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Friday, February 3, 2012
What Would Michael Jackson's Estate Do?
Michael Jackson fans are a unique breed. Many of them have done significant amounts of research into not only Jackson the entertainer, but the man himself and his message. His fans understand that Jackson used his status as an entertainer to revolutionize music and short film. Of equal importance, Jackson set out and succeeded in breaking the barriers of bias, prejudice and ignorance and used his music as a platform for social commentary.
While alive, Jackson's relationship with both tabloid and mainstream media was strained at best. In Jackson's 1988 autobiography Moonwalk he wrote, "Remember, the press is a business. Newspapers and magazines are in business to make money…at the expense of accuracy, fairness and even the truth." When Jackson died in June 2009, his estate executors were thrust center stage. Media and fans alike scoured every detail of not only Jackson, but every minute action by the estate executors as well.
Typically, an artist's first year after death brings in a large amount of revenue. Fans flock to buy albums and digital downloads by their musical idol. Most certainly, this was the case for Michael Jackson. However, as time progresses, it is critical that estate executors continue to keep the artist relevant; not only to fans who have followed the artist for years, but central to profit flow is the artist's exposure to new generations of fans.
Fast forward to nearly 2.5 years after Jackson's death. Jackson's estate executors have created a Cirque du Soleil Jackson-based tour earning more or equal to top live touring acts. Estate executors have also made a deal with the much anticipated U.S. version of X-factor Michael Jackson themed night, winning the ratings for the night. And most recently, the hit series Glee dedicated their entire episode to Jackson, boosting ratings by nearly 16%.
Jackson's estate executors are no stranger to media scrutiny; even the occasional article etched in unmitigated bias. Such is the case of Roger Catlin's review of Glee's Jackson episode, titled "Glee's Lily White Michael Jackson Tribute." Catlin, whose penchant over the years seems to have been an admiration for his music, yet simultaneous abhorrence for Jackson the human being, has referred to him as the "sleek and surgically sharpened image." Catlin's review of Glee is no exception.
Catlin writes that Glee's renditions of Jackson's songs/videos were "largely rote and by-the-numbers, tied in many instances to the original choreography and sometimes frame-by-frame replications of his old videos. It's as if they didn't dare anger the Jackson estate in any way." Catlin continues by writing, "when it comes to Jackson, apparently all anyone remembers are the dancing duel, so there was another one…either way, it's a cheap way to impress drama on a pop song, just as it was in the "Bad" video." (Hello? Ever hear of the award winning play West Side Story?)
Had Catlin even tried to scratch the surface of Jackson's legacy or his fan base, he would have realized two key components. The first being, the estate executors understand only too well that one of Jackson's priorities was to please his fans, both young and old. By replicating iconic moments of his videos, fans who have followed him for their entire lives, or people who have never been exposed, are reminded of the virtuosity of Michael Jackson. Secondly, estate execs are acutely aware, as are his fans, that no one comes close to an original Michael Jackson performance, even if it is a highly rated and talented cast.
Catlin continues to state that the Glee episode "was built around a product endorsement, in this case, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" …which just happens to open in the U.S. right around the time next week's 'Glee" rolls around." (Newsflash Roger: Jackson's Immortal tour debuted in Detroit in October 2011, over three months ago.) Additionally, Glee was not centered around Jackson's Cirque du Soleil tour, however estate execs would be insane not to put the advertising space to good use. What better way to generate profit (and ultimately reduce debt) than to advertise a Jackson tour on a Jackson tribute show?
Clearly, Catlin just does not understand Michael Jackson's message. In the beginning of the Glee episode, a theme is written on the chalkboard, "What Would Michael Jackson Do" (WWMJD). The line "if Michael went after all the haters, he wouldn't have had time to make great music" was lost in translation for Catlin, or conveniently not worth mentioning. Jackson's message of unification, of love, and of a world where color does not matter, seemingly bypass journalists such as Catlin. Catlin's racist title and statement that "part of the problem (with the episode) is the lily white cast" are indicative of a preset and biased groupthink mentality in which he attempts to discredit Jackson's personally. Luckily, the estate executors, like his fans, realize what Michael Jackson told the world long, long ago; it truly don't matter if you're black or white.
Posted by Michael Jackson: And Justice for Some at 2:49 PM