ANALYSIS: Jackson's memorial - a defining moment starts at 1700 GMT Tuesday
By Andy Goldberg Jul 3, 2009, 23:13 GMT
Signage stands outside Staples Center following press conference announcing plans for a public memorial for pop star Michael Jackson in Los Angeles, California USA 03 July 2009. Jackson died of a heart attack at age 50. EPA/PAUL BUCK
Los Angeles - At 10 am Pacific Time on Tuesday, the world as we know it will come to a stop.
OK, that's a little bit of an exaggeration.
But the memorial service for Michael Jackson will dominate the world's media as almost never before. From high brow newspapers to celebrity websites, and from 24-hour cable news shows to social networking internet forums, the tribute to the late King of Pop will likely be the most talked about subject on the planet.
The handful of observers not caught up in the celebrity whirlwind might wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, Jackson's biggest hits came over two decades ago, and in the time since he has led a bizarre and controversial life that hardly made him an Everyman ordinary people could relate to or a cultural leader that could be revered.
But in our celebrity obsessed society, Jackson's history as a hugely talented child star, record-breaking pop visionary, style icon, charity activist, bizarre recluse and accused child molester made him a natural subject for prurient curiosity.
Entertainment journalist Ray Richmond says the fascination stems from Jackson's embodiment of tabloid culture: 'rags-to-riches, tragedy, early death, drugs, race, crime and celebrity justice, worldwide fame, financial calamity, sexual ambiguity, abuse (of self and allegedly others), kids, animals, dysfunction on the grandest imaginable scale, and warped familial dynamics.'
In other words, Jackson's life was like the script of a grotesque reality show.
But his unmatched status also stems from his emergence at a time of rapidly changing media and social patterns. He was in many ways the first global superstar, emerging at a time when the spread of television around the world allowed the whole planet to access the same images.
His pioneering use of the music video made him the dominant personality in the medium. His status as a personality recognized throughout the world was further enhanced when he organized the We Are The World recording to raise consciousness about the plight of Africa in 1984.
But the media proliferation that helped fuel Jackson's rise also could mean he is one of the last artists able to cross generational, cultural, national and race lines, says media critic Chuck Barney.
With the spread of cable television and the internet, society's interest in people and issues has become fragmented, he explains.
'The Jonas Brothers, for example, may be big in your daughter's little corner of the world, but they'll never mean as much to as many people as the Jackson 5,' says Barney. 'And so, as it turns out, not only have we marked the death of Michael Jackson, we may be witnessing the inevitable demise of the truly larger-than-life international superstar.'
For now, though, both old and new media are converging to drive the Jackson interest into the stratosphere.
But just as the internet played an unprecedented role in the 2008 US election, it also has come to the fore in the current frenzy. The gossip website TMZ.com was the first to break the news of Jackson's death, and has continued to lead the coverage.
Elsewhere, the water cooler conversations that drove interest in celebrity stories in the past have been overshadowed by the chatter on Facebook, Twitter and every other news and celebrity site that allows users to post comments.
That tsunami of comment is expected to reach a peak during Tuesday's memorial service which will be streamed live over the internet and is set to become the largest webcast in history.
No-one has any idea how many people will tune in to watch. But the online interest is staggering. When an online lottery for tickets to the memorial opened Friday, the site was swamped with over 500 million hits in the first two hours.