I’m Gonna Be Exactly What You Wanna See

Willa:  This week we’re celebrating Halloween with one of Michael Jackson’s “scary” songs. And I have to admit, I was pretty excited when Joie suggested we talk about “Is It Scary” because it’s one of my favorites.

Joie:  It’s one of my favorites too. So, the first time I heard “Is It Scary,” I was immediately struck by how sad it was and I actually cried. I remember hitting the repeat button several times and pouring over the liner notes, trying to make sure that I had heard Michael’s words correctly because, to me, this song is just so telling and so completely heartbreaking. All you have to do is listen to the lyrics to get a very real sense of what kind of pain he must have been in.

I’m gonna be exactly what you wanna see
It’s you who’s taunting me
Because you’re wanting me
To be the stranger in the night

Am I amusing you
Or just confusing you
Am I the beast you visualized 

And if you wanna see
Eccentric oddities
I’ll be grotesque before your eyes
Let them all materialize

It makes you wonder what kind of toll it must take on a person. Always being seen as some kind of freak or monster. Always hearing that the entire world thinks you’re strange and weird and bizarre. Constantly having a very vile label attached to your name and being seen as public enemy number one. What does that feel like? How do you cope with that? How much does that hurt? Michael Jackson knew the answers to those questions. And the first time I listened to “Is It Scary,” I got the feeling he wanted the rest of the world to know those answers too. Just for a few minutes, to put themselves in his place and feel what he must have felt.

But he didn’t just want us to put ourselves in his place for a while. He wanted us to take a look at ourselves and try to wrap our heads around the fact that he is not the oddity in this freak show – we are! We’re the ones who keep putting those ugly labels on him. We’re the ones who, for some reason, need him to play the role of the monster in our imagined horror movie. We’re the ones with the sick minds who insist that he has done very inappropriate things with inappropriate people. We – not the fans, of course but, the rest of the world – have tried and convicted him for something he never even thought about doing. All because he “seemed” weird.

Willa:  Joie, I feel the exact same way about this song. I don’t think we can begin to imagine how horrible those 1993 allegations were for him. The pain of those allegations are a constant presence in his later work. We saw that in Invincible last month. The pain of those allegations is just beneath the surface of every single song on that album. He can’t get past it, can’t escape it. It’s just a constant ache. And we see it so clearly in “Is It Scary,” which was written, recorded, and released in the years immediately after those allegations came out. His voice is so beautiful and so expressive on this song, and when he sings these lyrics, you just want to bow your head and cry:

So did you come to me
To see your fantasies
Performed before your very eyes

A haunting ghostly treat
The ghoulish trickery
And spirits dancing in the night

But if you came to see
The truth the purity
It’s here inside a lonely heart
So let the performance start

But there’s something else going on here also. He isn’t just expressing the pain he’s feeling because of those allegations. He’s also telling us how he’s going to respond to them.

As he says in the lyrics you cited, Joie, “I’m gonna be / Exactly what you wanna see.” In other words, if people are going to insist he’s a monster, then he’s going to become one – he’s going to fulfill their “fantasies” and give them what they want. As he says, “you’re wanting me / To be the stranger in the night.” The tabloid press, especially, and much of the public are “wanting” to see him as a pedophile (a “stranger in the night”) even though the evidence clearly contradicts it. The facts don’t matter, though, because this isn’t about reason or logic. It’s about mass hysteria – the same kind of mass hysteria that led us to attack Iraq, a sovereign nation, for no reason. We tend to think we’ve progressed since the days of the Salem witch trials, but I don’t think we have. We just vent our fears in different ways now. And he’s caught in the midst of this hysteria and he’s the target of all that mindless fear, and he’s trying to deal with it. He and his lawyers tried to fight those allegations by citing the evidence, and it made no difference at all. In fact, it just seemed to blow things up bigger, if possible, and make things worse. So now he’s developed an artistic response. As he tells us, “if you wanna see / Eccentric oddities / I’ll be grotesque before your eyes / Let them all materialize.” 

Joie:  I think you’re absolutely right, Willa, and I think the lyrics are so self-explanatory. All you have to do is pay attention to what it is he’s saying here and you’ll see it. He’s telling us very plainly exactly what he’s about to do next. You know, it’s almost like a defiant teenager who’s rebelling against his parents: ‘Oh, you think I’m acting out now? Well, just you wait.’ It’s a very strange tendency we have as humans to respond to personal attacks in this almost self-sabotaging way. It’s as if Michael was saying ‘So, you want to think of me as a freak show? Well, hold on tight, ’cause I’ll show you a freak show!’ It’s a point he illustrates so well in the Ghosts short film when confronted by the town Mayor.

Willa:  Hold on tight is right! It was a pretty wild ride after that, especially the plastic surgery scandal, or the story printed in Vanity Fair that he paid a Mali witchdoctor $150,000 to sacrifice 42 cows and put a curse on Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. That’s crazy. I can’t believe they actually printed that.

Joie:  I can’t believe they printed such a ridiculous story either. You know, sometimes I think the crazier the press got, the more it only served to make THEM look foolish, not Michael. And the fact that the public believed it just floors me. It’s no wonder he decided to “be exactly what you wanna see.” He must have felt like he couldn’t win.

Willa:  And Joie, I imagine part of that was defiance. He definitely had a strong streak of defiance in his character – I don’t think he could have survived everything he faced without it – so that could be one reason why he decided to be “what you wanna see” and become the monster the press and the public wanted him to be.

But I think there’s something else going on here too, something critically important. And to understand that, I think it helps to step back for a moment and look at his other “monster” works:  Thriller, Ghosts, “Threatened,” “Monster.” Repeatedly, we see him taking on the role of the monster, but these aren’t horror stories in the conventional sense. For one thing, they aren’t very scary. A conventional horror story plunges us into a frightening situation and encourages us to become immersed in feeling the full terror of that situation, but he doesn’t. He touches on it, then pulls back and shows us it’s an illusion, then touches on it again and pulls back again. We see this same structure in all of these works. He doesn’t really want to scare us. That’s not what these are about. As he said in a 1999 MTV interview when asked if he liked horror movies,

“Believe it or not, I’m afraid to watch scary movies. Honestly, I don’t quite like to watch them very much. I never thought I’d be involved in making that sort of thing.”

But he didn’t really make “that sort of thing,” because these aren’t really horror stories. But what are they?

To understand that, I think it helps to go back even further – in fact, more than 2,000 years – and look at Aristotle’s theories about art. In Ars Poetica, Aristotle says that one function of art – especially tragedy – is to bring about catharsis, meaning the purging of base emotions such as fear. I think that’s what Michael Jackson is doing in his “monster” works. He’s not encouraging us to feel base emotions. In fact, he’s doing just the opposite – he’s purging us of those emotions. In Thriller, he’s attempting to purge us of a specific type of racial prejudice – the fear many people felt for him as a very sexy Black man, a sex symbol even, and our first Black teen idol. And in Ghosts, “Threatened,” “Monster,” and “Is It Scary,” he’s trying to purge us of that horrible mob mentality that erupted in the hysteria of the 1993 allegations.

Joie:  Well, Willa, I have not read Aristotle since my college philosophy class so, I really can’t comment much on that. But, I do understand the idea of catharsis and purging those base emotions and cleansing and healing the psyche. So, I think this makes a lot of sense.

Willa:  You know, I’m still trying to figure this out myself, but I see something really different happening in these works, and in the “eccentric oddities” that dominated the media after the release of “Is It Scary.” I think he’s creating a new type of art – in fact, I think you could make the case that he’s creating an entirely new genre of art – and it just fascinates me. And if I haven’t mentioned it in a while, let me say once again that I think Michael Jackson was brilliant – just knock your socks off, bug your eyes out, blow your mind brilliant.

Joie:  I know what you mean; it is really unbelievable at times when you think about just how brilliant he was. Almost scary brilliant, actually, and I have never been able to understand those people who just don’t get it. Like, I know that I am a hard-core fan but, it just flabbergasts me to know that there are people out there who don’t think that Michael Jackson is the single most fascinatingly creative person ever to walk the earth. I am just so bewildered by that knowledge – like, how is that even possible? Why isn’t everyone as crazy about him as I am? I just don’t understand.

Willa:  Joie, that is so funny because I’ve asked myself some of those exact same questions. Why are they so threatened by him, and why do they condemn him so harshly? Can’t they see how amazing and important his work is? Don’t they get it? I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately – about why Michael Jackson’s fans see him so differently than everyone else does – and I’ve decided the answer is very simple: it’s because we love him. And if you look at someone with compassion, you simply see them differently than if you don’t.

I was at the grocery store a few months ago and there was an elderly woman several people ahead of me in line. She was pretty slow and disorganized and was answering the check-out person’s questions in kind of an abrupt, almost rude way, and you could tell the check-out person was getting pretty annoyed with her, and so were the other people in line. But I’d worked with that woman and her husband on a community project, and while I didn’t know her well, I did know that her son had just died the week before after a long battle with cancer. When I was leaving the grocery store, I noticed she was standing at the entrance looking kind of lost and fumbling for her keys so I went over and said hi, and Joie, you could tell that she was just barely holding it together. That trip to the grocery store was about the limit of what she could do right then. And just knowing a little something about her history and what she was going through and seeing her with compassion led me to interpret her words and actions in a really different way than the other people behind her in line.

I think the same thing is true of Michael Jackson and how various people saw him. Those of us who knew his music and his ideas – knew how committed he was to social change, and how important children were for him, both personally and in terms of social change – had a much better understanding of what he must have been going through after the 1993 allegations came out, and that led us to see him with sympathy and interpret him in a much more compassionate way. And when you look at him and the situation he was in from that perspective, it all looks very different from the harsh, condemning criticism you read in the papers.

Joie:  It’s really very sad when you think about it that way, you know? To realize that so many of our day-to-day conflicts could be resolved, or even totally eliminated, if we would all just have a little bit more compassion with one another and look at each other with a little bit of love first instead of always immediately reacting with annoyance. And the really sad part is, that’s a lesson Michael had been trying to teach us for so many years. Wow. That just blew my mind a little bit. Thanks for sharing that story, Willa.

But, getting back to “Is It Scary,” what makes this song especially heartbreaking for me, are these lyrics at the very end:

I’m tired of being abused
You know you’re scaring me too
I think the evil is you
Is that scary for you, baby

These last few lines just make me want to cry. You can hear all of his emotions at the end of this song – frustration, rage, anger, sadness. Especially when coupled with his mournful cries of  “Don’t wanna talk about it / I don’t wanna talk about it” that immediately precede this last verse. It’s almost difficult to listen to and I feel like, if every person on the planet would really listen to this song and take it in and really digest it, then maybe the world would finally understand him a little bit better and realize all they had put him through.

I know. It’s a pipe dream. But, a girl can hope.

Willa:  I agree. This song just seems to be a pure expression of all the emotions he was going through after the 1993 allegations came out. And it amazes me that in the midst of the pain of those allegations, at a time when I personally would want nothing more than to hide under the covers and cry, he was able to distance himself a bit, think through what was happening at a cultural level, and create an artistic response. That just astonishes me, on many different levels, and creates this whole mix of emotions – everything from admiration for what he accomplished to a deep sorrow for everything he had to go through, and for everything we’ve lost.

Joie:  I know. It is truly amazing to think about. How anyone could have the courage to hold their head up day after day in his situation… it is just amazing to me and I think he was one of the bravest people ever. Can you imagine being in his shoes and going through the public humiliation that he did, every single day? And in the midst of it all, to still be able to work and write and create truly compelling art and keep presenting it to a world that had turned on you. He’s just incredible to me.

Willa: Well, we can both certainly agree on that.

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About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on November 3, 2011, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Thank you Willa and Joie for your wonderful and insightful conversations! I wanted to ask what you’d think about changing the language in how we talk about what happened to Michael in 1993 from ‘allegations’ to ‘extortion’ -? Because ‘allegations’ is a very common word in media-speak that retains the possibility that someone *could* be guilty without crossing the line into the libel of saying it outright. ‘The alleged assailant” — and so on — in which ‘alleged’ is perceived by readers and listeners as mostly an obligatory term, because in the media to be accused is to be guilty.

    I’m suggesting we stop repeating the language as the media has defined it and actively replace it with the accuracy of the word ‘extortion’. It evokes a completely different framework that shifts attention toward the perpetrators, where it belongs, when discussing the crimes committed against Michael in 1993-94 and 2003-05. When we say ‘allegations’ it keeps what happened in a gray area; when we say ‘extortion’ the response from skeptics will be “prove it” — and that opens the door for the truth to emerge.

    • Zenriver, you make some excellent points and, to be honest, I struggle with the words I use to describe the events of 1993 every single time I write about them. I have no problem calling the events leading up to the 2005 trial an extortion attempt because it’s pretty clear that that’s what they were – extortion, pure and simple, though there were some complicated emotions going on, like feelings of entitlement and rejection. But the events of 1993 are more difficult to describe, and resist easy labels. For me to feel justified in calling them extortion, I would need to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the father knew Michael Jackson was innocent and accused him anyway, and I’m not sure that’s true. In fact, I think it’s very possible the father convinced himself that his accusations were true – and then set out to prove it in a very manipulative, coercive, and even deceitful way.

      I should probably say up front that I’m just speaking for myself because this is something Joie and I disagree about. In fact, when she said in our first blog post that she read M Poetica and then talked to me about it, and we had some strong disagreements, this was by far the biggest. Joie believes, as you do, that it was all about the money, and that the father knowingly made false allegations to extort $20 million. And I’m not convinced of that. I’m not saying the father was a nice guy. He was physically and psychologically abusive – in fact, his son eventually obtained a restraining order against him – and apparently he was a chronic liar. Even in his own chronology he contradicts himself constantly – in fact, he can’t seem to put two sentences together without contradicting himself. So I’m not justifying the father’s actions at all. But people who talked to him say that he seemed very sincere in believing the allegations were true, and it’s possible he was. That doesn’t mean they were true – just that he convinced himself they were true. But then, he had a strong financial incentive to believe they were true.

      So that’s where I’m coming from, and I guess I need to find a word or phrase that expresses that somehow. I’m absolutely convinced that Michael Jackson was innocent, so I dislike the shadow of doubt cast by the word “allegations,” as you describe so well. But I’m not comfortable with “extortion.” Sometimes I just use the word “scandal,” but it’s not perfect either. Is there some better way to describe all this? I’m completely open to suggestions because I’m really struggling with this, and have been for quite a while.

    • Hi Zenriver. I agree with you 100%. We should actively seek to change the language from “allegations” to “extortion” and just call it what it was. As Willa told you, this is an issue she and I disagree on completely and we have had some very heated conversations on this very issue. I firmly believe that EC set that entire thing in motion knowing full well that Michael never laid a hand on his son. It was all about the money from start to finish and I believe the facts of the case clearly show that. So, I am in total agreement and I will try to remember your suggestion going forward.

  2. Thank you ladies once again for your insightful blog. I have to say that when I read your words I felt the same level of emotions and they run very deep. I believe Michael held such great strength and courage throughout his lifetime. Through the process of reading your blog and books like Joe Vogel’s “Man in the Music-The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson” and “Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Magnum Opus”, I find that I have gained a much better understanding of the man that Michael Jackson was. With that new level of understanding, my compassion and love have grown exponentially for him. Thank you and much love to you both. <3.

    • Thank you so much for saying that, Kim! That makes me feel really, really good to know that we have had a hand in helping you to understand who Michael Jackson was. This is a wonderful compliment, Thank you!

      • Absolutely you are welcome. I grew up with the J5, Jackson’s and then Michael. Of course I loved his music and creativity but I really didn’t know the man. I never met Michael or even got a chance to see him. I also diverted in different directions musically and in life as many of us did. So when the events of that fateful day of 6/25/2009 occurred, I was stunned into a major reality check. I said to myself, what have we lost? This day like many others I started looking very close at who Michael was as a human being, father, brother and son. I have learned a great deal and frankly what I learned about who Michael was, I was not surprised. With that knowledge in my heart I have made a vow to do my part to carry on with Michael’s legacy. Of course my path has landed me in some wonderful places and I have met some wonderful people. I consider this blog one of those places. Thank you for contributing to my wonderful journey as I walk my path to getting to know the REAL Michael Jackson. Much love. ❤

  3. I will admit that I was not familiar with the whole Blood on the Dance Floor album till after Michael passed away. I sadly did not pay much attention to his music in the nineties, but also in my defense I did not really pay attention to much popular music in general in the nineties.
    However now that I have discovered it I have come to the realization that for me personally I find that the music that he produced through the nineties is some of his greatest.
    When I first heard Is It Scary I also listened to it repeatedly. The lyrics are very powerful..and to go along with some of what you had said about the Invincible album, the way Michael sings the song evokes a lot of emotion also. That kind of hiccup sound that he makes in his throat like he is trying to catch his breath and then when he sings over and over again at the end “Don’t wanna talk about it..don’t wanna talk about it….” wow, that is so very powerful. There is also something about his intonation when he sings, “And if you wanna see eccentric oddities, I’ll be grotesque before your eyes,” that just grabs at my heart and makes me want to cry for him.
    I am in agreement….how can one not listen to this song and not understand how truly hurt and alone he felt…
    I commend both of you ladies…your analysis of his songs are so great..you make me think more deeply about his music..I think I always thought there was much more to his music then met the eye or ear–but of course the mainstream media would never allow you to think of his music in this manner.
    I have read Joe Vogel’s book and it is an excellent read also. Keep writing ladies..I am a big fan!

  4. Thank you Willa and Joie for another excellent discussion! I also discovered “Is It Scary” only recently in the past 2 years much like Terry’s comment describes. I find it to be hauntingly beautiful in both it’s lyrics and music. Michael’s emotion filled vocals just reach out and grab my heart every time I listen to this song. There is something about the way Michael sings any and every song that just makes you feel that he is singing it only to you so that you feel every single note of emotion and meaning! I have tried to describe this feeling I get when I hear his voice to others but I just don’t know how to put it into words. I think it is exactly what you both have written. If you see, understand and have compassion for the real Michael Jackson, not the media’s caricature, you are able to actually feel the amazing emotion contained in each incredible note and word.

    The lyrics in this song are just heartwrenching. From “I’ll be grotesque before your eyes… to… the truth, the purity, it’s here inside a lonely heart… and finally… you know your scaring me too, I think the evil is you”, how is possible to not hear, and feel his anger and his sadness. His courage, dignity and strength of character in the face of a relentlessly cruel media and public in general was nothing short of miraculous! I am sure that at times he had to have just wanted to disappear. Maybe it is like in his Short Film “Ghosts” when he says “Fine, I’ll go” and then literally pounds himself into the floor and disintegrates into dust, while those who so easily judged him to be dangerous realize how wrong they were, and stand helplessly by feeling shame and sadness. I cry at that moment every time I watch that DVD. I know it is a fantasy but I so wish that, like in the movie, we could open a door and find Michael standing there smiling at all of us, hoping we finally understand! I hope he knows how many of us do understand and will always keep his spirit alive.
    Thank you so much again for your informative and always thought provoking discussions. I look forward to whatever is next.

    • “I so wish that, like in the movie, we could open a door and find Michael standing there smiling at all of us, hoping we finally understand!”

      I feel that too, Joyce, every time I watch Ghosts.

  5. excellent points made by both of you.that is exactly how i feel in my heart.its like you guys just wrote down everything i feel for him and his art.

  6. As many people have said before me, I too was only acquainted with Is It Scary after Michael’s passing. And it’s really a shame, because it embodies nearly all of Michael’s feelings that were coursing through him at that point. And what a mess of emotions it was, brought on entirely by the media and the people that believed them.

    “I’m gonna be, exactly what you wanna see.” That line made so much sense to me, especially since I really know what he’s talking about it from first hand experience. If you’ve been given a label, good or in most cases bad, it’s REALLY hard to shake it and make people see you for anything other than the label. So no matter what you do, no matter what you say, they only see what they want to. In school, I’m, “Emily the nerd, Emily the crazy MJ fan, Emily the quiet girl, Emily the freak.” I can never be, “Emily the singer, Emily the dancer, or Emily the fun-person-to-be-around” simply because the labels I have been given stick. I am what they want to see, because they won’t see it any other way. That’s how it was, and continues to be, with Michael. The press doesn’t want to see Michael the humanitarian, or Michael the amazing father, or Michael the spectacular performer anymore. They want to see a drug-addicted, child molesting, plastic surgery obsessed freak. And that’s what they see.

    Joie, about your “pipe dream”. That has been my dream, or at least part of it, for as long as I have been aware of the hatred and abuse following Michael around like Eeyore’s black cloud. My parents recently found a letter that I sent to the Premises Studios, following their revealing of a life size statue of the incident in Berlin in 2001. They told me that I’m starting to become obsessed and that they would try their best to keep me away from anything related to Michael. It’s heartbreaking because, while I consider myself a fan, very much so, I don’t consider myself one of the more obsessed fans that would hurt him in their excitement. Sure I might scream if I went to one of his concerts (if only!) or stutter a bit if I met him in person, but I just don’t consider myself obsessed. When I see something that is wrong, my natural instinct is to try to correct it.

    Joyce, I like what you said, “I so wish that, like in the movie, we could open a door and find Michael standing there smiling at all of us, hoping we finally understand!” I think most of Michael’s fans feel that way. He went to extraordinary lengths to subtly indicate how much hurt lived inside his “lonely heart” as he mentioned in the song.

    I’m very excited to see what you ladies come up with next. Keep writing!

    • I know exactly what you mean, Emily. When you are in school people do put labels on you and those labels follow you around for a long, long time. Sometimes it can be really difficult to move past them and overcome them and make people see you the way you see yourself. Something Michael knew all too well.

      • It is so true. And annoying beyond all belief.

        I’m actually listening to Is It Scary right now, and I just realized how deep the bridge is.
        “Masquerade the heart/is the height of hurting souls.” People hide what’s in their heart, so as to not acquire unwanted and hurting labels, but it hurts one’s soul to hide who one is. Misconception or the twisting of what one does for what reasons is one of the main creators of unwanted labels. Or at least it is for me. Michael didn’t want to hide what was in his pure and innocent heart, I’m sure, but it got so that he couldn’t bare his heart and soul for all to see without risk of people taking it completely the wrong way.

        Just not what you see of me/ can hardly reveal the proof/ like a mirror reveals the truth” What the general public saw of Michael was hardly enough to form judgment upon. He was fiercely protective of his private life, which I’m sure was no easy feat considering his extreme fame. If you try to tell someone what his personal life was like just based on what you saw on TV, or in the papers (the mostly trustworthy ones) it’s impossible because there are huge, gaping holes that Michael wouldn’t fill in because it would reveal too much of his private life.

        “See the evil one is you/ so is that scary for you baby” The evil one is most certainly not Michael, it’s the people who made his life a waking nightmare, a life where he couldn’t set foot outside without being bombarded with hysterical fans, nosy reporters, and so on. He loved his fans, that we definitely know, but the extreme fame where fans would practically dismember him upon sight would most definitely be wearing. And the fact that he’s not the bad person, quite the opposite, and that they’re the bad ones would probably be frightening to them, if they were ever to see past the falsehoods they’ve woven so tightly around his persona.

        As we go into deliberations for the Murray trial, huge hugs to all the MJ fans along with strength and L.O.V.E.!

    • Hi Emily. Joie is right – and the worst part about those labels is that if you hear them long enough, they can become internalized so that you start to believe them yourself. But just remember what Michael Jackson wrote in “Heaven is Here”:

      Don’t be afraid

      To know who you are
      You are much more
      Than you ever imagined

  7. “Is it scary” is one of my favorite songs and I think one of Michael’s best lyrics ever. The sad thing is that those who should read it and understand it, never will and will never want to. Intentionally? Subconsciously? I don’t know. When Ghosts came out critics tried to put it down as a lame attempt to emulate the great Thriller – an aging superstar trying to recycle his old successful stuff. How can any critic say that? It’s so very clearly a lot more profound than just another horror story and in my opinion a lot better than Thriller because it’s deeper. I can’t believe any intelligent critic doesn’t realize that, but after 1993 there was a collective attempt to put down everything Michael did artistically as well. In my opinion that’s so they don’t have to listen to what he has to say because he was right and for the society it was difficult to look into that mirror Michael was holding up to them. So they had to discredit the artistic means he said those important things. The album HiStory was criticized for being too angry. What did they expect after what Michael went through? Just shrug it off and keep on singing “Baby be mine”? I have the feeling critics wanted to keep Michael in a certain box – blacks are supposed to make disco/R&B music, right? – and when Michael broke out of that cliché they deliberately didn’t want to acknowledge the importance of his message. After all they are part of the very same machine and mechanisms Michael calls out in this work.

  8. thanks willa and joie for the fruitful discussion as always!

    i become fan after micheal’s death so, yes, i just bought the CD blood on the dance floor less than 3 year ago. and i have to confess that those songs in this CD were not that attractive to me before. one of the reasons being that i can hardly get the words sung by michael in these songs as a non-native english person (i know that’s not a very gd excuse as the lyrics can be found on web, but, yeah, that’s the case). then i must thank willa for her ebook M poetic. willa your analysis on the song “is it scary” really open my mind to appreciate the song and to understand the message michael try to convey to us in it (actually i have a new appreciation on the whole CD now). “is it scary” becomes one of my top favorites as a result. but my heart just ache everytime when i listen to him sing this song. just feel like he can find no way to relieve his pain and to “grotesgue” is his only way to survive in a world where so many people vaciously attack on him.

    so i agree with the comments and feelings from many of the above that i try not to repeat too much. as discussed above, this song can be intepreted on many different levels. but if there is one most important purpose of this song, then i think it’s about michael’s attemp to let people realize that “they are what they see”. michael is that mirror who reflect people’s real heart.

    you have discusssed “threatened” in previous session and that’s also my favorite. when in “is it scary”, michael keep asking “am i scary for you?”, in “threathened” he sing “so you should be threatened by me”. i think these 2 songs share some common theme but the change of the tone from questionning to affirmation is interesting. seems to me that michael have to grotesgue to fulfill people’s expectation on him in “is it scary”, which is kind of passive on his side, but he take a more active position in “threatened” that he seems dont mind to be the monster and even tell people that yes you should feel threatened because i m powerful. so after blood on the dance floor, after the birth of prince and paris, michael might have recover a lot from his most difficult time. just like what you have mentioned when discussing “unbreakable”, michael is telling people that he is still around no matter how hard people try to bring him down.

    last one to add, i dont have chance to watch IMMORTAL yet (i swear that 1 day i will!) but of course bought the CD and listent to it so many times already. my most favorite arrangement is no doubt the part combines “is it scary/monster (rap by 50 cent)/threatened/thriller”. i m so glad they notice the linkage of these songs and arrange them together, just brilliant.

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