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Thanks to the Jackson Memorial TV Coverage, We'll Always Have Paris -- But Should We?
July 8, 2009  | By David Bianculli

paris-jackson.jpgJust because I was in Rome, that didn't mean I couldn't watch the Michael Jackson memorial TV coverage, on several channels, in more than one language. I even watched a Sky network late-night repeat of The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. I was part of an audience she estimated as "tens of millions," and which CNN International later claimed was "more than 1 billion." All of those viewers saw something, at the very end, I'm not certain they should have...

It was Paris Katherine Jackson, Michael's 11-year-old daughter, flanked by her relatives at the end of the ceremony. They clutched the microphone for her as Paris, formerly protected from the media by her father and seen in public shrouded by colored veils, sobbed out a two-sentence message straight from the heart. It was her first public utterance -- and to more than a billion people, it won't be forgotten.

paris-jackson-scarf.jpg"Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," Paris said, choking back tears. "And I just want to say I love him so much."

As an unscripted, unexpected, unforgettable globally televised display of grief from a child to a parent, those heartfelt, heartbreaking words from Paris were the biggest such display on TV since little John John saluted the passing casket of his slain father, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963. But this new moment, somehow, reveals even more of the child's personal grief.


Maybe it was cathartic for Paris. Maybe it was something she desperately, definitely wanted to do, and maybe she's better for it. Certainly, she got the world's notice, reminding everyone that the loss of Michael Jackson was, to she and her siblings, more than just the passing of a phenomenally talented pop star.

But I'm conflicted about this. I wonder, though Paris' comments were by far the most poignant part of the lengthy tribute, whether they WERE the best thing for the child, or whether she should have been shielded from the media spotlight just as aggressively as when her father was alive. I lost a parent suddenly at about that age, and I'm not sure, whatever decisions I may have made at the time about what to say or how to act, there's a justification for broadcasting such grief.

I don't trust my own reactions, though, to decide whether baring her soul, and delivering such a loving, sad message on international TV, was good or bad -- for her OR for the viewing public.

You tell me.

All I know is, it felt almost too painful, and too private, to watch.




itranscribe said:

Dave -- I am fortunate in that both my parents are in their 80s and going strong. In addition, I have no children so my perspective may be unusual. But you asked so I felt compelled to chime in.

I should say that I am a big Michael Jackson fan. He was only a couple of years older than I. As I told my husband last night, one of the first 45s I owned was "ABC" and was so excited when my sister brought it home to me!

That said...I think having Michael Jackson's children there may have helped them to see what a positive impact their father had on people. And it enabled people to see him as "Dad" rather than some tabloid-enhanced oddity. But I agree with you.

As you say, these kids were protected by their father up until now so they can't possibly imagine how tough the world can be for anyone let alone for a child of Michael Jackson. She may have wanted, indeed felt she needed, to say something about her daddy. Being a daddy's girl myself, I understand. But talk about your unique circumstances! The adults should have tried to dissuade her from speaking and maybe they did. I don't know. All I know is Paris Jackson will now be subjected to everything her father was trying to protect her from and that seems so sad to me.

Comment posted on July 8, 2009 11:34 AM

Mike said:

I don't know that I agree, David. It seemed like the only moment of the whole day in which Michael Jackson was treated as a real human being. It moved me -- and I was sick of the whole rest of the thing before it even started.

Comment posted on July 8, 2009 2:03 PM
j said:

As I listed to her touching sentences on the radio all I could think was "have we learned nothing from all of this?" I fear these children will be ground up by a media machine as custody battles, and estate settlements ensue. Gods speed to them.

Comment posted on July 8, 2009 3:45 PM

ceolaf said:

I think that you nailed it: "maybe."

We don't know that little girl. We know almost nothing about that little girl. We have no insight into or knowledge of whatever conversations might have occured with regard to whether or not she should speak. We don't know how it was presented to her, or what she asked.

So, how do we answer the question of whether those 30 seconds were good for her or exploitative -- both in the immediate term and in the long term? Well, we cannot.

We simply cannot.

Comment posted on July 8, 2009 3:49 PM

Tom said:

As I have no children of my own, my first thought was based on my own family and the funerals we attended. One of my siblings shielded the young children from even attending the services and one sibling did not. I think it would be overwhelming during this time, for any impact other than suffering the loss of a loved one, especially for the children.

Providing the children are not subjected to tv, radio, internet and newspaper reports (which I am sure will be continuing ad-nausium for many weeks to come)they should be fine.

I liked Michael's music and will only say, his personal life was his own. With the media frenzy that will be surrounding Michael Jackson's legacy, the children will be a lot more affected and traumatized by speculation and sensationalist "reporting" that is sure to intrude upon their lives and forever taint their memories of their father.

What a shame......

Comment posted on July 8, 2009 6:51 PM

Curtis said:

I guess I'm very cynical. It was painful for me to watch this child because of the fear in her eyes. I got the distinct feeling that this poor girl was being forced into standing there and saying things into a microphone in front of a bunch of cameras. It didn't sound, to me, like choking tears. It sounded like she wanted to vomit.

Think about it; by many accounts I've heard these kids are very bright and well behaved, but she's been protected for years from media. Can you imagine being the child of Michael Jackson? At the risk of offending all you king of pop devotees, we know nothing about their relationship. All of a sudden she has to blurt out something that may or may not be true. Just the act itself would be terrifying.

Comment posted on July 9, 2009 9:29 AM

Justme said:

I've argued since the show aired that Paris should not have been put into that position, even if she begged to do it. There are some things that adults should protect children from and choices they shouldn't have. They are children, and they count on adults to know better and to protect them.

If reports are true, there was a private service the night before the extravaganza. That would have been (and hopefully was) an opportunity for Paris express herself within the presumed safety of her family.

I wish the family and especially the children peace as they endure what's happened.

(And not that it gives more or less credibility to my opinion, but my daughter is 10.)

Comment posted on July 14, 2009 2:23 PM
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