The primary role of a superhero is to save people. Whether that be from an end-of-the-world style disaster, a personal situation or a life threatening conundrum, the superhero is there to swoop in and give that person the chance to continue living their life, normal and trouble-free. In popular culture, our superheroes usually don a spandex-style creation with the occasional matching cape and most importantly they possess a super power. In popular culture the superhero is often misunderstood, alienated and vilified by the police and press, and the public are suspicious of his motivations (sound familiar?). However, he manages, with one big display of heroism and compassion, to change the hearts and minds of the people and become a celebrated hero.
But what of a different type of superhero? Say an ordinary person who accomplished extraordinary things? That’s an all too familiar story if you’re visiting this website. Michael Jackson was a non-superhuman superhero whose actions were something the pages of DC and Marvel could only hope to emulate.
Being Michael Jackson, to him was just a natural thing yet something I believe he never quite understood the gravity of. He meant so much to so many and his influence was even life-saving in some cases. From high profile stories such as that of Bela Farkus, to many life-enriching tales that even Michael wouldn’t have been aware of.
Many of the common traits that we associate with fictional icons of the comic pages are evident in Michael, thus proving he was a modern day, real life superhero.
Like any superhero, Michael had an internal radar that triggered when a person was in need. In 1996, an elderly couple were flying economy class when the wife suddenly passed out in the aisle. Hearing the commotion, Michael, who had hired the entire first class cabin for himself and his staff proceeded to economy class to personally check on the wife. As she came round, Michael Jackson himself was kneeling next to her, along with her husband, asking if she was ok. Michael then took the couple to first class where the wife received medical treatment from Michael’s doctor and the couple completed their journey alongside Michael; talking and enjoying the frivolities. On landing, Michael refused to let the couple travel alone and had his chauffeur drive them to their destination. The family of the couple were shocked to see that their baggage handler bringing the cases to the door was none other than Michael Jackson! After some time inside, Michael signed autographs for the couple and left. These are the actions of a superhero.
In true superhero style, Michael once saved a fan from the ledge of a building. Back in 1992 whilst staying at London’s Dorchester hotel, 20 year old fan Eric Herminie scaled the 120ft building opposite and threatened to jump. The police alerted Michael who requested to speak with the young man via telephone. He then appeared on the balcony opposite, waved and proceeded to perform some dance moves for the troubled fan. In an instant, Herminie climbed back through the window to safety. Michael Jackson saved the day again and in-turn saved the young man’s life.
The Bela Farkus story is widely known thanks to Michael’s Private Home Movies. Forming one of the rare occasions in which Michael’s charitable efforts were publicised, Farkus’s life was saved as Michael assisted in finding a donor and paying for the surgery: “I cannot let this boy die” Michael told doctors. What wasn’t documented was that Michael paid for Bela’s medical treatment for a further 10 years and continued to send cards and letters right up until his final days.
High profile cases aside, Michael’s ability to unwittingly improve the lives of people around the world on a daily basis is ever apparent. Many fans have cited his music and personal strength as inspiration and motivation for raising them in their darkest hours. ‘Keep the Faith’, ‘Unbreakable’, ‘Will You Be There’ and ‘Man in the Mirror’ are the top mentioned MJ tracks that have guided fans to a positive frame of mind.
One of the most challenging aspects of a superhero’s existence is having to live by a secret identity. Only by doing so can the hero keep his loved ones safe and simultaneously save the world. Being Michael Jackson held one big disadvantage: everybody knows who you are! Each time Michael stepped outside the front door he was followed and despite concocting some ingenious disguises, it was still no match for the baying paparazzi. But a true hero finds ways of doing good deeds without anyone knowing. In 2011, Janet shared with Piers Morgan in an interview that one of her fondest memories of Michael was when they used to go to a now defunct restaurant called ‘Loves’ and buy takeaway dinners for the homeless. Michael would drive incognito and Janet would reach out of the window handing dinners to the needy. Naturally, the homeless were unaware where their hot meal came from and Michael, along with his side kick Janet, selflessly handed out hope. Similarly, a bodyguard’s book details a time Michael asked to be driven to the poorest part of Las Vegas, where he proceeded to crack open the window and hand out money to the homeless in the area. Acts such as this helped qualify Michael as a superhero as he concealed his identity in his usual altruistic fashion.
Michael didn’t just use his wealth for charitable efforts; he used it to help out the people he cared about and the people who inspired him. It’s no secret that Michael purchased the ATV catalogue in 1988 for close to $48 million. Many called Michael an astute business man, some called him greedy and disrespectful, but what they failed to comprehend was that Michael was planning to use this purchase to become a hero to his heroes. Shortly after the acquisition, Michael contacted Little Richard, who he’d heard no longer believed he got the credit for his music and had been heavily jilted by his record company. The ATV catalogue contained the songs of Little Richard, worth an estimated annual income of $4-5 million and Michael voluntarily returned them to him. Reports suggested that this may not have actually been finalised due to legal aspects, but it is understood that Michael financially compensated Little Richard for what he felt the singer rightfully deserved.
Going the extra mile
Something in Michael’s character meant he always went that extra mile to help people. On a visit to London in 2002, Michael decided to stop by HMV Oxford Street to no doubt find out whether the ‘Michael Jackson’ section was fully stocked, and to buy himself and his children some gifts. The crowds of people forming outside were so large it’s estimated that there were over a thousand people gathered. As they spilled into the shop, the struggle to leave became intense with fans screaming and more and more stopping to get a glimpse. In the midst of the commotion a little old lady had become trapped in the throng and was being knocked in all directions. Michael spotted this and advanced towards the woman. After insisting the fans calmed down and made space, he ushered the lady to his waiting car and asked where she wanted to go. Wimpole Street to see a friend was her destination and so the biggest pop star on the planet whisked the lady to her friend’s house. For Michael, it was always about helping those in need no matter who they were.
Leading by example
The media will always paint the good guy as the bad guy if it means they’re going to sell more papers. Spiderman felt its effects, as did Superman, Batman, Iron Man and…..maybe they had a point with Hulk. The only thing a superhero can do to win people over is to lead by example and support the age old saying that actions speak louder than words. It’s effectively impossible to pick a time where Michael lead by example as his entire life was filled with demonstrations of kindness and giving hope to people. From music, to stage and screen, our superhero has demonstrated his strength of character through his actions, inspiring others to follow the same path and be the best they can be.
A small innocent child in the big wide world can often be unaware of the dramas and dangers of everyday life. They’re shielded and protected by their parents who teach them right from wrong. The superhero is therefore an inspiration for the kid, who looks up to them as the protector. If one should get to see the protector in action, then they are surely the luckiest person on earth. Michael understood this and how much joy his presence would bring to children, especially those who were suffering. On many occasions he would set aside time to visit children in hospitals and orphanages around the world, bringing them gifts, posing for photos and signing autographs. Kids would draw hope for the future by being in the presence of the seemingly unreachable; “If Michael Jackson can come and see me, anything is possible.”
These are examples of Michael Jackson the superhero, and also the basis for a Hollywood blockbuster on the most powerful, inspirational superhero tale yet to be told. Next time you’re asked by someone who your favourite superhero is, you can say Michael Jackson. When they say “Michael Jackson isn’t a superhero though”, you can lightning bolt them with all these truths.
Source: Pez Jax / MJVibe.com
Article taken from MJVibe’s Iconic Magazine, Issue 18. Please ask permission if you wish to use this article.