wanting to stay pure, innocent and free from judgment, we are labeled as freaks? I work with teenagers and pre-teens, and many of them don’t want to wear make up but do because if they don’t, they are labeled as unattractive man-girls. Even more scary is that if they don’t have a boyfriend and don’t have sex – at the age of 13! – they are labeled a weirdo, a prude, an asexual being. I personally don’t swear; people make fun of me all the time because of this. It’s almost as if, as a society, we encourage each other to become worse rather than better.

    Which brings me back to a point I raised in the review: just imagine, if Michael Jackson has been helped because he was a person and not, as Elizabeth pointed out, a money-making machine, just how much more he could have done for the children in the world? Imagine if Michael Jackson had released statements in the 1990s about child-labour, and had publicly asked companies such as The Gap and Nike to stop the practice – just imagine the difference he could have maked. Unfortunately, just like you said, Helena, he was instead labeled a freak and a joke. It’s amazing that despite all of this, Michael Jackson is still the celebrity who achieved the most humanitarian work.

    As you put it, it comes down to the fact that he was a human being, and an extremely kind one at that. He wanted to retain qualities such as purity, but because he was put in the “Michael Jackson as a myth” cocoon, he couldn’t become an adult seeking purity; rather, the only way he could see of retaining this purity was to be child-like. And unfortunately, that made him even more vulnerable to money-seeking predators.

  • Elizabeth

    Actually you have raised a very interesting point. Should we as consumers stop buying the products coming from entertainers not to participate in that corporate machinery? The entertainer shouldn’t be accountable for other people’s actions. They are the victims, they are the weakest link and as a consequence, they are the ones who need protection and support. On the other hand, we should never deprive ourselves of the joy, the magic, the happiness of listening to Michael’s music. What can we do to prevent that what happened to Michael won’t happen again? It is certainly a fight between greed and talent where the entertainer finds himself in front of a very powerful machinery that, as we could perceive in this case, acts like the mafia where once you are in its hands there is not way out, alive. I think that justice and regulation (the law) is the best way to somehow control, keep the balance and establish limits to that greed when the wellbeing of the entertainer is being jeopardized (as we could see in this case with the “50 shows” agenda imposed to Michael) and to establish the responsibilities of law when the entertainer dies as a consequence. We as fans and in your case as a wise and reflexive writer can help a lot by following the case, promoting this kind of forums, raising our voices and seeking for justice. Additionally, as you have mention, as consumers we have a very powerful weapon that we can use and it comes in the form of moral sanction: The boycott. After all we (the fans) are the ones who have “the money” and this is the only thing these “predators” care about. But if we are going to use that weapon it has to be in a very wise and organized way not to damage the entertainer. It is not easy because they use the entertainer as a shield, but there are ways to do it. Likewise, other entertainers have to see themselves in Michael’s mirror, watch out for their own wellbeing and think twice before making “deals” with this kind of people. Michael’s case has helped to uncover the abuse; the foul play and the lack of ethics in the industry of the entertainment and something have to be done before we see another entertainer in the same situation.

  • Elizabeth

    Sorry! Some corrections.

    Actually you have raised a very interesting point. Should we as consumers stop buying the products coming from entertainers not to participate in that corporate machinery? The entertainer shouldn’t be accountable for other people’s actions. They are the victims, they are the weakest link and as a consequence, they are the ones who need protection and support. On the other hand, we should never deprive ourselves of the joy, the magic, the happiness of listening to Michael’s music. What can we do to make a difference? It is certainly a fight between greed and talent where the entertainer finds himself in front of a very powerful machinery that, as we could perceive in this case, acts like the mafia where once you are in its hands there is not way out, alive. I think that justice and regulation (the law) is the best way to somehow control, keep the balance and establish limits to that greed, particularly, when the wellbeing of the entertainer is being jeopardized (as we could see in this case with the “50 shows” agenda imposed to Michael) and to establish the responsibilities of law when the entertainer dies as a consequence. We as fans and in your case as a wise and reflexive writer can help a lot by following the case, promoting this kind of forums, raising our voices and seeking for justice. Additionally, as you have mentioned, as consumers we have a very powerful weapon that we can use and it comes in the form of moral sanction: The boycott. After all we (the fans) are the ones who have “the money” and this is the only thing these “predators” care about. But if we are going to use that weapon it has to be in a very wise and organized way not to damage the entertainer. It is not easy because they use the entertainer as a shield, but there are ways to do it. Likewise, other entertainers have to see themselves in Michael’s mirror, watch out for their own wellbeing and think twice before making “deals” with this kind of people. Michael’s case has helped to uncover the abuse; the foul play and the lack of ethics in the industry of the entertainment and something has to be done before we see another entertainer in the same situation.

  • tia

    Hi Sahar, thank you for your reply and your thoughts.: I think a have to raised a very interesting point:If you really want to understand Michael Jackson watch his good review music entertainment art, musical career singer dancer……….
    Thinking of Michael tonight and wishing he were here so I thought I’s share a little something for the poetic at heart “No Joy in Mudville”
    There once lived a King who was everything to everybody and nothing to nobody,
    He was loved, yet hated, revered, yet scoffed at,
    His music was divine, his dance entrancing, and his voice from the age of 6 was enchanting,
    He mesmerized, mystified, and befuddled,
    His life was a Thriller, like him there’s no other,
    Surely God in Heaven had sent him among us,
    To ease our burdens and through his artistry transform us,
    He rocked with us all night then told us Don’t stop,
    Then reminded us of first love when he proclaimed, “She out of my Life”
    We couldn’t stop loving him and agreed he was “Bad”
    “Bad” and you know it,
    Like a Smooth Criminal, the King expanded his kingdom,
    There were girls fainting in Bucharest, and men crying in Copenhagen,
    It’s Human Nature, he reminded us, with a grin,
    But there was danger on the horizon, as he helped us remember the time,
    When we were in love with a musical genius named Mike,
    But while we danced like lazy children, he expanded once again,
    Like a true Captain EO, the Universe was in the plan,
    Just another part of me, he said again and again,
    Heal the world, Feed the Children, Save the Earth was his cry,
    We were amazed, but the Man in the Mirror had come to life,
    This King would not settle for riches and gold, even Never, Neverland had grown old,
    And just when he was in his greatest hour of need, we abandoned him like a “Stranger in Moscow”, and fed him to thieves,
    No girls were fainting or guys crying in vain, there was noone there to stop the rain,
    When the battle was over and the Victory won, The King dusted himself off and said:
    This Is It, I’ve only just begun.”
    Somewhere there are people fanning in the sun, Somewhere there are wars waiting to be won, Somewhere there are children moonwalking and saying “Hee-hee”,
    But there is no joy in Mudville.
    If you hear the song I sing
    you will understand…listen
    You hold the key to love and fear
    all in your trembling hand
    Just one key unlocks them both
    Its there at your command
    you can hear sweet voice of the spring birds
    look up to ward the blu sky
    your breath will stop and will hear the song of love…..
    Peace-Michael I love you !!

  • Chiira

    It´s funny how some fans keep claiming he wasn´t gay as a fact. Nobody knew him personally, how can they say so?

    There are no proof of him being gay that´s right, but there are no proof of the contrary! (ok he was married, but so Elton Jonh…)