comScore

Michael Jackson to be declared icon by U.S Government?

itemprop

An icon is a strange thing. There's no denying their existence-- Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Babe Ruth-- America is a nation obsessed the monuments of its own greatness, and the figures that become icons are rarely those figures that the sociologists would expect.

But the current proposal before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to officially recognize Michael Jackson as an "American legend, a musical icon, and a global humanitarian" is not just ill-fated, but calls into question the very idea of how our icons arise.

First, the thing faces a tremendous uphill battle. It's one thing for thousands of twenty- and thirty-somethings across the globe to revere Jackson as an icon. It's quite another for 50- and 60- somethings on Capitol Hill to decide the same. For them, it's likely that Jackson's music and identity isn't so pertinent as to whitewash the aspects of his character that are more pressing for their demographic. Like you know, the fact that the guy was a skeletal alien freak who may or may not have molested children.

But more importantly, the concept of an official body electing to assign the title of "icon" is a direct affront to how our icons naturally arise. The American icon tends to arise from the successful marketing of an easily appealing product. Few, for example, would argue that Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful woman of her period, nor that James Dean was the greatest actor, nor even that Jackson was the most talented musician. And certainly, no one ever was revered as an icon simply because they were recognized in an official proposal by the United States Government. To put it plainly, no one was elected prom queen for being an honor roll student.

Erect a statue in a public park? Fine. Dedicate a street? Sure. These are all under the purview of a governing body.

But to declare Jackson an icon, to stamp into ink and paper and emblazon with an official seal, the enigmatic title of "icon" is a real head-scratcher. The people of Earth already conducted this election about 20 years ago, and it was unanimous. Is there any need to emboss the papers now?