Thursday, 2 July 2009

Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley

In response to my previous post about Bubbles and Scatter I have had one or two requests for copies of my essay ‘Electronically Yours, Eternally Elvis’, from which the featured extract was taken. The piece was an early attempt to frame some of the themes and ideas that would become part of my novel Destroy All Monsters. It also analyzed the close relationship between Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson as sovereign virtual presences, as alarming in their contrasts as in their similarities. Shadowed by recent events, the Michael Jackson image of the early 90s seems eerily familiar and yet utterly strange at the same time.

Every pleasure that a king can gratify through his body can also be inverted or denied to more or less the same effect. Elvis took pills, getting so whacked out on prescription opiates that he could barely move: Michael Jackson, however, swallows vitamins by the handful.
Elvis gorged: Michael starves himself.
Elvis abused his vital organs, his liver smashed to a pulp by the time of his death: Michael Jackson obsessively takes care of himself and follows a macrobiotic diet.
Both of them, like true kings, have chosen, after their respective fashions, to have their myths reside completely within their flesh.

Now it has become clear that, as well as sharing Elvis’s fondness for prescription painkillers, Michael Jackson also went on to do extensive damage to the outside of his body as well its inner organs: his extensive plastic surgery, heavy make-up, wigs and sunglasses being a way of preserving the royal head as a holy reliquary. It’s strange to find myself writing about MJ again – I decided to stop after ‘Electronically Yours...’ made it into print, my author’s copies of The Last Sex , in which it first appeared, arriving the same day that reports of the first raid on Neverland were flooding the media. The persistent accusations and denials that followed effectively ‘completed’ the MJ myth in a way that made any further analysis rather redundant. I still followed MJ’s career closely, however, and was probably the least surprised person on the planet when it was announced that he had married Lisa Marie Presley. A marriage made in a snow-storm paperweight, it also rendered any further comment unnecessary – except there’s something about the sight of MJ and LM reconstructing Maxfield Parrish’s ‘Daybreak’ (see above) in a pop video that may require further scrutiny at some point.

‘Electronically Yours, Eternally Elvis’ was first published in the St Martin’s Press anthology The Last Sex, which is still in print, but anyone wishing to obtain just a copy of the text as a PDF can email me directly by clicking on to the ‘View My Complete Profile’ link to the lower right of the page and using the email facility there.

In the meantime let us continue to mourn the passing of kings. Salve valeque

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