Thursday, July 09, 2009

religion dispatches: Michael Jackson, Perfect "God" for the Media Age

The current edition of religion dispatches includes an article comprised of a roundtable discussion by religion scholars who address the "potential religious significance of the life, work, and death of one of the most influential pop stars of all time," Michael Jackson. Unfortunately, the participants spend most of the time addressing other aspects of the pop star's life and influence, but one section best summarizes the topic in terms of the sacralization if not divinization of Jackson:
"Finally, I do think Michael-as-seeker is the most important 'religious' aspect that he brings to the table. The hopefulness, the Utopian visions of the world in his music, point to the hopes and dreams of people, especially the 'nones' who do not find fulfillment in traditional religious expressions. In that sense, he was the perfect 'god' for the media age...always morphing, seeking the camera, and assuaging his loneliness by courting the one thing he always knew would be trained upon him: a lens."
This aspect of Jackson's pop cultural legacy is worth reflecting on within the broader context of the transformation of celebrities into spiritual icons in the late modern West, something seen with the passing of Princess Diana of Wales, and with singer Elvis Presley. The religion dispatches article can be viewed here.

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