Two Realities

I’m not much of a reality show watcher but two caught my eye this season: The Jackson Family Dynasty and One Big Happy Family. Now that they’ve ended their seasons, I’m left feeling sad for one family and inspired by the other.

Sad. The Jackson Family Dynasty left me feeling sad for the brothers. Their lack of maturity and self-awareness was stunning. They’re all older than me (I’m 50) but their words and actions reflected a much younger, and less-developed, mindset. While several moments in the show disturbed me, the moments that stick out are the ones with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. When Tito and Jermaine first met with them, the award-winning producers asked them what their sound was. The brothers had no answer. Jermaine may have blurted out something like “we want a hit.” That exchange showed how lost the four brothers are as a group. They don’t even have a vision or purpose for their music. All they have is some vague notion about carrying out the family legacy, which is really Michael’s legacy.

In Sunday night’s final show, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis put a similar question to them: How do you answer the question, Where is Michael? Of course, the brothers didn’t understand the question. Jermaine said something about, “he’s in our hearts” and the other three agreed. As Terry Lewis said in his commentary, the brothers need to understand that they’re not carrying on the Jackson 5, they’re starting a new sound with four brothers. Until the brothers recognize this, I don’t seem them doing anything productive as group.

I have some sympathy for the brothers because it must have been difficult living in Michael’s shadow. That said, it’s time for them to give Michael his props. Michael was the greatest entertainer of all time, not The Jackson 5. They’re not Michael and can’t carry on Michael’s legacy but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them. But first they have to accept reality. If it was hard making a name for themselves in Michael’s shadow when he was alive, I’m afraid it’s going to be even harder now that he’s dead. I advise them to listen to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. It’s all about the music. If the music (and not stardom-seeking) is their focus, they have a chance.

Inspired. One Big Happy Family left me feeling inspired. For one, the family began to see the results of their lifestyle changes in the form of weight loss. Most of all though, I appreciated what they showed as a family. Home has to be a place where you’re accepted and loved unconditionally, and that’s what their home was. If you watch Oprah enough, you’d think a family this big would have all sorts of self-esteem issues. What I saw was a reasonably well-adjusted family who ate too much and moved too little. Why do I say they’re well-adjusted? They talk to each other. The wife works and the husband is a stay-at-home dad. They live in a nice home and seem to have a comfortable life. The kids seems to have their heads on straight. I was pretty impressed that the son loved to swim. I was equally impressed that the daughter was in the flag corps at school. Why was I impressed? Because these activities are not normally associated with fat and obese kids. Had they been brought up in other families, they may have shied away from these activities because of self-esteem issues. But their parents encouraged them to pursue the activities. I can’t wait for the show to resume in the summer so that we can see how things are going with this family as they continue their weight loss journey and the daughter gets ready for college.

2 thoughts on “Two Realities

  1. I caught the Jacksons–was riveted, I should say– but not the other.

    I guess I came out in the same place you did, surprised at the maturity level (or lack of) in some cases. Still, I also came away with a sense of true brotherhood. They love each other, first and foremost, even if they never get the music right. Katherine and Joe Jackson did some things right.

  2. I agree that they had a sense of brotherhood, but I also saw a lot of jealousy and mistrust among them. Why would Jermaine try to host a Michael Tribute concert without telling his brothers? Why would Jackie hire record producers without consulting with his brothers? Why would keep the beats to himself until he had the melody? It’s as though they want stardom so much individually that it prevents them from working together as a group. I was struck how when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis asked them who was going to sing lead, each one of them said they were. Of course, Jam and Lewis had a reasonable follow-upquestion: Do you all sing in the same key/pitch/whatever? The answer is no. So what does it mean when they say they’re all going to sing lead?

    You know, I think they fear another Michael situation, where one brother “blows up”and leaves the other behind. They shouldn’t fear this but I believe they do.

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