Michael Jackson: It's A Wonderful Afterlife

Churchwell cautions that just because people are treading lightly around Jackson's death in the year following his passing doesn't mean he'll get a free pass forever. "Initially, after Marilyn Monroe died, there was a sense of pity," she says. "It took time for Marilyn to evolve into a symbol and for her reputation to change."

One revelation that was made in the immediate wake of Jackson's passing came in Ian Halperin's book, "Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson." Halperin says his book is generally positive, and that his perception of Jackson changed while working on it.

"I started writing about Michael because of a parent who accused him of being inappropriate, and five years later, I changed my mind," he says. "He was a little socially inept, sure, and he liked to play pranks, but I don't think he ever touched kids in a perverted way."

But it was a short section on Jackson's sexuality that ultimately caused some to boycott the book and earned Halperin a handful of death threats. "There were some legitimate claims that Jackson had homosexual relationships with adult men," Halperin says. "People went crazy when that came out. I doubt anyone will say anything derogatory about Michael any time soon, given how crazy his fans went when I wrote something that, honestly, isn't even a bad thing."

The impending trial of Jackson's physician, Conrad Murray, on involuntary manslaughter charges might stir things up, and Taraborrelli predicts there will be "a lot of character assassination, which might be hard for fans to endure." But the fact that Jackson is often portrayed as a victim of doctors like Murray and not as a fully willing participant in his drug addiction might be enough to shift the blame off the star.

Interest in Jackson's quirks and proclivities will probably just fade over time, according to branding consultant Rob Frankel. "Have you heard any new Elvis jokes in the past several years?" he asks. "If I made the joke about Mama Cass choking on the ham sandwich to a younger person, they wouldn't get it. People don't really remember those things."