For those folks who report on and follow Hollywood gossip and news it sure has been a busy week.
First, Ed McMahon died, then Farrah Fawcett and then Michael Jackson (oh, and Billy Mays too). Of course, the death of Michael Jackson garnered the most attention. Michael Jackson completely revolutionized the entire music industry (Jewish and not Jewish music) and made all kinds of news for his questionable extra-curricular activities.
A friend of mine in the music industry (Jewish and not Jewish music) wrote this on his Facebook page “Goodbye Michael! We will miss you! You taught me so much…” and that got the ball really rolling.
People responded to his status by referring to his notorious trouble with accusations of impropriety with young children. My friend fired back that yes he was flawed but that takes nothing away from his talent. And they went back and forth for a little while.
I am certain that this was not the only such discussion following MJ’s death. We all grapple with the paradox of a deeply flawed and incredibly talented person.
To me, it is really a micro and macrocosm of all of our personal struggles. It is a microcosm because he was just one person and “we” are everyone else, but it is also a macrocosm because while his talent was greater than any of ours, his flaws were deeper as well.
The next level of contemplation regarding MJ is whether his flaws nullify his contributions. Or more precisely, can we still appreciate his talent all the while knowing he was so challenged in other areas? Is he a role model? No. Is he immensely talented? Yes.
Does this sound familiar?
This reminds me of my take on LeBron James and his poor sportsmanship. We need to be sensible enough to differentiate athletic talent, musical talent, or any other talent for that matter and the talented one’s behavior in other arena of life.
I don’t expect or care if an athlete or celebrity “acts out”. They are not famous for their ability to act morally. They are famous for their talents. That is all I care about when I think about that person. MJ’s liabilities in one area do not influence my opinion of his other accomplishments and my appreciation of those accomplishments.
If you are nervous about this because he is a “role model” my response is that you have categorically poor taste in role models. If you are nervous that children look up to him as a role model, my response it that it is the job of the parents to train their children to choose good role models. MJ was not a good role model but then again he should never be looked to as a role model.
And if your child looks to MJ or LeBron or any other famous person who is not famous for their superior ability at making good moral choices you need to parent them and educate them real role models.
A real role model is a person that we can look towards for inspiration and guidance in our daily challenges. Find those people and cherish them. Even if they can’t do the moonwalk…