A seemingly harmless and unscripted exchange between American Idol contestant
James Durbin and host Ryan Seacrest has touched off a controversy involving
Michael Jackson’s family.
According to TMZ, the Jackson family, including Michael’s father Joe, is upset at Durbin’s off-the-cuff remark on Wednesday evening when he stated, “I have a lot of hairspray in my hair to keep it from jumping around — so much so, the one thing I was worried about was having a ‘Pepsi moment.’”
Durbin made the comment shortly after his performance, which involved a pyrotechnic effect that included a piano being set ablaze behind him. Durbin’s remark was an apparent reference to Michael Jackson’s infamous incident in 1984 when his hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial.
There are several issues I have with Jackson’s team jumping all over Durbin and Fox for the comment.
For starters, James was merely referencing a well-known incident that is a part of pop culture history and showed no disrespect to Michael Jackson or his family whatsoever. Also, it appears as if the Jackson reps dialed up TMZ to protest the remarks, clearly aware that doing so would make headlines and draw attention back to the ongoing Michael Jackson saga. If true, then that is really an unfortunate thing to have done.
Additionally, it can be assumed that the Jackson team is unaware of James Durbin’s Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism. A common characteristic of those with Asperger’s is the lack of a "filter," meaning things are often said and done without the full realization of their consequences — another reason to back off and give James a break.
While we certainly feel for the Jackson family and the pain they have endured as a result of their loss, picking on a 22-year-old with Asperger’s for an unscripted comment is clearly the wrong place to be venting their grief and anger.
James has overcome the death of a father, Tourette’s Syndrome and Asperger’s, and is currently participating in a grueling competition that he has worked so hard to be involved in. The last thing he needs is the unnecessary guilt and burden of inadvertently offending a grieving family.