As usual, whenever the anniversary of a notable death occurs, we all collectively wonder how it could be five or 10 years later. But here we are five years after Michael Jackson’s death and looking back at how shocked (nay, not shocked) we were at his untimely death in 2009. We also should have seen it coming that his life would continue in strange ways that are different from any other notable on earth, namely in the use of technology and mining the recording vaults. While it’s not unusual for artists to have posthumous albums out after death, it’s a different story when technology keeps you alive through a hologram.
The Michael Jackson hologram on the Billboard Music Awards this year was one of the eeriest things you were ever going to see. While it utilized a simple stage trick using mirrors, it still used the latest technology to make it look far too real. It might have set off a new wave of how we’re going to see Michael Jackson in the future. Since it seems out of the hands of the family in controlling everything, the image of Jackson may be turning into a different view from what people saw when he was alive.
As with biopics that give a specific view of a notable person in a way that irritates those who remembered the person in life, it doesn’t bode well for the legacy of celebrities in the future when we keep them alive through a different frame of mind.
In the case of Jackson, keeping his legacy alive in some kind of form almost has to be reinvented since interviews with the music legend are rare. Coming close to being the Howard Hughes of the music world, Jackson held a lot of secrets about what made him tick, despite most of us having hunches on his psyche based on simple psychology 101. All of the psychological aspects to his personality have been swept away now in favor of Michael Jackson the performer. As we saw with the hologram, that figure almost becomes mythic now.
For a younger generation just now seeing Jackson in that holographic form, you have to wonder what they’re thinking. The same applies to his posthumous recordings that look to be on a recurring release schedule almost every year. While “Xscape” might be one of the better releases so far, a lot of the songs (when heard raw) sound like a product of a different era. With the Jackson family arguing that MJ wouldn’t have wanted a lot of those songs released, it might paint a wrongheaded perception to Generation Y who may not fully appreciate Jackson’s innovations yet.
What More Will Technology Bring to Keep Jackson Alive?
That Jackson hologram had such an emotional reaction that it wouldn’t be surprising to see it again. We have the technology now to keep anyone alive if we really wanted to, almost in a way resembling the movie “Transcendence.” While we’d be better off if we could upload the brain of the original notable person so we can still capture truth, almost every legendary person ends up becoming a caricature over time. Especially the reclusive ones like Howard Hughes and Jackson, the view of them seems to deteriorate over time into one that makes them look like oddball figures to those born long after they died.
Those not even born yet when Jackson died will be seeing a concocted view of Jackson that may be created by corporate America cashing in against the will of the family. He may look like a specter haunting the music charts by those slightly older, yet still a mysterious figure to those too young to remember Jackson in reality. And a biopic wouldn’t help matters based on the track record of biopics distorting how things really were with every legend of the past.
Only a documentary in the guise of recent Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself” would there be a way to capture the truth through careful, unbiased information. Someone who can encapsulate Jackson’s life into a two-hour documentary (or maybe Beatles-like anthology form) would help bring the proper legacy as an influence on the next several generations.
Of course, the worst would be if that Jackson hologram developed a consciousness like artificial intelligence with no recollection of death. We’d see a strange dilemma in technology that would only befit the likely interesting and odd future legacy of Jackson on pop culture.