The Death of Michael Jackson and the Peter Pan Syndrome

Josh Clark

I just can't do it. I can't not write about the death of Michael Jackson. It's too big of a deal. I don't even like the guy's music anymore, at least not the stuff he released from the late '80s on. I did worship him for several years, during the Thriller stage. I was replete. My mom made me a white sequined glove as a gift for my First Communion. I also had the clearly unlicensed knockoff of the red jacket he wore following his rough transition from '50s teenager to a werewolf to a zombie to his '80s self.

As the years passed, Michael Jackson and I parted ways, what with me growing up and him opting to stay back in the formative years. As his behavior and appearance became increasingly bizarre (dating Liz Taylor, bff with his chimp, the attempted purchase of Joseph [changed] Merrick's skeleton) and menacing (read: the three sex abuse allegations levied against him from the 1990s to 2003), the public sought to explain it. Well, I don't have to tell you. You know you wanted to know what precisely was going on in the man's head just as much as anyone else, especially once child molestation charges began to fly. Then we as a public had a duty to know what was going on.

What we came up with was the "Peter Pan Syndrome." You'll note the quotes; the syndrome is a pop psychology diagnosis, not recognized in the diagnostic psychology manual, the DSM-IV. Psychologist Dan Riley coined the term in a book in 1983 to describe the state of arrested development (afflicting men more than women) where, under conditions of overprotective parenting, a person comes to look at the world as too threatening and depressing to take head-on as an adult with all of the responsibilities and terrible consequences associated with maturity.

That definitely describes MJ in aces. I don't think I'm the only one who await the cascade of revelations about his life that will surely come in the days to follow. I think the worst outcome for the public psyche is for us to find he really was just a gentle, misunderstood and fragile person we wouldn't leave alone.

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