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January 30, 2004


Michael Jackson and To Kill a Mockingbird

Today's revelation that Michael Jackson drinks wine (which he calls "Jesus juice") from Coke cans so no one will know he's drinking reminds me of Dolphus Raymond, a character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, except with a twist.

Just like Michael, Dolphus Raymond is regarded as an eccentric figure in his community, and like Michael, he has more money than most. Also like Michael, Dolphus has an ambiguous relationship with his race: he's white, but he had an affair with, and then married, a black woman, with whom he had a handful of bi-racial children. Similarly, Michael has married a couple of white women, with whom he has had some bi-racial kids. Dolphus spends most of his time hanging out with the black people of Maycomb in the town square, where is he derided by judgmental passers-by, just as Michael spends a lot of time in the public eye, and is similarly derided because of his eccentricities and indefinite relationship to his race.

But what makes the latest revelation about Michael really reminiscent of Dolphus is this: Everybody in town thought Dolphus was an alcoholic, because they always saw him in public drinking from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. But one day, Scout and Dill learn the truth: Dolphus was drinking Coke, not alcohol, out of that brown paper bag. By contrast, Michael Jackson appears to be drinking Coke, but is really drinking alcohol. Both Dolphus and Michael (reportedly) allowed children to taste their respective beverages to learn the truth.

When asked why he acts so strangely all the time and lets everyone think he is an alcoholic, Dolphus says he wanted to give people an excuse for his behavior, so they would leave him alone. Without his alcoholic persona, the people of Maycomb would persecute him because of his relationship with the black woman. But because they could say, "Oh, that's just old Dolphus the alcoholic," they gave him a free pass to act oddly. Unfortunately for him, the "oh, that's just how Michael is" excuse has worn thin for MJ, and his eccentricity doesn't seem to be much protection any more. Maybe he should have followed the lead of his literary complement and laid off the sauce.

categories: Books, Celebrities
posted by adm at 3:34 PM | #