Michael Jackson and the strange isolation

Michael Jackson jokes flooded through the internet, and office gossip, with all the sharp wit and bad taste expected. Masturbation, Madeleine McCann, and monkeys all mixed with the still very recent (and very much real life) death of a superstar. Reality is in some form of suspension, a matter of strange isolation, in this age where death is greeted with Facebook groups and spam-email. I was invited to join a group called, “Joining the group will bring Maddy back” within days of the young girl’s disappearance, as though the act of signing up was as effective – if not more so – than going out assisting with the search. Similarly with voting too, with more anti-BNP group members than voters…

The death of Elvis or John Lennon was not greeted in ways too far removed from the massed groups seen outside the hospital yesterday. These days we have grown numb and isolated from the realities of death and injury, the main ingredients of television news, from Baghdad to the disused railway lines of a nameless town. In Derbyshire, onlookers cheered on a suicidal young person before uploading the jump on YouTube – such is the numb, almost ignorant reaction and relationship to death beyond the flickering screen.

Cracking jokes about Michael Jackson’s death before the official announcement was announced is certainly in bad taste, but gallows humour and cynical attitudes to celebrity have always existed. The celebs of today, as here-today, gone-tomorrow as they may be, are possibly disposable enough to avoid the onslaught. Of course it’s not clever or big, but a well-phrased, properly told joke has the effect of causing laughter, whether or not it’s a weak play-on-words or twisted take on current affairs. Humans don’t like knowing their celebrity icons are weak or able to die or suffer bankruptcy: jokes are the reaction, the building of a wall from reality. I cannot lie – some made me guffaw, but I would not be human if I did not have a sense of humour. Only then would I be truly isolated…