I was (for reasons I won’t go into here) stranded without a book last night, and so, while awaiting Newsnight, resorted to some aimless TV channel browsing, and happened to land on (what I discovered today was a repeat of a program originally aired two years back and entitled) Michael Jackson: Live Séance.
I dallied for a few moments out of sceptical curiosity. An immediately apparent dreadful TV exercise, guaranteeing viewers for the advertisers because it has MJ in the title; vacuously and gullibly presented by June Sarpong, who entreated viewers to “Just like me, please keep an open mind.” Just like you?
Participants were: four MJ ‘superfans’, with a religious-like devotion to the late ‘King of Pop’, marked not just by their belief that he is the greatest and is ‘still with us’, but by their compulsion to dress like him to various extent (disturbing enough in itself), and their desire to make contact; a ‘parapsychologist’, who failed to provide the (much needed) sceptical presence that I mistakenly assumed he would; and the vehicled ‘star’ of the show – the ‘world-renowned psychic’ medium, one Derek Acorah, who was to attempt to contact the spirit of MJ, in the room wherein, we were told, he wrote his last album.
Mr Acorah was confident in the build-up, already detecting MJs “… thought patterns in the residual energy in this room…”. JS repaired to an adjacent room, where she was accompanied by MJ’s old buddy, David Guest (sporting for the occasion an eccentric red stripe in his hair), who filled and authenticated with lovely stories about MJ, about what a lovely, sensitive, loving person he was.
There is a ready resort utilised by those who ‘believe’ certain ideas that they don’t like to have knocked and mocked by people of a more quizzical bent. It is a word: Energy. Be wary when you hear this, as it usually indicates a peddler of pseudoscientific codswallop. Not energy in its scientific context (the capacity to do physical work); but its nebulous, ethereal misappropriation, as championed by proponents of homeopathy, reiki, crystal healing and suchlike. Am I right to notice the coincident increased readiness of these types to be suckered in by psychic mediums? This residuum of ‘energy’, reminiscent of water’s homeopathic ‘memory’. So, after our overseeing parapsychologist commenced proceedings, DA babbled copiously about ‘energy’, beseeching the deluded participants to join hands to initially, in effect, pray that any bad energy would not interfere with proceedings. But then, June informed us as this momentous event got underway, “… we need to go to a break…”. But rest assured, despite the advertisers’ interruptive clout, it was being recorded, and we would thus not miss anything significant.
It was around now that I switched over for Newsnight, and the latest European ongoings. We went to footage of the Blue Spectre being slow-hand-clapped into the white-tied Guildhall, before a snippet of his speech, when he was talking Europe. And I could not understand a woolly word he was saying. I mean, like ‘energy’, I’m familiar with the words he used; but it’s the sentences he puts them together in: something like, we’ve got to be in Europe, but not in it??? As ever, I quickly became irritated by his sophistry and so turned back over to the séance. (Not proud of it. I was bored, okay?)
A handy catalyst had materialised – Michael’s hat. Participants were invited to touch it and confirm they could feel the “energy”, “presence”, “amazing”, “vibrations”; “residual energies”, clarified our guru. And things had become more sombre, as DA got into his role, and the participants were by now seriously impressed, as evidenced by copious shedding of that now TV-ten-a-penny device – tears. (“‘Hi’ to Quincy Jones”, which was meant to impress; but didn’t; I mean, how would they know QJ?) But this was somewhat disturbing; these people were seriously moved in the belief that Michael, via sideways cocks of DA’s right ear, was speaking to them, and telling them how much he loved them.
I was fleetingly concerned for one or two of these convincingly upset dolts, before quickly arriving at the opinion that maybe they, along with everyone else in the place, were all actors – with DA, being no more convincing than that guy on the other channel, the worst of the lot. If he does have an Equity card, its rescindment merits serious consideration.
I’m not sure how I prefer to envisage these people: exploited or exploit- ers? If they were all getting paid, then they were all complicit, in league with DA. If it was unpaid work experience, then I’d have marginally more respect if they posed as a dermatologist in ads for dandruff shampoo, or danced and sang to promote some bland snack. And what about the advertisers whose promotions punctuate this dross? And the gall to repeat the bloody thing. Whence decency?!
That it was conducted a mere few months after MJ’s demise might account in part for the emotion on display, but it is no less rant-inducing when viewed two years later.
Just a bit of harmless fun, right?