GUTTENBERG! SCHROEDER! UNDERWOOD! If "We Are The World" represents the Who's Who of the musical universe circa 1985 (plus Dan Aykroyd, minus Prince and Madonna), then Michael Jackson's video for "Liberian Girl" truly represents the Wait? Who Was That Again? of the early 1990s. I don't know that I had ever seen it until VH1-Classic started airing it this weekend, and, wow, weird.
... Relax, folks. It's almost all out of my system. All that's left is a half-formed post parallelling Michael Jackson with Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa damning them all for turning what should be cherished memories into something complicated and uncomfortable. I was listening yesterday to a Belle and Sebastian live cover of "Billie Jean" and there's this wonderful moment when the whole crowd goes "HEEEE!" in the middle of the chorus just like Jackson did, and given how big Jackson was to so many of us in our youth we should be able to just delight in these shared memories, like when we watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off and see the parade viewers do the "Thriller" dance or laugh at Wesley Snipes' faux-badassness and the Martin Scorsese "Wanted For Sacrilege" poster in the "Bad" video. I wish I could just sit back and appreciate unconditionally what Jackson gave us the way that so many of the presenters at the BET Awards seemed to, the way that SI's Gary Smith got to enjoy McGwire, Sosa and Griffey on consecutive days in the summer of 1998, before we all started learning the truth. I wish I didn't remember punchlines like "boy's underwear -- half off" and "a row of Big Wheels in his driveway" so easily. I wish I could enjoy younger Michael performing with his brothers and older Michael performing with N'Sync without wondering if he was ever happy inside, even when he was performing. I wish Joseph and Katherine Jackson had allowed Michael to have the childhood he deserved so that he could some day grow up and be a well-functioning adult, and I wish that cause-and-effect were simple enough that we could just blame Michael's parents and not Michael himself for the man he became.
It's ironic, isn't it? What I'm wishing for, basically, is to have the naivete of a twelve year old again when it comes to Michael Jackson -- but grownups don't get to go back to Neverland. Life doesn't work that way.