Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The commercialization of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's memorial took place today in L.A. and it seems the world took notice. At work, my internet software and other medical applications ran sluggishly, only to be informed by the IT department that, "Oh, our applications are running slowly because of all the people streaming the MJ memorial on their computers". HELLO???!! Aren't we supposed to be "working", while at work? The female IT specialist informed me of this just as matter-of-factly as she told me to re-boot my computer, all the while, BILLIE JEAN played in the background. She was in an MJ trance. Well, at least my computer and printer functioned better after that!

Due to my hectic work day, I didn't attend or photograph any Memorial gatherings. To tell you the truth, I think I have MJ fatigue. My bad, it's really my fault for watching the coverage so much. Nevertheless, I decended onto Harlem's 125th street to see what was going on. Today at least, the famed street turned into Michael Jackson Mall, selling everything from t-shirts, buttons, signatures, posters and absolutely anything related to the King of Pop.

As folks along the boulevard shopped frenetically for MJ-ware, I was suddenly struck with the notion of Michael Jackson, the commodity. Even in death, we seek not the truth of the man behind the mirror, we only snatch up frivilous mementos to remember a man, many only have now come to really "appreciate". That's appreciation to the extent that we can jump on a bandwagon, forging a collective pride, if only for these days after death, we are reminded not of our own mortality, but by the lack of green in our pockets.

As I jostled through the crowd near the Apollo Theater and vendors along the way, a woman bolted through to grab the last $5 T-shirt of an overdone MJ from the BAD album. This was serious. Michael Jackson, no longer the man...more like the machine at this point, was feeding an economy both above ground and below it. Theere were some questionable dealings on 125th street, even as so-called "charitable organizations", sprang up to collect donations for the "Michael Jackson Fund". Goods with Michael's unlicensed image is printed on a multitude of white cotton and polyester tees. Buttons, with images that looked like they were made from copies of copies of copies, were strewn across folding card tables, all for the purchase, all for "the cause".

If you visit 125th street in search of the right MJ t-shirt or sequined glove, just shop around, you're more than likely going to leave with something cheap. I should know, i brought a tee for $5 with a Young Afro haired Michael smiling on the front...just the way i want to remember him.

Michael Jackson money

For $10, you can have your picture taken in front of this backdrop of MJ from the Thriller album cover.

$4 T-shirts being brought and sold out of a shopping cart.

An wide array of MJ buttons being sold by a boy that slightly reminded me of young MJ.

Young MJ fan tries on a fabrication of the iconic glove MJ used to sport.

OK, I get the signing of a (makeshift) memorial book, but what's with the jar for money? And just who is that money going to? There was no information on the table about it.

Paying half during a recession, and a buck to sign the book.

The ubiquitous MJ posters for sale.

Fan messages.

Michael must be rolling in his grave over this one! And the nerve to charge $5.00 for a picture with him!

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