Michael Jackson, one of the most popular music performers of all time, died yesterday. Upon hearing the name Michael Jackson, all kinds of images run through one’s mind, although it is quite difficult to separate fact from fiction. Many people long to become famous, but perhaps we should all be thankful to have never attained the kind of fame that tortured Michael’s personality and led to such a complicated and unhappy life. Michael became a kind of living icon, symbolic of so many different issues, including the role of shock and empathy in the construction of mass-mediated stardom. It is impossible to imagine what it would have been like to be him, and difficult to know whether he will be remembered more for the hints of artistry on stage or the tragic symptoms of unbalanced stardom in his personal life. It seems there is much to learn from a careful study of Michael Jackson's life, yet it may take many years to attain an accurate and balanced understanding of who he really was, and the impact he had on American society and popular culture in much of the rest of the world.