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Life After Death

by Pia Presha / 17.09.2009

OMG! Let’s just say your relationship status is complicated. You’re young and you think you’re a player. You’ve been getting away with getting your freak on with, say, five different guys. Your Facebook page has albums that include photos of you doing beer bongs and acting lipstick lesbian. Then one night, you pop your hi-tops. Game over. WTF? You are so busted. But you’re dead. Now you’re getting tagged in-memoriam all over the place. Pictures of you doing all kinds of crazy shit yo’ Mamma told you not to. What about your boyfriends? They finally get to meet on Facebook and have a lot to share that you’re not around to explain.

Have you considered that your digital profile will come back to haunt you? That your death will be a mini media event? Your Facebook page will become the shrine that friends and foes visit long after you’ve left the building? In this digital era one thing is certain: you’ll be getting tagged long after you’ve beat it.

What if you were a real super star?
When Michael Jackson, whose “death by media” we had witnessed for years in slo’ mo died in June 2009, it turned into one of the biggest worldwide media events in history: almost topping Obama’s inauguration. The man who re-invented the art of the music video as a marketing tool to promote his albums, also got to re-invent our future “after-lives”. Just like his life, MJ’s death was a mass experience. His live memorial broadcast shattered records for the biggest single live stream ever, just the way that Thriller shattered the record as the best selling record of all time. He gave the funeral parlor a Hollywood makeover and now, more than ever, he’s starting something: there is a whole fresh wave of teenagers born in the 90s, now doing the 80s, who can’t get enough of this MJ stuff.

On the East Coast, he’s biggest in Brooklyn. On August 21st, which has been declared Michael Jackson Day by the Borough’s Mayor, Spike Lee threw a Brooklyn block party for what would have been Jackson’s 51st birthday. Thousands turned up on a rainy day to sing Happy Birthday and karaoke style “Mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa”. Also in Brooklyn, at the site where Scorsese directed the music video for “Bad”, locals unofficially re-named the subway station it was shot at in his honor. But tipping the scale for over-the-top King of Pop devotion is the new religious cult that has surfaced on Facebook and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: The Cult of Michael Jackson. Based on the belief that “we are the world”, and “thou shalt boogie”, Jacksonites, without a hint of irony, believe that it’s time to “heal the world” and work it out on the dance floor. At The Cult of Michael Jackson temple, which officially launched on September 11, fans of the gloved one can buy MJ art, edible, flammable, washable or hang-able. My personal favorite MJ effigies, and the most poignant, are the mini wax MJ’s, oddly life like, with fragile waxy melted faces.

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On August 29, when Michael’s actual body, on ice for 10 weeks, was finally laid to rest in California, the icon was buried in full make-up, wearing a white glove, sunglasses, pearls and a gold belt. Just in time for Halloween on October 31st. In the USA, Halloween is huge. It’s America’s second largest holiday after Christmas, so expect a mass resurrection: millions of Michael Jackson’s and “Thriller” zombies. To quote the song: “When Darkness falls across the land, The midnight hour is close at hand, Creatures crawl in search of blood, To terrorize yawls neighborhood, And whosoever shall be found, without the soul for getting down, Must stand and face the hounds of hell…Your body starts to shiver, For no mere mortal can resist, The evil of the thriller”.

As I write, millions of American’s are at home, unemployed, ordering a single sequined glove online and practicing the moonwalk. No matter if they are black or white. Forever, amen, the gloved ghost will loiter in our culture. The Michael Jackson cult, in its various mutations, will continue to grow, and Hollywood celebrity deaths will be getting funeral directors making final arrangements with more imagination than those on set.

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