Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Person POV: Michael Jackson's "This Is It"

There's only a few more days until the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It leaves theaters. While many of us have lined up early to see this film, there are plenty of our peers who have mixed feelings about it. Already there are discussions in close-knit circles and online about if the film should be considered a money-making venture capitalizing on MJ's death or if it is a respectful gesture to leave a lasting impression on his fans. None of us will ever get to see the final This Is It concert series that was planned to debut in London. That is, unless we invent a time machine or step into a parallel universe. Where does this leave us? Perhaps with time, we'll be able to reflect more on how this film adds to MJ's legacy. (Photo above is from the Wikipedia entry for this film.)

So this article is not a film review of the documentary. In the end, we individually have the right to make a decision if we want to see the film or not. The article is more about what the film means to us as fellow street dancers and as MJ fans. After all, there are many of us who will have our emotions stirred up just by the mention of his name or a glimpse of the footage from this film. It's undeniable. As a musical artist and entertainment icon, Michael Jackson was a presence in our hearts. It can be strange to reflect on how we mourned his passing earlier this year. Most of us probably didn't know him personally. We knew his persona as seen through his music, media appearances, and charity work. So when he passed away, the emotional reaction across the world was huge. We had fans who were devastated. We had detractors who criticized the outpouring of emotions. And we had folks in the middle who were neutral on the subject. For many street dancers, it wasn't that we knew MJ personally. It's that his music formed a bond for all of us to relate to each other. We shared in his musical triumphs. His songs gave us a means to express ourselves through dance. And now that he's gone, we feel a rift. It's as if the bond that connected us has been compromised, maybe even lost.

Where does this leave us? There won't be an endless series of new music from him. Yes, we may hear new songs from his archive but it will be limited. As with other influential artists who have passed away, Michael Jackson's music will be his most memorable legacy. Thanks to digital technology and archiving, his songs will be remastered, reissued, and rediscovered by future generations. But for those of us who lived in the era of his creative height, we have to keep moving on. We can't give up the artistic endeavors in our lives that were inspired by his music. Whether you are a dancer or a musician or an artist of another craft, we have to dig deeper into our own creative selves. We may not be seeking the legacy that MJ left but we can enrich the lives of our friends, families, and communities with our artistic gifts. Why not continue the mission that MJ so lovingly embraced with his charity work and his creative projects? Let's give purpose to our creativity outside of ourselves. It's easy to seek self-promotion and personal glory through our art. But can we be different by making the well-being of others are greater priority?

Maybe this realization is one of the most powerful suggestions from This Is It. We do see Michael Jackson pushing his dancers and musicians to be better than where they are in their artform. He wants them to do their best because only as a team can they deliver a mind-blowing experience to the audience. We were a global community of MJ fans through the past several years. And now, we find ourselves in smaller communities measured by our peers, our interests, and our closest relationships. How do we help each other to be our better selves? Let's keep asking that question as we move on.

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