Michael Jackson:The Making and Destruction of an Icon

To be sure, Michael Jackson became a world phenomenon. His uniqueness, and thus that which defined him, sometimes incorrectly referred to as genius, was his use of dance to engage his viewing audience in story-telling.  No doubt, Thriller was blockbuster hit. Yet the music videos which accompanied the recordings, is what gave Thriller its mass appeal. Thriller changed the way people thought about and experienced music. Image became dominant and the music a backdrop for playing out the theater on the screen.

Similarly, the video presentation from the Bad recording, allowed Jackson to engage his audience, through chorography, in everyday fears and aspirations, thus becoming the “Representative Image” of the world and of his generation. Just like in a Hollywood production, Jackson’s videos gave the audience a feeling of reassurance in a world which seemed beyond their control. We must not forget that Jackson’s rise to superstardom coincides with the rise of financial greed and the disappearance of conventional jobs and the attendant disintegration of family and community.  Michael Jackson gave his viewer a sense of nostalgia and hope that good would triumph over evil and love would out distance hate.

Michael Jackson’s dance, and dance steps electrified his audience and were in themselves, a meta-narrative, and a form of visual communication which appeal to the sense of excellence in the viewers. Thus, Michael’s dance steps were a representation of our more noble and productive aspirations and an invitation to those watching to explore and exploit their potentiality. The “moonwalk”, defying gravity was a signal and affirmation of his heavenly talents, lifting him above the mortals who watched him perform and making him not just a celebrity, not just a superstar, but an idol. And, herein lay the conditions which would set Michael Jackson on a collision course with his racial, cultural identity, sexual and gender identity.


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