From the time they were born, they were like The Three Musketeers. After Michael’s death, they seemed to find strength in presenting themselves as an unbroken shield to the world-one for all, all for one. Fans even refer to them affectionately as PP&B.
But over the last year, the inevitable seems to be happening. Michael’s babies are growing up. Prince and Paris are teenagers now. And as inevitably happens when kids grow up, they are starting to make their own way; forging their own identities apart from the pack.
Well, I don’t have to tell you that speculation has run rampant ever since Michael’s death thrust his three children into the spotlight-and into media scrutiny-in a way they had never experienced while Michael lived. From that time forward, the big question has been how each will carry forth their famous father’s legacy. I think we are finally starting to see some of those answers, in ways that are both good and not so good (and frankly, some that are downright disturbing). However, we should keep in mind that Michael raised three bright, intelligent kids and instilled in them the idea they could be whatever they wanted. From him, as well as a plethora of show business aunts, uncles, and cousins, I think they have the savvy to know how to navigate the show business world. But is it too soon, and is it what Michael would have wanted for them? These are the big questions that many are asking.
Prince may have set the precedent earlier this year when he appeared solo at the Bambi awards in Germany. There was much media hype over this being Prince’s first public appearnce minus his siblings.
Since then, he has since gone further solo, embarking on an endorsement deal with his famous uncles to market “Thriller” replica jackets.
But the intense media scrutiny on the individual identities of the children really began the moment when Paris stepped in front of the microphone at the memorial service to tell the world how she felt about her father. Yes, we were aware that three children had lost their father. But in that moment, 11-year-old Paris became the spokesperson for all three of them-and in a sense, that was the beginning of her thrust into the spotlight.
My concern right now is especially for Paris and Blanket. I don’t worry so much for Prince, because he seems to be a smart and level headed kid and I think his main interest is going to be behind the camera, directing and producing (he’s already said as much, and somehow with this kid, you just don’t doubt his sincerity). I think he will be fine. I worry more about Paris, not because she isn’t as equally smart and level headed, but simply because as a girl, she is going to be much more subjected to the kind of sexual exploitation that often befalls young girls in the industry. Right now I can think of so many who have already been subjected to that path-Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, etc (all of whom began their careers as wholesomely innocent teens, and whose image was meant to appeal to young, teen girls, but not surpisingly, we saw all of them more “sexed up” with every passing year, long before any of them were even 18 years of age). It usually does not end pretty for these girls.
Judging from the recent publicity shots promoting Paris’s movie debut in Lunden’s Bridge and The Three Keys, it looks as though Paris is being groomed as a new version of Miley Cyrus, wholesome and innocent yet somewhat provocative. Honestly, I don’t think shots like the above are any accident! The poster being used to currently promote the fillm also seems to be exploiting Paris in a somewhat provocative manner: Note short shorts, and the tight fitting top that accentuates her chest!
Granted, Paris Jackson is growinng up to be a beautiful young lady, and the camera loves her, obviouusly. But natural, wholesome beauty is one thing; quite another when packaged in a way that is obviously overtly sexual. I have absolutuely no problem with Paris being a sex symbol-when she is of age! But she is only thirteen yerars old right now! Just a few months ago, Paris was reportedly offered a position with the Lingerie Football League, which as described by Bleacher Report Swagger columnist Adam Wells is, “a sham of a league, designed to get perverted people to tune in and pay money to see scantily-clad women run around for no reason.”
The fact that the offerer was reputed to take effect only after Paris reached 18 doesn’t really change matters. The fact is, it looks as though the sexploitation of Michael Jackson’s only daughter is just beginninng, and I don’t expecty that we will see the let-up of this anytime soon. The offers are going to come in, and they are going to be more and more temptingly lucrative. I just hope that in this sea of sharks and wolves, Paris can keep her head clear and be strong, and that grandmother Katherine can keep a firm hand, as well.
I also think that there is going to be a lot of media scrutiny and interest in Blanket as he grows older (in fact, it has already begun-remember the world’s reaction to those leaked Youtube videos!). And I think a lot of it is going to be for one very simple reason: As the child who bears the most striking PHYSICAL resemblance too Michael, I think a lot of eyes are going to be on him simply for his looks, if nothing else. And no, by that, I do not mean necessarily in a perverted way (though that may be a factor, too!), but rather, simply that he is going to invite a lot of comparisonns to his father and there is going to be a lot of media scrutiny for this reason alone (ironically, of course, it will be the very same media who in one breath will question the child’s paternity, while in the next breath, emphasizing shots of him to show off his uncannny resemblance to Michael!).
Notice in these videos, even though the intent is to interview all three children, how the camera shots purposely emphasize close-ups on Blanket’s expressions and reactions! Again, that is no accident.
Last year, this quasi-sarcastic article appeared, emphasizing “10 Reasons We’re Obsessed With Blanket Jackson.” This article is snarky and I dressed the writer down pretty good last year, but the only reason I’m linking to it now is because it does an excellent job of illustrating exactly what I’m talking about. The snarky comments regarding Blanket’s paternity are pure BS, but note that while questioning his paternity, they also go straight for his apparent ability to dance just like daddy (never mind-cough cough- that the video embedded there isn’t even Blanket, but a lookalike kid!).
While the paternity issue may seem a bit of a digression here, it really can’t be underemphasized. Michael’s haters and cynics love nothing better than to question the children’s paternity. The reasons for this are varied and complex, and probably best left for another blog, another time. But one thing they manage to achieve in questioning the kids’ biological paternity is the love and affection fans have invested in them (somehow thinking this will be devalued if the kids are not biologically his) and because it is a way of undermining something that is probably the most undeniably positive aspect of Michael’s life-his love for his children, and their overwhelming devotion to him. But also, it’s a cynical way of undercutting the success of the children’s potential show business future.
Michael himself not only insisted that Blanket was his biological child (as were Prince and Paris) but that, contrary to the publicly accepted myth, he did not use a surrogate. In this video clip, he clearly tells Martin Bashir that Blanket’s mother was someone he had a relationship with. I’m not sure exactly why or how this particular segment of the Bashir interview has come to be so overlooked, but it seems to have gotten swept aside by all the controversy over the “two tales” of Blanket’s conception. However, it’s pretty apparent from this clip that he DID know, and was simply protecting the mother’s identity.
That Michael’s kids are already being subjected to the kind of bullying Michael endured is evident:
This sort of thing is only going to increase as the children’s media exposure grows(and it looks as though there is no sign of it abating anytime soon). But especially, as they venture forth from the protection of family and each other to make their own paths.
The snarky article I referenced above is a perfect example of the kind of scrutiny Blanket is going to be subjected to-in fact, he already is! My biggest fear for him as he grows older is that, same as with Paris, I think he is going to run the risk of being exploited for his looks, even if albeit for a different reason. Within the fan community, we make harmless, affectionate jokes about him as Michael’s “mini me.” I’ve often said that Michael will never be dead as long as Blanket is around! But on a more serious note, I have to wonder what kind of impact this may have on him as he grows up in the glare of media scrutiny. I think there is going to be a lot of intense pressure on him to somehow be “the next Michael Jackson”-simply because, physically, he’s the one most capable of fulfilling that role. I’m sure he will get lots of offers, but the sad reality is that it won’t be because of him or his capabilities, but rather, who he looks like! It is going to be a lot of pressure on him to make his own way and prove himself-that is, if he does choose a show business career-and that is highly likely, given the track record and the fact that his two older siblings are now undeniably heading down that path. I’m thinking specifically of Julian Lennon, whose brief, fifteen minutes of fame in 1984 seeemd to rest squarely on one factor-his physical resemblance to John Lennon, and eerily uncanny vocal resemblance. But it’s hard for the child of any celebrity to sustain a full-length career on basically what amounts to a novelty. In the end, Julian Lennon was no John Lennon. He’s proof that though genes live on, genius doesn’t.
I just don’t want to see Blanket suffer a similar fate. The media will in no way be as kind to him if that does happen. Hopefully, it won’t but I fear for him because as I’ve said, I know already the potential for his exploitation is out there.
Whenever this question comes up, inevitably, it always comes back to what Michael would have wanted for his kids. Especially now that the news of Paris’s movie has broken, this debate seems to be really heating up. A lot of fans are questioning some of the decisions the Jackson family seem to be making, and some even questioning the intentions of the kids themselves! Personally, I think that’s a line that we, as fans, have to be careful about crossing. We know how strongly Michael felt about protecting his kids. Michael never said he was averse to his kids going into show business, but naturally, he wanted them to grow up first; to have a normal childhood.
This is what he told Barbara Walters in 1997 (the conversation about the children begins about 1:51):
But it’s inevitable that kids do grow up, and part of growing up is exhibiting their own independence and free will. It’s also inevitable that they will want to strike out and forge their own identities; to be recognized as their own individuals. That Michael’s kids would eventually grow up, perhaps rebel, and want to do things that normal teenagers do would have happened regardless of whether Michael had lived or not. But there’s no question that in his absence, this natural process of growing up has probably been accelerated.
Personally, I think it’s only natural that the kids would gravitate towards show business careers. After all, they come from a show business family and have grown up surrounded by it their entire lives. I think there is a tendency on the part of some to project their disdain for the Jackson family onto these kids. These are the people who point their fingers and cry “foul” and “exploitation” every single time the kids appear in the media. They seem to conveniently forget that these kids have minds of their own (for example, it was their choice to attend the tribute concert in Wales). I think Prince and Paris, especially, are reaching the age where they are certainly old enough to know what they want to do with their lives. But that being said, they are still children and need guidance and discipline in making the right choices. I really hope they are getting that, because it looks like the wheel is already oiled and in motion-and from here, there will be no stopping it, no matter how strongly some MJ fans may feel against it.
In the end, we have to accept that these are/were Michael’s kids, not ours’. And now, they are the responsibility of their grandmother Katherine. We may not always agree with their choices, or hers. But sometimes we just have to take a step back from what we have no control over. Michael’s children are going to grow up, and yes, they are going to make some mistakes along the way. I think it’s important that we allow them to make those mistakes, and realize it’s part of the growing process.
It may also be important to remember that, without Michael, these kids now have a very huge void in their life. Perhaps they are attempting to fill that void by doing things they are happy and excited about doing.
It’s hard because in some vicarious way, we care about them because they are Michael’s children. We feel the pain of letting go. We want to protect them indefinitey from the evils of the world. In a way, Prince, Paris and Blanket are very lucky to have such an extended, caring family! But I’m sure it can have its down side as well. It’s one thing, after all, to have a parent, but sometimes these kids must feel as if they have a million!
For me, however, it’s been fascinating to see how all three have grown to forge their own identities. I think each in their own way will be a credit to their father’s legacy. Hopefully one day Prince will be a succesful director; Paris may be an Academy Award winning actress, and Blanket may be on a stage executing his own famous dance moves. But that’s provided they manage to succesfully circumvent all of the manure they are going to have to wade through to get there.
It won’t be easy, and as we know only too well, it’s especially hard for child stars. Their father knew this. All the more reason why I hate to see Paris already embarking on that path so soon. But like I said, it’s a decision out of our hands. I will wish Michael’s kids the best and support them in whatever they do.
They are growing up, and no longer quite The Three Musketeers. As I’ve said, there comes a point where that is inevitable. They will each want to carry on the Jackson family name in their own way, while at the same time carving out their own identities in the process. However, their father had to grow up way too fast. His death, unfotunately, has no doubt caused his own kids to have to grow up too fast, as well. It’s important at this age to slacken the reigns a tad and allow them to explore the possibilities; to allow them to forge their own identities which will be crucial for them as succesful and well adjusted adults. But for now, it’s also important for those closest to them to not lose sight of the fact that they are still children.
ETA: (12/12/11): I saw this article posted today on Facebook; I thought you guys might enjoy it as a nice addendum to this piece: