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Michael Jackson: beat him and burn him but don’t miss the Wacko Jacko exhibition at The Tate

Anorak Monday, 11 March 2019 ()
Michael Jackson: beat him and burn him but don’t miss the Wacko Jacko exhibition at The TateMichael Jackson fan Seany O’Kane displays a message of support

No-one’s dug Michael Jackson up and beaten the corpse with sticks. Nor have they set his remains alight – and given his latter-years’ waxy appearance, stuck a wick in his head and let him burn so that all the living can see what we do to dead stars accused of molesting children and getting away with it. For now we’ll have to make do with burning Wacko Jacko’s memorabilia, which is what anyone who tuned into HBO’s four-hour-long documentary Leaving Neverland saw as the closing credits rolled. Before we got to the burning pyre of branded Jackson merchandises, we heard the harrowing and credible testimonies of Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The two claim that they were abused as children by Michael Jackson.

But unless Jackson begins to speak and justice can grind and arrive at some incorruptible truth, facts are hard to ascertain, and people will take sides and turn hideous, grim alleged crimes into a shouting match.

All we have is a spark of light in the darkness that is soon extinguished, leaving us to flounder in search of its source. Maybe the next spark will alight on a new angle and flash us glimpses of different propositions, thing to stir our hunches and armchair investigations based on prejudice, righteousness, caprice and schadenfreude? After all, as Tim Black notes, “Robson was convincing and credible in 2005, when he took to the stand in defence of Jackson, over allegations of child molestation. And then he was not facing the sympathetic director of Leaving Neverland, Dan Reed, but fearsome prosecution attorney Tom Sneddon.” But that’s child abusers for you: they know their quarry are easily scared.

So what are you going to do with your Michael Jackson clobber and records? It’s not as if he sang about paedophilia and promoted it as a lifestyle choice. The music and videos were wildly entertaining. Can you ignore the man and delight in their product?

Last year, the Tate exhibited the work of English artist Edward Burne-Jones (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898). The brochure says he “brought imaginary worlds to life in awe-inspiring paintings, stained glass windows and tapestries”. You can see his work at the National Portrait Gallery. And when not making worthy art, he was busy being a virulent anti-Semite, whose Jew hatred was “blatant and repulsive“.

Patience, Jackson diehards. Your hero will rise again. The smart investor will be buying up Jackson’s oeuvre and old tour jackets while prices plummet. One day they’ll put on a show at the Tate and that stuff will be worth a bomb.
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