Snark: The Right Response Michael Jackson's Death

Let me be the first to announce what is already completely obvious. The shock about Michael Jackson's death has worn off and soon all we're going to be left with are a few camera hogs begging for attention. But all that media coverage has reminded me that, even in times of great emotion, we have a continuing and ever-present need for snark.

And, trust me, nobody is more surprised by this need than me. I used to hate snarkiness; but now I realize that snark is a necessary evil in this world of ours. There are just too many knuckleheads out there trying to make a buck or a reputation out of Jackson's death. As a form of wit that uses both cynicism and sarcasm, snark is can be an enlightening response to cultural events where the first response is "WTF?" Not to be confused with schaudenfreude or bullying, snark doesn't attack people just to be mean (that'd be Perez Hilton), but it doesn't back away from a fight either. Still, when a celebrity dies, snark is the one response that's totally discouraged. Yet, I would argue, it is our only protection from a media response that is too big, too omnipresent and too boring. We get excessively bad behavior every time a really famous person shuffles off his mortal coil. Jackson's sudden death was met with the same kind of wall-to-wall coverage that followed Hurricane Katrina, the Season Finale of American Idol, the civil unrest in Iran, and the election of America's first black president. There's no rhyme or reason to the "BREAKING NEWS" cycle--everything is treated like an international emergency. Just about everyone I know is already tired of this no-news news coverage even though they're still saddened by Michael's death. And to make matters worse, with so much misinformation flying around, it's impossible to know what's true and what's not. On the same day Michael Jackson died, Jeff Goldblum, George Clooney and Harrison Ford were also pronounced dead by Twitter hordes. Just think about how useful snark would have been in the days following MJ's death:

1. At the Apollo Tribute to Michael Jackson, the Reverend Al Sharpton said, "Michael made young men and women all over the world imitate us. Before Michael, we were limited and ghettoized." Where is the snark reminding us that Reverend Al Sharpton is honoring Michael as an Important Black Person in spite of the fact the Michael sought to erase his racial identity with plastic surgery? What happened to the Reverend Jesse Jackson? He made a YouTube video urging MJ fans not to commit suicide or as he put it: "In Michael's name let's live together as brothers and sisters and not die apart as fools." I thought he was speaking for the family. And why are the Reverends hanging around anyway? It doesn't really help their reputations as camera-crazed hangers-on. (And by the way, is calling people fools the best way to stop a potential suicide? See--snark at work!)

2. And how else, except through snark, can we point out that only in death is MJ being afforded the compassion that might have kept him alive in the first place?

3. Can't we get just a bit snarky about the media's compulsive use of the word "troubled" or "tragic" when what they really mean is "suspected child molester"? If they have a problem with Michael's legacy, why don't they just say so?

4. Snark seems like a requirement when Joe Jackson is speaking on behalf of his son's estate despite the allegations of physical and emotional abuse against Michael hanging over him. And pushing his record label at the same time?! Nobody thinks that's weird or creepy?

5. Cutting through all the nonsense masquerading as news is a perfect job for snark. Did Michael have a will? What will happen to the children? What was the state of MJ's finances? Did Jackson's personal physician do something wrong? Nobody seems to have any answers to these questions but that doesn't stop people from asking them over and over again and throwing in some scurilous conjecture too boot.

6. Why do I have to stay quiet through all the conspiracy theories? They are just getting started and are only going to get more ridiculous: Michael was afraid of death. Michael was in love with death. He was obsessed with death. Michael was afraid he'd go out like Presley. He was murdered. He killed himself. He faked his death. Michael was afraid he'd go out like James Brown. People wanted him dead for his Beatles catalog. People wanted him dead because he owed money. I predict we're about 24 hours from an Olsen twins and/or zombie connection. Is it really that hard for us to accept that he may have simply died from the cumulative effects of years and years of drug abuse? Is there no snarkish curiosity about why opiates are the drug of choice for those singers ill-equipped to handle to relieve the crushing pressure of fame and the dealers (I mean, doctors) who supply them? Well, there should be. Making this about murder or zombies just obscures Jackson's alleged addictions and the conversation about them that might actually help people!

7. And please don't tell me that I have sit quiet and snarkless while Patti Regan, the head of the Great Apes Sanctuary (where Bubbles, beloved pet monkey to Michael, lives) says things like this to People magazine; "We haven't said anything to him [Bubbles] yet, He's been his usual self, interacting with friends, eating well, taking cover when it rains."

Days and hours of watching opportunists and talking heads gorge themselves on custody battles, conspiracy theories, and dueling autopsies is going to make me sick, My only prayer is that a consensus on the funeral plans is reached as soon as possible. Though of course, watch out for some drama. Rudy Clay, the mayor of Gary, Indiana (Jackson's hometown) wants Michael to be buried there. It would be "a memorial that's fit for the prince of peace and a memorial that's fit for Gary, Indiana's favorite son, the greatest entertainer that ever lived," Clay said. Isn't Jesus the Prince of Peace? You see? Snark is crucial when people are losing all sense of proportion and context. Remember when poor Anna Nicole Smith's body sat in a deep freeze while her friends and family sued each other over the burial plans? If I have to be earnest and respectful of people's grief throughout that, my head might explode.