Are You Scared Yet?

Willa:  So a recent article, “Who Is Peter Pan,” in The New York Review of Books mentions Michael Jackson’s identification with Peter Pan, and it rather nonchalantly drops this little bombshell:

Occasionally, young boys slept over in Jackson’s mansion; he was twice accused of having abused them, but never convicted. Today, the consensus seems to be that he was innocent.

Joie, I know I should be thrilled that people are finally coming to their senses, and I am. But I have to admit, I’ve been storming around ever since I read that, muttering to anyone who will listen about the fickleness of public opinion. When he died, the overwhelming “consensus” was that he was guilty. If he wasn’t guilty of molestation exactly, though most people thought he was, he was suspiciously weird and almost certainly guilty of something. Now, three years later, “the consensus seems to be that he was innocent.” Why the change? No significant new evidence has emerged. There is no logical reason for people to have changed their minds, but they have. Millions of people have changed their minds. Why?

Joie:  I don’t know, Willa, but I understand exactly why you’re upset about it. It’s very distressing to know that this beautiful man, who only ever had love in his heart and compassion for his fellow man, was so tortured and ridiculed and falsely accused during his life. But now, in death, so many of those who were doing the maligning seem to have changed their tune. Now, when it’s much too late.

Willa:  I know. I just keep feeling this deep regret that the change couldn’t have come about while he was still alive. But the most vexing part of all this is that it couldn’t have, because his death is what triggered the change. There’s no logical reason for public opinion to shift just now. People aren’t changing their minds because of startling new evidence. The only difference between now and three years ago is that he’s gone. He had to die before public sentiment could change. And for me, one of the most distressing aspects of all this is that he knew it – he knew he had to die before people’s attitudes would change. He told us so in Ghosts.

Ghosts is such a fascinating short film in so many ways. In M Poetica I said it was like a seminar on art theory, and it is. We could use it as a springboard to get into some really fascinating theory, like Lewis Hyde’s ideas about trickster figures, or Elaine Scarry’s ideas about the body, or Julia Kristeva’s ideas about the abject, or Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas about carnival and the power of the grotesque to disrupt and defy authoritarian power structures. That’s one of the core ideas of Ghosts. We could spend months just talking about this one short film.

But we can also look at Ghosts as an artistic response to the 1993 allegations and scandal, and that’s the approach I wanted to take this week. There is so much in Ghosts that directly corresponds to what happened in 1993, and the media firestorm that followed.

Joie:  You’re right, Willa. Both the song and the short film are virtually all about the events surrounding the extortion attempt of 1993, and it’s not even hidden; it’s all right there on the surface. All anyone has to do is simply pay close attention, starting with the three songs he chose to spotlight in the short film itself – “Is It Scary,” “Ghosts,” and “2Bad.”

Willa:  It’s true – all three of those songs deal very explicitly with the 1993 allegations – and the plot of Ghosts reinforces that. It opens with a mob of angry villagers invading the home of an artist, a Maestro. He’s become friends with some of the village children and has been telling them ghost stories, and the villagers think that’s inappropriate. As one mom from the village tells him, “Aren’t you ashamed? Young people are impressionable.”

And of course, that precisely parallels what was happening in real life: he was an artist who developed close friendships with children, and a lot of people thought that was inappropriate. And they responded by obtaining a search warrant and invading his home.

Joie:  You know, Willa, it really is very difficult to watch Ghosts and not see the parallels to his real life. If you had been paying attention to what was going on in his life at all – and let’s face it, the world couldn’t help but pay attention because the news media was obsessed with “the scandal” – you don’t have to wonder where he got his inspiration for the storyline. It mirrors exactly what happened to him, and I think it’s wonderful that he chose to channel his frustrations in such a creative way. And I think that says a lot about his character that he was willing to put his personal pain on display in order to try and educate the rest of us.

Willa:  I agree, Joie. I think he was working through a lot of emotions as he created and developed this film. But he was also helping us as an audience work through our emotions as well. As an artist deeply committed to social change, he didn’t just express his feelings through his work. He was also very interested in how his work influenced us as an audience and how it helped us work through our feelings – how it evoked and redirected our emotions and altered our perceptions, as we talked about in the on-screen audience posts a couple weeks ago. And the way he approaches that in Ghosts is fascinating.

When the villagers invade the Maestro’s home, the first thing he does is appear to them in a frightening mask: instead of seeing his face, the villagers see a skull. They gasp and retreat from him in horror. But as soon as they back off, he drops the mask and reveals it’s just a disguise. The villagers then breathe a sigh of relief, start to relax, and reapproach him in a more friendly way.

It’s very interesting what’s just happened, both dramatically and psychologically. The villagers have invaded his home, which is a very aggressive act, but he immediately flips that dynamic so they are the ones feeling threatened – not him – and then he removes that threat, so they actually feel kind of grateful to him. Importantly, the villagers have invaded his home because they see him as a kind of monster – the kind who would hurt children – and he responds by appearing to them as a monster. So through the mask he evokes the precise emotions they already feel about him. But then he reveals it’s just an illusion: he’s not a monster. So there’s a very quick up-and-down movement of crisis and release that functions on several different levels.

Joie:  Hmm. I never really examined that before, but you’re right. The villagers have invaded his home – they are the ones who are threatening him. But even before they actually enter the house, they are made to feel very frightened and apprehensive. They haven’t even met him yet, but they already feel afraid of him; it’s all in their minds!

Willa:  Exactly, and he reflects those emotions back at them through the mask, but then undoes them in a way. So through the mask, he encourages the villagers to vent their emotions and then subtly reconfigures those emotions.

The Maestro and the villagers begin to talk, and as they talk the Mayor gradually builds a case against the Maestro. He says, “We have a nice normal town, normal people, normal kids. We don’t need freaks like you telling them ghost stories.” He then becomes more aggressive, saying, “You’re weird, you’re strange, and I don’t like you. You’re scaring these kids, living up here all alone.” He even begins to threaten the Maestro, saying, “Back to the circus, you freak. And do yourself a favor, OK? Don’t force us get rough with you because we will, if we have to.” Finally, he gives him an ultimatum, saying, “Are you going to leave, or am I going to have to hurt you?”

Joie:  That’s very interesting, Willa, particularly in terms of the language he uses in the dialogue between the Mayor and the Maestro. As you pointed out, the Mayor’s words are very specific. “We have a nice normal town, normal people, normal kids.” And, of course, that was always the main accusation leveled against Michael himself – he wasn’t “normal.” He was called “weird” and “strange.” Many people thought of him as a “freak.” So, it’s very telling that these are the words Michael would choose to use for this particular exchange. It makes me think of Joe Vogel’s article, “Am I the Beast You Visualized: The Cultural Abuse of Michael Jackson,” which we talked about back in November, where Joe referred to all of those hurtful words as “slurs.”

Willa:  That’s a really important point, Joie, and I think you’re right. I think he chose those words very deliberately. As you say, they are exactly the words that were used against him so often in the later years of his life. So what’s happening on screen is precisely reflecting what’s happening to him in real life off screen. Just as the mask reflected the villagers’ emotions back at them, his word choices reflect our emotions back at us.

Importantly, the Maestro responds to this aggression exactly as he did before, only more intensely this time: he distorts his face beyond recognition and then rips it off altogether, so once again his face appears as just a skull. Once again the villagers retreat from him in terror, just as they did before. And once again, as soon as they back off, he restores his face and reveals it’s just an illusion, exactly as he did before. So once again there’s that very quick up-and-down movement of crisis and release that gives vent to the villagers’ emotions by evoking their fears and reflecting them back at them, and then resolving those fears by showing it’s just an illusion.

Joie:  The message here is very clear, I think. He’s pointing out the parallels between the Maestro character and his own personal life. So, by showing that it’s just an illusion, as you say, he’s telling us very clearly that all the perceived “weirdness” surrounding his personal life is also just an illusion, and what we – the public and the media – think we see, isn’t actually the real story.

Willa:  I think so too, though there’s also a lot going on psychologically as well. We see that when he repeats that same up-and-down movement of crisis and release a third time. It’s even more extreme this time – instead of his face becoming a skull, his entire body becomes a skeleton – but the villagers reactions are rather different this time around, so there’s been a psychological shift. They’re surprised but they aren’t terrified, and they don’t retreat this time. They stay and watch what he has to show them, and when the skeleton begins to dance, they smile and enjoy his performance. In other words, they aren’t having such a fearful response to the “strange” and the “weird” as they were before. They’re still wary, but they’re becoming a little more accepting of difference.

And then he repeats this up-and-down pattern of crisis and release a fourth and final time, and this is the most intense of all: he destroys himself. He asks them, “So, do you still want me to go?” Many of the villagers, the children especially, shake their heads no, but the Mayor affirms, “Yes! Yes!” So the Maestro says, “Fine. I’ll go.” He drops down and smashes his hands into the floor, then his arms, and then his face. His nose drops off, his entire face disintegrates, his body turns to dust, and an unearthly wind blows it away.

The villagers are horrified, but for a completely different reason than before: not because they’re scared of him, but because they’ve started to feel a connection to him and are horrified that he’s destroying himself. So their feelings over the course of the film have undergone a complete reversal. He’s left, so he’s done what they said they wanted him to do, what they invaded his home to force him to do. But by this point they no longer want him to leave, and as soon as he’s gone they feel a sense of loss and want him back.

Joie:  Just like what we’re seeing now that he’s no longer here with us. Wow. That’s very compelling, Willa. So you believe he understood that both he and his art would only be truly appreciated after his death?

Willa:  I do. But I also think there’s more going on than that. I’m still struggling to figure this out and articulate it for myself, but I keep coming back to these lines from “Is It Scary”:

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 …
So tell me
Is that realism for you, baby?
Am I scary for you?

You know, after he died, a lot of commentators expressed surprise that there was such an outpouring of grief for him considering all the years of scandal and controversy – of “eccentric oddities,” as Michael Jackson calls them in “Is It Scary.” But I’m starting to believe just the opposite: that the public outpouring of grief wouldn’t have been possible without all those years of “eccentric oddities.” Those eccentric oddities performed a crucial function – they provided a series of mini-dramas of crisis and release – just like that repeated up-and-down movement in Ghosts. As in Ghosts, those eccentric oddities allowed us to vent our emotions about him following the molestation accusations and encouraged us to work through them. So when he died, we’d already dealt with a lot of those negative emotions, and once he was really gone it was revealed to us that those negative emotions were an illusion – as The New York Review of Books article says, “Today, the consensus seems to be that he was innocent” – and we were brought back to our true feelings, which is how much he meant to us.

Joie:  That’s a fascinating take on all this, Willa. I’ve never looked at it in this way before.

Willa:  You know, I’m still working my way through this, and I could be completely wrong about this, but it feels to me that something very significant was happening through those “eccentric oddities,” both culturally and psychologically, and I think Ghosts is the key to understanding it. He had a very sophisticated aesthetic – I’m convinced his work functioned at deep psychological levels – and he was dealing with some very difficult issues of group psychology after the 1993 scandal broke. Basically, he was dealing with mass hysteria and the fear of the unfamiliar, just like the Maestro, and he responded in a way that directly addressed that group hysteria.

His response may not seem logical at first, but the subconscious mind isn’t logical – or rather, it has a logic of its own that differs from the logic of the conscious mind – and I believe that, through his “eccentric oddities,” he’s speaking directly to the subconscious mind. As he tells us in Ghosts, those repeated mini-dramas of crisis and release had a very specific psychological effect, and they were deliberately created to produce that psychological effect. In “Is It Scary” he tells us very explicitly what he intends to do: “I’m gonna be exactly what you wanna see” and “If you wanna see eccentric oddities, I’ll be grotesque before your eyes.”

Joie:  I agree with you about the deliberateness of his art, Willa, and I really do believe the three songs featured in the short film (“Ghosts,” “Is It Scary,” and “2Bad”) were chosen very deliberately. I think you and I could probably spend an entire blog – maybe even two – just talking about those three songs in detail and how they relate both to the film and to what was going on in his life at the time.

You know, since we have been working on this blog, I have come to understand that there really wasn’t much about Michael Jackson’s art that was not done deliberately. He usually had a very calculated reason for everything he did and it just leaves me in awe. Wouldn’t you love to be able to get inside the mind of a truly great artist … just to try to understand their passion and fire for their art? That thought is so fascinating to me for some reason and I would just have loved to talk with him about his art. I can’t believe that so many journalists, like Bashir for instance, wasted the precious time they were granted with him by talking about such trivial things like his skin color and his perceived odd behavior. What a colossal waste of an opportunity!

Willa: Oh I know! That’s what strikes me most about the Bashir documentary as well – that he was given this incredible opportunity and completely squandered it. Imagine if you could go back in time and talk to Van Gogh for eight months and learn more – maybe not about how to interpret specific works, since artists tend to be very reluctant to limit their work to just one interpretation – but about his worldview and how his art fit within that worldview. What an amazing opportunity that would be. And Bashir was given that opportunity and completely wasted it. And the really sad thing is that Bashir has fed his mind on a diet of scandal for so long he doesn’t even seem to realize there’s a bigger world out there. Michael Jackson is wrestling with complex issues of social justice and perception and how we make meaning, as well as art’s ability to profoundly influence how we perceive and make sense of the world, and Bashir spends the entire eight months asking tabloid-type questions. It’s just stunning.

Fortunately, Michael Jackson left a lot of clues to help guide us in developing ways to approach his work and understand his worldview. And as we see in Ghosts, there is so much to discover and explore.


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 April 12, 2012, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 74 Comments.

  1. Willa and Joie, I look forward to your posts every week and love all the incredible insight and information you bring out about this amazing man and artist that I love so much. You are both so deep and wonderfully expressive in things that I only have a vague glimmering about and could never express the way you do. I wonder though, weren’t you offended at how the New York Review of Books worded that? It sounds to me like they are very grudgingly saying that consensus “seems” to have shifted. To me they still seem to judging Michael’s love of children and don’t sound to me like they really buy that he’s innocent. Am I just being over sensitive?

    • You know, I disagree with some of the things Lurie says in her article, but I really don’t think she was insinuating anything when she wrote “the consensus seems to be that he was innocent.” Trends are notoriously difficult to pin down, and for her to make a bold declarative statement like “Today, the consensus is that he was innocent,” she’d need to support that with some pretty compelling evidence like a Gallop poll or something like that. I don’t know that there is clear convincing evidence that the tide has turned, and that isn’t the focus of her article anyway. So she qualified her words by saying “Today, the consensus seems to be that he was innocent.” As a writer, I’ve faced that same dilemma of how to talk about trends in public opinion, and her approach makes sense to me. Does that make sense?

      • Yes, I think that makes eminent sense, Willa!

      • Thanks for weighing in on this, Willa. Yes, I see your point here regarding how she phrased her comment, yet in light of her other remarks about MJ I think there is a lack of seriousness here. Innocence or guilt of serious charges is not a matter of consensus, as if we are taking a poll, but a matter of evidence and a jury verdict. The US media in general likes to pose these ‘What do you think?’ questions, and then publish the results, but sometimes this kind of opinion-gathering is highly inappropriate. It’s ok if you are talking about questions of taste (do you want yellow accent color in your house, etc) but when it comes to guilt/innocence, I think this approach is damaging to us all, and especially to the accused person. Further, the US media tends to shape public opinion in such a way as to signal the ‘right’ or ‘desired’ opinion and, on top of that, provide very little evidence or facts about the issue. So we have a lot of uninformed opinions floating around (especially from unscrupulous ‘journalists’), and this is what caused MJ so much pain and destroyed his good name in the eyes of the public.

        I would have preferred it if she had written something factual–for example, “MJ was twice accused of abusing a boy; the first case was settled out of court, and the second case, which examined all prior accusations, went to trial and resulted in a not-guilty verdict. Nevertheless, although he was acquitted in 2005, the court of public opinion continued to hold him guilty. After his death in 2009, the consensus began to shift and now seems to be that he was innocent.”

        She is writing a review of a book about Peter Pan–she did not have to go into the MJ issue regarding child abuse. But if she chose to ‘go there,’ I think she had a responsibility to get the facts out before talking about a ‘consensus.’ In addition, she did a terrible job of analyzing any MJ-Peter Pan connection.

  2. Willa and Joie, thank you so much for your incredible analyses! I read every new blog entry, it´s just amazing how you always find new directions from that I can look at MJs art. Especially loved the hint to Michail Bachtin and the power of the grotesque this time! I read Bachtin many years ago, but now that you mention him in connection to MJ it´s like scales fall from my eyes. He used the grotesque, not only in “Ghosts”. He didn´t wand to be dough eyed, pretty and cute anymore after 1993. He mostly looked very far away after that, the face nothing but pale white, red lips, black eyes, like a pierrot, another figure from the world of carnival, and I´m always stunned when I see him and Marcel Marceau together … He wasn´t afraid to look strange and grotesque if it helped staging what he wanted to make people feel, right?

    I feel the same though like yours4ever: The cited article says the consensus seems to have shifted. To me that sounds like the blind and headless beast of the public is just sentimental about MJ because he´s gone. As you pointed out: It´s inevitable that people feel like that now. But to me it sounds like the writer of that article thinks, that doesn´t mean MJ really was innocent, it´s just an example for how mass psychology works … But maybe I am over sensitive too. (Hope my english isn´t too dimish …)

  3. I have several comments to make. The first with regards to the line “The consensus seems to be that he was innocent” and your question about why the change because “No significant new evidence has emerged” I have a different take on that. To my way of thinking the shift occurred precisely because no significant new evidence has emerged. No other allegations surfaced and sympathy for Michael was such that even if one or more had, the burden for proof I think would have been far higher in the new environment.

    I was one of the fans who lost touch with the goings on in Michael’s life in his later years and found myself quite taken aback by the extent of the devastation his passing invoked in me.
    Like many I imagine, I was glued to the media reports in the weeks after his passing. One thing quickly became very apparent – the media were revealing their own inaccuracies when it came to reporting about Michael. Starting with the manner of his death. Their reports were revealed as the pure speculation that they are. The difference is Michael’s death was so monumental that the corrections were delivered still in the newsworthy period. I believe many people probably subconsciously did what I did and asked themselves “Okay so if the media got all these details wrong, what else did they get wrong?”

    As a fan, I knew enough already not to question Michael’s innocence with regards to the allegations but I was not so well informed about his vitiligo, nor about various incidents in his life that had been misrepresented and thus served to solidify his eccentric persona label. For example:- the 2002 MTV appearance – this was portrayed as proof that Michael was some kind of out of touch egomaniac when as I’m sure you know MTV deliberately misled Michael – to ensure his appearance at their awards and thus boost their ratings. The point is; all these things I became aware of after Michael died, prompted by a need to do my own research as I finally realized that I could not rely on the media for an accurate depiction of Michael. Now I am stunned that I trusted them as long as I did…

    Or in other words, Michael’s death prompted many of us to listen much more to our instincts. I know in my own circle of friends I was delighted to find all had concluded that Michael was most likely innocent. That might seem wishy washy or even insulting to fans but it is entirely appropriate I think for non fans. For him to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

    The second point I wanted to make – and I’m fairly new to your blog so I apologize if you have covered this already – was to ask you to discuss Michael being ambiguous in some of his short films. Like you mention in this piece, I agree with your assessment that most decisions were very deliberate. In the Ghosts short film, it seems to be that the children that are featured are boys of a certain age. I still don’t understand why exactly. Obviously I get the parallels to the false accuser but as Michael loved all kids, of all ages and races why did he focus only on this age group? I’m sure Michael had a very good reason…

    The other short film is “Remember the Time”. The kiss and embrace with Iman is awkward. Especially if you compare it to the real life kiss Michael gave then wife Lisa Marie at the MTV Awards. That was passionate and strong – and not at all awkward. I put the awkwardness in Remember the Time done to Michael wanting to be perceived as still available but I wonder if you ladies had any thoughts on this subject?

    And lastly, with Martin Bashir – that was one of his deceptions – telling everybody he spent 8 months with Michael Jackson. It is true the process took 8 months. They appear to have met in June 2002, filming began in late July, continued some weeks later in Las Vegas & Neverland – August & September. Then there appears to have been a month or so gap when Bashir meets up again with Michael in Berlin November 2002. Then they have their last contentious meeting in early January and then the film airs a month later. Bashir did get a lot of access to Michael – but it wasn’t quite as much as he would like us to believe.

    • mjpopc, I think the kiss in Remember the Time was –at last in part–awkward b/c Iman is taller than MJ–that’s why she has to slide down as he kisses her.

      When MJ died, there was a big replay of all his films on MTV–and, like you, I was watching, glued to the TV, and saw many films I had not seen before that just knocked my socks off (Dirty Diana, being one, and the concert in Bucharest).

      I agree that ‘no new evidence’ means that there are no new allegations out there–also, it’s hard to sue a dead person, but that wouldn’t stop people from making claims.

      re Bashir and other ‘interviewers,’ they focused on his nose, his surgeries, his sex life. Such a terrible shame. Thanks for the info re Bashir’s actual time with MJ. There’s a spoof of the Bashir-MJ interview by Rowan Atkinson called ‘Lying to Michael Jackson.”

    • “In the Ghosts short film, it seems to be that the children that are featured are boys of a certain age. I still don’t understand why exactly. Obviously I get the parallels to the false accuser but as Michael loved all kids, of all ages and races why did he focus only on this age group? I’m sure Michael had a very good reason…”

      Hi mjpopc. That’s an interesting and important question for a number of reasons, and I think it gets back to how Michael Jackson viewed childhood. Here’s something he told Taraborrelli in the fall of 1981 – before Thriller, and long before the molestation allegations:

      “One of my favorite pastimes is being with children – talking to them, playing with them in the grass. They’re one of the main reasons I do what I do. They know everything that people are trying to find out, they know so many secrets, but it’s hard for them to get it out. I can recognize that and learn from it. They say things that astound you. They go through a brilliant, genius stage. But then, when they become a certain age …” Michael paused. “When they get to a certain age, they lose it.” (213)

      I think he really did see a close connection between children and creativity, as Joie and I talked about in a post last December. He also saw them as more open to new ways of seeing, and less weighed down by biases. So it makes sense to me that in Ghosts, when representing members of the community who are biased against a local artist but are beginning to question that and see things in different way and maybe become artists themselves, that change in perception is led by children “of a certain age” – children who are in that “brilliant, genius stage” he described a long time ago.

      btw, my grandmother worked at an orphanage for more than 25 years. She was the housemother for boys in fourth through sixth grade, and she used to say something very similar. When I was young I stayed with her at the orphanage sometimes, including a week each summer. (And had a blast! Those boys were so much fun.) I really loved babies, though, so encouraged her to move to the baby cottage, but she wouldn’t even consider it. She loved her boys, and always said there was something very special about boys that age. And I can see it now in my own son, who’s right in the thick of that funny brilliant stage children go through. So for me, personally, it makes a lot of sense. But it’s a sensitive subject and makes people uncomfortable because of those false allegations that came out in 1993 and 2003.

      • I happened to see a clip on CNN today about the war lord Joseph Kony, and for exactly the same reasons you stated (no biases at this age), is the same reasons they pick children for child soliders.

  4. I agree with Yours4ever- the tone also struck me as…doubtful and not really genuine. As if saying, well, that SEEMS to be what is said, but we are not going to jump behind it… But I also might be too sensitive- I usually am on the topic of Michael.

    Willa and Joie- thank you for another great post. I have just about given up being at work on time Thursday mornings- as I have to read, re-read, think about, and respond to your posts. 🙂

    I think you are right on- Michael understood the dynamics about death and celebrity. Ghosts is not the first time he tackled re-birth, even though, it is definitly the most gripping piece of work. He also showed a similar theme in Moonwalker. And in sevearl short film we were left with the protagonist suddenly gone or disappeared- always leaving that huge emotional hole

    As Lisa Marie Presley told us both in writing and in words, “he knew.” He understood what had happened to her father. There are many articles written about Elvis’ best career move having been to die. (I am sure his family disagrees, but the fact is that his career was going downhill and most his money had been lost). When Michael said those words to Lisa, I doubt he only referred to dying itself, or to drug use and dying, as Oprah endlessly harped on in her 2010 interview with LMP. (Talk about squandered journalistic oportunities: instead of allowing us more insight into those years Michael attempted to rebuild his relationship with LMP while being married and touring, O focused on “drug-use”- as well as “did you EVER see anything inappropriate…” Guess she is also not fully on board with the general consensus of innocence…) I think he referred to his legacy not being fully understood until he would be gone. What a difficult thing to realize about your life and your work!

    One thing that is instrumental to understand is that Michael set part of the machinery in motion himself, though. To see him as only a victim takes away from the depth of discussion. There are numerous reports of him, initially, having very much sought to paint himself as “different.” He understood he wanted to be bigger than anything or anything before him. To do so, he had to be “the other”- not the “everyman.”
    The tragedy is that the machinery ran amok, overtook him, and overwhelmed him.
    He also seriously underestimated the length human beings would go to and the depths they would stoop to to enrich themselves- enter the Arvizos.

    I think Michael alludes to his power and his part in the story by naming his main character Maestro. A Maestro orchestrates, he is in charge, he directs, and he runs the show. Temporarily, the townspeople invade his empire. But again, he uses his special powers (charm, trickery, magic,”friends,” theatrics,…) to make his point. He is not destroyed. He destroys HIMSELF. He holds the power at all times. Just as in Michael’s art, his music, his lyrics, his moves, NOTHING is coincidental or random.

    Sadly,we know in real life, that power was zapped in 2005. If you follow trial images, you see Michael become depleted- he morphed from full of fighting spirit to a virtual zombie right before our eyes.

    The other night, I saw Cirque Du Soleils’ Immortal, and I am still reeling from the impact. Before the show even started, I stood to the side, watching the audience stream by. Such excitement and electricity. I saw people from all races and creeds, all ages… Couples, multigenerational families, people bringing their children, while grandmother also is along. As the show started there were screams for Michael.

    Almost in tears, I closed my eyes, and thought, if only he could be here to see his legacy. And then, just like you, I came to the same conclusion: that what is happening NOW is because of his death- and that realization is enough to break my heart.

    But, just like you, all we can do is to spread the word and spread the truth- as it has been done since his passing. Which is why the general consensus changed. Michael’s seeds of love took root. And that is lasting power and his true legacy beyond the amazing art he left us,

    • Theresa Biggerstaff

      Awesome comment. This MJ community is filled with intelligence, humor, and, above all, love.

    • Thanks, Birgit E.–I recently saw ‘Immortal’ too–I had the same powerful response. I LOVED the show and loved being with all the MJ fans. They called out his name when I went too.

  5. Yes Birgit, I was almost late for work also this morning! what a lot to think about as usual – thanks Willa and Joie. I must say that I felt terribly sad all morning thinking about what you had written, but on the otherhand joyful that Michael took control and didn’t become the victim in his life. Alhough he isn’t here to see the change and influence that his work is bringing to the world (although I have a sneaky feeling that he may well be hovering around looking down on all this and saying “and about time”!!) look what we who are still here have to enjoy and bring into our own lives. Every day I am influenced by Michael in one way or another, as I am sure millions of other fans are also, and there arn’t too many people who have left that kind of legacy behind them.
    Being a new fan, it took me a long time to understand Ghosts, but your book Willa and these blogs have made it all much clearer, and I certainly believe that every word, note, picture, gesture in everthing Michael did had a meaning – nothing is random. What a man!!

  6. Theresa Biggerstaff

    Another great assessment of Michael’s work. I, too, look forward to reading your blog each week. Like the others here, I am late for work as I write this. I think you should take your blogs and make them into a book. They are insightful and thought provoking. Thanks for your great work.

  7. I really love Ghosts. Does anybody know of any good reason (distribution rights, etc…) why Ghosts has never been released in the US? (I realize there was a little of it on the Vision DVD, but that doesn’t count since it was only a couple minutes of it.) They have that import VCD out there, but it’s sub-DVD quality. I believe this film was shown theatrically (overseas, of course) so it should be possible to master a high def print for blu ray… why has this never been done?

  8. Another exciting Thursday post. Thanks you again ladies!!!

  9. Yes, awesome post by Willa and Joie–and awesome comments to follow. Some responses: I agree with those who point out the lies told by the media for decades have not been abandoned; also that these lies regarding MJ’s death (and his condition at the point of death) helped to show how corrupted the media is. However, that had become clear in regards to other ‘stories’ promoted by the media (WMD, for instance, and the whole fiasco of the 2008 primary election). Now we also have the Murdock empire entangled and hopefully being destroyed due to the phone-hacking scandal. I know MJ constantly changed his phone #s to avoid being hacked and some (D. Chopra) found that unnecessary, but we see that it was necessary. I think the resurgence of MJ’s status as an artist and an innocent man tarred and feathered and bullied relentlessly by a corrupt and lazy and indeed criminal media is due to 1) the grief felt worldwide–which I think surprised the media, and, as Armond White says, they ‘stopped in their bloodhound tracks’ 2) the superb, continuing work of MJ’s millions of fans in blogs, websites, articles, books, comments posted to refute lies, and even the defense of MJ on shows like ‘The View’ where Whoopi Goldberg defended him and got an ovation, not to mention Ellen de Generes. 3) the Memorial service at the Staples Center, which was watched by a billion world-wide, and where Paris so beautifully gave her message of love for her Daddy 4) the effort of the Black members of Congress to honor MJ–they didn’t get the support they needed, but they did manage to have Congress acknowledge his death with an official moment of silence.

    I think Armond White has the best take on MJ and the media: ‘Post-Thriller, the mainstream media attempted to topple Jackson’s showbiz eminence which it had helped to build–a circular process satisfying animal bloodlust and political resentment. It was a power struggle.’ As White and others noted, MJ’s fans got dragged into this power struggle, such that anyone who defended or praised MJ had to go against the grain of the ‘consensus.’ Rev. Barbara Kaufman talks in depth about how hard it was to grieve in an atmosphere where the deceased is not eulogized but trashed in public (think Congressman Peter King and Bill O’Reilly, for example).

    As far as Alison Lurie’s NYRB piece, she makes it plain in other ways that she does not respect MJ: “The strangest reincarnation of Peter Pan in our time was surely that of the pop star Michael Jackson (1958–2009). For years he identified with Barrie’s hero, declaring to reporters, “I am Peter Pan,” though it was an identification that as time passed, especially after Jackson reached his fiftieth birthday, became harder and harder to sustain, just as it had for Barrie.” Ok– why is MJ ‘the strangest” of all PP incarnations?? O, yes, we have heard about this ‘strangeness’ before–in fact, it goes along with weird, freak, and pervert. Who did he say ‘I am PP’ to? not to ‘reporters’–it was to Bashir, who then said, “no, you’re not, you’re Michael Jackson.” (Ever the literalist.) To which MJ replied, ‘In my heart, I’m PP.” So, MJ did not LITERALLY think he was PP, and Lurie is wrong to take it that way. Finally, he did not ‘sleep with boys’–as we know, he slept with male and female people of various ages. Lastly, it is not true that both his wives’ said he was fun in bed, as this is only true of Lisa Marie–who actually never said that publicly, although she acknowledged their sexual relationship. Debbie Rowe has not acknowledged this, as far as I know. Then Lurie mocks MJ’s desire to play PP. So in short, she is not in any way doing a true revision. She is instead regurgitating stereotypes. I am glad to see here the reference to his ‘innocence’ but it is not strong enough–and, as others here have said, the ‘the consensus seems’ is a way of taking a direct stand.

    Apologies for long post!!

  10. whoops–my last sentence should read ” ‘the ‘consensus seems’ is a way of NOT taking a direct stand.”

    As was said, MJ did “die” and reappear in “Moonwalk” as well as “Ghosts,” –in both cases,–it is very powerful and moving. The fact that we also ‘saw’ his dead body due to the autopsy photos in the Murray trial adds to this feeling of ‘he’s gone, he’s back, he’s gone.’ And MJ said in a speech when he accepted the ‘Legend Award’–I’ve gone from ‘where is he?’ to ‘Here he is again.’

    It is important to note in ‘Ghosts’ that MJ plays the Mayor–so all the lines (freakyboy, etc) are from MJ to MJ–very interesting.

    • It’s so interesting that you specifically note that the Mayor is also played by Michael. I didn’t realize that until after I had seen the movie, and kept thinking to myself, who could they have gotten to play that part that would say all those awful things to Michael? I could never have done that, though of course actors always portray people they themselves are not. I also thought, wow, that old man can dance! Michael was quite convincing! 🙂

    • I’m glad you mentioned MJ playing the Mayor. I thought of that as well – MJ saying the nasty things to MJ even though it represents TS. Things like that always make me feel that Michael felt he was in on the ‘joke’ that all of us as the ‘audience’ were just bit players in.

  11. Nicoletta Leva

    Forgive my English, please…I feel very sad now that we’re approaching the third anniversary of Michael’s death. Do you know here in Italy there are NOT questions and analysis like yours. Just occasionally, can you believe?, you can find articles talking about MJ because Beyoncè has cleared her skin like Michael Jackson, or when there are scandals of pedophilia and some emeritus critic back to talking about the strange world of the super star but portraying him as an inveterate pedophile.
    I wish so much that your analysis and your thoughts could move even in Italy, together with those of Raven Woods, Joseph Vogel, Charles Thomson, but it’s really hard …

    Instead every time I find small articles that continue to insinuate more subtly, serpentine terrible guilt of Michael as something overt, yet humorous … I wonder what should be done this man to be left in peace at least on some issues! Michael’s body was publicly posted on the Internet, his autopsy found everywhere but I have to read again and again how he had bleached his skin because it was renouncing his race!

    And each time these items are accompanied by a desolate vision of Neverland abandonment and I have a great pain in seeing how the vision of his world so different, so far away from our cultural stereotypes continue to be violated, intimately. “Today, the consensus seems to be that he was innocent.”

    It seems, perhaps, only by virtue of a “death – redemption” that for a while, has made us a little bit more conscious of our driven and illusory visions.

    Sometimes I think, who knows, maybe Michael would have had to adopt a more self-deprecating, and mock us, unnecessary gossips, and save his life but then I think to verses of Iliade: “sadness is our destiny, but that’s why our lives will be sung forever, by all men to come.”

  12. Nicoletta, wonderful that you quote the Iliad–‘sadness is our destiny’– like the ending of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, where the elves and Frodo sail to the Gray Havens and leave Middle Earth after their battle with Sauron. MJ’s favorite song was ‘Smile”–‘smile, though your heart is breaking’–yet the song also is hopeful–‘smile, and maybe tomorrow, you’ll find that life is still worthwhile.’

    I am sad, too, about the 3rd upcoming anniversary. I am hoping one day to do the MJ tour that goes to Neverland and Forest Lawn cemetery. MJ’s owned 87% of Neverland (shared with Colony Capital) when he died, so who knows what may happen down the road.

    Earth Day is coming up April 22nd–a special day to honor MJ and all he did to help the planet. You know how he said in ‘This Is It’ that we had 4 more years to take care of the planet or else it would be like a runaway train? This 4 year prediction was made by a prominent climate change expert and nasa scientist Jim Hansen– in January, 09.

    • Nicoletta Leva

      Thank you very much for your words, and thanks for giving me the day of 22 April, I did not know.
      I try to honor the memory of Michael trying to spread in Italy the various blogs like this as much as possible.
      Thank you all for your hard work and dedication.

    • Not to get too off topic here, but is it really true that Michael owned anything of Neverland? I’ve been wondering about that mainly because at the time he sold/went into partnership with Colony Capital, the value of Neverland would have been somewhere around $100M. Yet the price that he sold part or all of Neverland was around $30M. I’ve just wondered personally if he sold it (which after everything that happened there, who could blame him) or if it was a partnership and the plans (per Colony Capital and Rob Lowe) were to build a hotel there similar to the San Ysidro Ranch Hotel that is near there.

      Again, sorry to get OT.

      • Destiny, the Estate has legal (civil court) action against Tohme Tohme (MJ’s manager during the Colony Capital deal) for violating his ‘fiduciary duty’ to act in a way favorable to MJ. Tohme negotiated a deal where Neverland became Sycamore Valley Ranch LLC, in a way unfavorable to MJ–namely Tohme got 10% finder’s fee (even tho’ he was already connected professionally with Colony Capital) and 10% of any future profit. The new LLC was jointly owned by MJ (87.5%) and Colony Capital (12.5%), but Colony Capital may have a 50/50 split with MJ in terms of any future $$ and also had an ‘exclusivity’ clause, which meant they could have exclusive use of the ranch when they wanted it; they also had to maintain the ranch. Colony Capital has said that they are waiting to hear what the Estate wants to do with the ranch, but the Estate needs to clear up their issues with Tohme, which go deeper than just the Neverland Ranch deal. I got this info from a knowledgeable poster called IVY (online name) but I can’t recall the actual fan website now (sorry). Here are some comments:

        ” Tohme cut himself a deal that would pay him 10% if Neverland were sold and 10% of any future venture or project that came from Sycamore valley Ranch. He basically made himself a permanent partner in a company owned by MJ and Colony Capital. That would be “unfavorable” financially and explains why they are suing Thome.”

        Colony captial may only own 12.5% of neverland but they appear to have equal rights to usage of the whole estate, mj’s estate can’t do anything with this huge asset without their sayso and presumably any value made out of it will be split 50/50.”

        apologies for the off topic comment–

        • thanks for the infor. I was wondering were it came from, and I must say, after the criminal trial against murray, I haven’t read any other legal doc especially any concerning thome. it will be interesting to see what becomes of neverland and I’m sure we’ll talk more about it if the ladies do a neverland post. thanks.

  13. Willa said, his death is what triggered the change, he knew he had to die before people’s attitudes would change. Can we even imagine how Michael felt living with that knowledge? Thank you both for continuing to open our eyes and hearts to the precious gift we lost in June 2009.

    • Hi Juney07. I know exactly what you mean. Can you just imagine what that must have been like for him? Those allegations were so terrible for him. As he told Frank Cascio, “I have the whole world thinking I’m a child molester. You don’t know what it feels like to be falsely accused.” And he knew he and his children would have to carry that burden his entire life – that that stigma would never go away until he died. I just can’t imagine living with that knowledge. What a horrible, painful situation.

  14. I was just watching the movie “Moonwalker”, and it tore my heart that MJ had to “go away” in order to save us from evil. Twice he shapshifted into machines (car, rocket) to fight evil, but then had to leave his friends who mourned losing him. Twice he returned, after his friends wished very hard (upon a star) for his return. To me, this means that although MJ has died, he will return to us in spirit if we realize how much we miss him and how much we have lost.

  15. I have to say that I find ‘Ghosts’ very hard to watch. There is such a ‘lynch mob’ atmosphere at the beginning, and the hatred (fear) expressed by the mayor about a figure who is able to enchant (entertain, but with ‘supernatural’ skills’) the town youth in a way that he clearly cannot, is very difficult to watch. Michael very much shows the closed mind of an older ‘conditioned’ authority figure against the open minds of children, who don’t fear his talents, but accept and enjoy them.

    One thing I do love the way that the small moments of physical humour momentarily release tension…when the ‘head flick’ is passed on, and when one of the ghosts sneezes in a cloud of dust.

  16. I wanted to add something about the disrespectful way Alison Lurie speaks about MJ. I mentioned this previously, but look at the passage in question more closely–it is very imprecise and sloppy:

    “Occasionally, young boys slept over in Jackson’s mansion; he was twice accused of having abused them, but never convicted. Today, the consensus seems to be that he was innocent.”

    Look at the phrase “young boys”– Were they 5, 7, 9, 10, or maybe even 13? She doesn’t say. If they were 13–as was the case with Gavin Arvizo and Jordan Chandler–they were ‘ young teenagers’–that would be a more precise term than ‘young boys.’ Then she says MJ ‘was twice accused of having abused THEM”–ok, abused whom? ‘young boys,’ of course– back to the question of how old, and, another thing open to question here, how MANY? 2, 10, 20, 50? Isn’t it worth noting how many accusations? and she mentions no dates–so were they 2 days apart or 10 years apart?

    ‘never convicted’ is also vague–never charged? charged once? charged twice? This is hopelessly vague.

    Another vague word is ‘consensus.’ Whose consensus? the public? the media? who? And how does Lurie know this??

    As Willa says, there is a ‘nonchalance’ here, which to me is not appropriate and I would add careless. And what does this have to do with the book she is reviewing? A scholarly work by a professor at Harvard?

    So while it might be seen as a good thing that Lurie uses the words ‘seems to be that he was innocent’– I do not see that her remarks, taken as a whole, do MJ any favors.

    She does get her digs in after all, as I noted earlier.

    • I’d also like to mention that we must keep in mind that anything with MJ’s name makes $$$ even if it is a post online. This might not be the exact case on this blog post as I don’t see any direct adverts, but the pages views are counted and used to figure how content is being used.

      • Hi Destiny. I just want to confirm that Joie and I aren’t earning anything from this blog – not even ice cream money. That isn’t our motivation at all. In fact, one reason we chose WordPress to host our blogsite is because they don’t have ads. We really want this to be a place where people can have in-depth discussions about Michael Jackson and his work, and not worry that someone will attack them for their opinions or try to take advantage of their feelings and sell them something. We really want this to be a place for honest, open, and free discussions (meaning free in every sense of the word).

  17. Willa and Joie,

    Thanks so much for your observations; I’ve also been turning the thematic elements of “Ghosts” around in my mind for some while, and considering them in light of the 1993 allegations. The film is allegorical in this way…. an “allegory of the allegations.”

    And I think it’s very true, Willa, that the outpouring of grief that you mentioned is deeply connected with Michael’s (perceived) “eccentric oddities.”

    In my view, “Ghosts” stands as an acknowledgement of one strategy of resistance, based in the knowledge that direct denial of characterizations won’t work, won’t dispel an impression that has been formed. Instead, the terms of the entire discourse has to be turned on its head: instead of a pejorative word, “freak” (like the n-word and q-words) are subject to reclamation and transformation, they become “cool” adjectives in their own right, badges of honor to those who wear them proudly.

    So perhaps we (collectively, in our outpouring of grief) felt that we were allowed to love Michael not *in spite of* his eccentric oddities, but precisely *because* of them.

    In “Ghosts,” the Maestro (as “trickster”) knows that direct confrontation will not work here, and the old adage, “it’s better to show than to tell” applies here. What follows is a series of practical jokes, as he prepares his enactment of demonstrable power.

    His “ghouls”—possibly the staff of his estate (?)—climb the walls à la Fred Astaire in the film “Royal Wedding” (1951), where a room was specially built to produce the illusion that Astaire is dancing on the floor, the walls, and even the ceiling.

    Just as “Billie Jean,” “Bad,” “Remember the Time” and other short films reveal Michael as a protagonist who possesses the supernatural power to transform objects and energies, in “Ghosts” we see this power as a kind of wish-fulfillment about the instruction of others. What is considered rude, impossible, or “inappropriate” behavior in real life can be accomplished by an unseen (ghostly) agent acting as his proxy. So we see a woman telling her son, “stop hitting your brother!” while she (hypocritically) hits him. An unseen force (controlled, of course, by the Maestro’s own will, as in “mind over matter”), then hits the woman herself, as a call to mindfulness regarding her hypocritical behavior.

    Michael, onetime master of public relations, had lost control of the discourse around his life by the time “Ghosts” was made. One striking moment that occurs in his interview with Oprah (1993) was one in which he tried, unsuccessfully, to “spin” the line of questioning in a direction that was more to his liking. It went like this:
    Oprah: I just want to get this straight. You are not taking anything to change the color of your skin.

    MJ: Oh God, no.

    Oprah: You’re not purposely….

    MJ: We’re trying to control it. Using makeup evens it out cause it makes blotches on the skin, and I have to even out my skin. But you know, why is that so important? That’s… that’s not important to me. I’m a great fan of art. I love Michelangelo. If I had a chance to talk to him or read about him, I would want to know about what inspired him to become who he is, the anatomy of his craftsmanship — not about who he went out with last night, or why he decided to sit out in the sun so long, what’s wrong with….. that’s what’s important to me.

    Oprah: How much plastic surgery have you had?

    MJ: Very, very little. You can count them on two fingers. Let’s say this. If you want to know about those things, all the nosy people in the world, read my book.

    Oprah: But once we say it, once we say it, we don’t have to say it anymore. Read my book, Moonwalker. It’s in my book. You know, let’s just put it this way. If all the people in Hollywood who have had plastic surgery, if they went on vacation, there wouldn’t be a person left in town.

    Oprah: I think you might be right.

    MJ: I think I am right. It’d be empty.

    Here, Michael’s attempt to turn a celebrity interview into something more substantial foundered on Oprah’s immediate decision to ignore his suggestion to talk about his art—as if such (impertinent!) questions had been off the table for so long, they didn’t even register as a remote possibility. She was, in essence, deaf to his suggestion. Stunningly, Michael didn’t press the issue, but instead slipped right back into the mold that Oprah held out for him: the question of his plastic surgery. (Both very quickly reverted to the roles that seemed permanently carved in stone for them, according to the time-honored tradition of interviewers and celebrities in the modern media.)

    But in “Ghosts,” Michael seems to seize the opportunity to wrest control (literally) of his image and his meaning, regaining some part of the discursive power that he had lost. He achieves this not through language, but instead through the way he harnesses a supernatural ability to affect change in the physical environment. One striking example is the moment in which he enacts his own disintegration and death, at the insistence of the Mayor—only to reappear again as a huge “monster” in the window, sending the Mayor into an abject panic and instigating his final flight from his adversary’s lugubrious castle.

    In this fictive world, any action invites a reciprocal reaction. The Mayor, while clearly the Maestro’s opposite number, is also the flip side of the same coin. The Mayor ingests, through his mouth, a “part” of the Maestro, in the form a clear gelatinous substance that signifies the Maestro’s unseen “essence” He then finds he has acquired some of the Maestro’s traits, including his ability to dance (it’s not clear whether the Mayor enjoys this momentary leave from his own body), and the tendency to turn into a grotesque monster himself. Michael implies: what is in me, is in you, too. All that I am, you also are. He not only frightens others, but has the capacity to be frightened himself, as, in the end, one of the kids holds the skull-mask over his face, turning the joke back on the Maestro.

    The illusion of the Maestro’s power (as in “The Wizard of Oz”) is undone when he effectively “pulls back the curtain” during the end credits. As the credits roll, he reveals his process of being made up and transformed into the Mayor, much the same way he had, years earlier, showed the spectator the “magic” behind his transformation into the were wolf in “The Making of Thriller.” We might see this as self-reflexive “undoing” of the illusion…. here, the magician is not the Maestro himself, but those who minister to him as he sits in his makeup chair, inert, “merely” an object, a model or an actor.

    In ”Ghosts,” I think that Michael has actualized a deep fantasy that lies within every child, youth, and even adult who wishes to see justice done and—being only human, and not omnipotent —lacks the means to effect necessary change. In fact, one extremely appealing aspect of the filmmaker’s work is having the ability to represent such change, even on a small scale: you can create entire worlds, make things happen within them, order them as you wish.

    Thanks again! I DO hope that sometime we can talk about Hyde’s ideas of the “trickster” figure, Scarry’s ideas about the body, Kristeva’s concept of the “abject,” and Bakhtin’s notion of the “carnival” and the place of the grotesque. I’d love it!

    • Thanks for the quotes from the Oprah ‘interview’–it’s laughable that her response to MJ’s very explicit comment about Michelangelo and how an interviewer would ask him about his art rather than his dates–and Oprah’s next question is—-how many PLASTIC SURGERIES have you had? It’s really incredible. She was obsessed–and Diane Sawyer does the same thing in her interview–how much money was the settlement to Chandler–how much? how much? It really is a ‘bloodhound’ intensity that ignores any wider perspective.

      Your argument regarding the ‘eccentric oddities’ paving the way for the outpouring of grief is intriguing but I am not sure I buy it b/c how many people actually saw ‘Ghosts’ for one thing–it is not even now out on DVD–and how many people were turned off completely by the ‘eccentric oddities’? Not saying there is not validity to your analysis but I think MJ related to people deeply in other ways than his ‘eccentric oddities’–his amazing dancing, singing, music, films, among other things. (Also his books were best sellers.) His massive impact was always there but it was a ‘given’–when he left, it was a shock b/c he had been there for 40 years!! I have lost both my parents and a death of someone so close means a redefinition–it creates a space in which one can reassess the person and the relationship. Parents are also those whom we expect (mostly) to be there always and I never expected them to die–even though that wasn’t rational. Also MJ was on the verge of a comeback–just weeks away–this increased the shock. Death seems to purify the love we feel–this is how I feel about my parents.

      I agree MJ is clearly dealing with the allegations in ‘Ghosts’ in the music and the plot–it is courageous of him to play the mayor and role-play or enact the accusations. Yes, he shows magical power (maestro) that he shows in other films–it is almost a trademark of his work–even in his stage performances–as when he stops the soldier coming from the tank, or when he flies out as ‘a rockman’ or enters in a spaceship!!!

      The ending of ‘Ghosts’ with the boy frightening the townspeople and maestro is very interesting in light of the second allegations!

    • Wow, Nina, so much to think about here. I love the way you focus on Ghosts as a “strategy of resistance” – a strategy that, as you say, is

      based in the knowledge that direct denial of characterizations won’t work, won’t dispel an impression that has been formed. Instead, the terms of the entire discourse has to be turned on its head: instead of a pejorative word, ‘freak’ (like the n-word and q-words) are subject to reclamation and transformation, they become ‘cool’ adjectives in their own right, badges of honor to those who wear them proudly.

      I think this is a very potent way to approach Ghosts because it can lead to powerful new interpretations of how this “strategy of resistance” plays out, both in the film and in Michael Jackson’s life. I keep thinking about the conclusion of Lewis Hyde’s seminal work, Trickster Makes the World. Hyde cites a James Baldwin quotation:

      People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them … and hence all Black men have toward all white men an attitude that is designed, really, to rob the white man of the jewel of his naïveté, or else to make it cost him dear.

      Hyde then uses Baldwin’s words as a launchpad to propose a fascinating “strategy of resistance” for confronting our social “conditioning,” as Michael Jackson called it, particularly in terms of racial prejudice or other biases based on difference:

      For Baldwin, the “white man” (or anyone unconscious of history and human artifice) takes the local and contingent to be universal and essential … Whosoever hopes to loosen that “binding” and reshape the essences will have to “steal the jewel of naïveté,” which means to engage in transgressions sufficiently mind-boggling that illusion must resurface from the unconscious, where it lies forgotten. (354)

      I think in Ghosts, we see Michael Jackson mapping out “transgressions sufficiently mind-boggling” that we are forced to confront our own biases about what is normal and natural (or “universal and essential”) and discover that what seemed natural is in fact a human construct. Or as you put it, “the entire discourse has to be turned on its head.”

  18. A great article as always….as to Michael’s recent “popularity” you are right. His “death” raised a wave of sympathy. It’s like his absence allowed in a way people to focus more on his music and art than to his life/lifestyle…..I strongly believe and there’s no way that someone can change my mind about this, that an “active” MJ somehow posed a “threat” to the music industry’s “status quo”….MJ is a person who will speak his mind….and that’s annoying to people

  19. I apologize for my English.
    I have always appreciated MJ, I was not really a fan (but I’ve never been about anyone…) and I’m proud I had never judged him when he was alive, even during the process and never in his worst moments.
    I am here to ask you one thing on which the last three years of great and global “closer” to the MJ I have often thought, and now I get the courage to ask you, great lovers and great hearts MJ’s experts . Excuse me my language is not good to express well, I do not want to criticize Michael right now, indeed.
    I read on my friend’s Nicoletta post she mention ‘”self irony” about Michael. Well. I always thought that the salient feature of his art, drama, prevented him of the ability to have healthy self-irony.
    His performances so perfect, his videos so full of meaning important, so revolutionary, yet I do not know how to say, serious, very serious, full of disarming artistic purity!
    Throughout his artistic production, I have always perceived severity, and total inability to play down his art and himself.
    I believe that this has made him more vulnerable to the attacks of all kinds. Even when he asks “Are you scared baby?” I perceive that the tone is tragic, full of high value that folds in the direction of criticism and mockery. it is obvious that these are my own feelings on which I speak for some time.
    I always felt sorry to see Michael constantly “defend” himself and his artistic work with the force of a tragic despair.
    Tragic, dramatic, played … He loved the genre and perhaps it had shaped his work. The echo of the case and the glove, in Billie Jean, refers to the sadness of C.Chaplin, the fatigue of his perfect live performance seem to defer to the Herculean efforts of a titanic race elitist, artistic and above, the most dramatic.And sometimes I wonder, so stupidly, the tabloids, the public gossip, all the evil that took advantage of his artistic purity and soul, as would have been if he had been in grade to express artistically a good laugh, to lighten the tone, make fun of himself, of his audience and, in some ways even his perfect art and tragic?
    I know that I’m speculating about the impossible because Michael was Michael because his soul was that, nothing else.

    • It’s hard to laugh about being accused of molesting children, hard to laugh about being bullied. Bullies pick on the vulnerable–those who are bullied suffer psychological effects–depression, withdrawal, some even commit suicide. MJ was extremely courageous–but he was vulnerable–his childhood, being a Black male in a dominant White culture, having vitiligo, no privacy, a male caring about children’s issues (traditionally ‘women’s work’ in a sexist culture)–MJ was a very dignified man and deserved respect–we will not see another like him again–massive talent, massive courage, an artist who took massive risks to ‘change the world.’

      • Thanks, aldebaran, in this sense you are absolutely right, although I was referring to an “artistic” and mind attitude about Michael.
        It is clear that what Michael has unjustly suffered is horrible and no one could certainly make a laugh over such terrible speculation, But I thought that if his spirit from beginning had been more artistically ironical, more uncaring, maybe he got less meat to dogs that have bitten his whole life.

        it is clear that this is just futile reflections, what really remains is regret for having lost a man and an artist, like you said, that we will never ever.Unfortunately.

        • Yes, I agree it would have been better if the dogs had gotten less meat from MJ–I should say the VULTURES. I agree it would have been better if he could have defended himself better or had people around him who could have defended him better. (I personally wish he had gotten a better therapist to help him heal his pain and a better spiritual advisor.) But as MJ himself said, ‘The bigger the star, the bigger the target.’ In the film for ‘Why You Wanna Trip on Me,’ there is a scene at the end where he is tied down like Gulliver by the Lilliputians (Gulliver’s Travels)–he does rise up and break his bonds, but this is an apt metaphor. There were SO MANY attacking him that he was probably overwhelmed by the sheer volume as well as the cruelty, as far as his ability to respond to all of them. He had many handicaps–I admire him tremendously. I do wish he could have silenced the meat-taking crowd–maybe people grieved so deeply b/c they knew what he had suffered and that he did not get his big comeback that he worked so hard for. On the other hand, b/c the rehearsals were filmed–he did get it in ‘This Is It.’ But he was not there to hear the wild applause.

          The bottom line for MJ is that he wanted to change the world FOR THE BETTER and he did–you have to say ‘Hats off’ to someone like that! He gave us joy–in many ways (as was said on a PBS interview after his death)–he SUSTAINED us.

          Here is the link to the PBS interview with Cornell West of Princeton Univ and Eric Dyson of Georgetown Univ.

        • To add another comment–I see what you mean about his ‘seriousness’–that being lighter would have perhaps disarmed the critics somewhat–but I do think no matter what he did, they were out for blood–for $$$ (their real meat). Keep in mind also that MJ was trained like a performing seal from a young age, from the age of 5 he was rehearsing!! He was pulled out of school and tutored–he never finished high school–he was self-educated (except for his tutor, who gave him a love of books and learning). Think of his roots in Gary, Indiana–think of where he went–what he achieved. Can we really ask for more? Yes, he took on the Herculean task of cleaning out the Aegean stables–I think he did a pretty amazing job with that! He took on issues that governments could not handle and still cannot handle–aids, child abuse and neglect, poverty, racism, environmental degradation, wars. It was his seriousness that enabled him to see all these problems, to care about them, and to try and make the world a better place.

          • Aldebaran, what you say is very true and I agree with you especially when you consider the context from which Michael came. He was a soul truly unique and special, and perhaps, as has it often happened throughout history, he was attacked and considered freaks precisely because of this exceptional ability and sensitivity and because “he wanted to change the world FOR THE BETTER “.
            Excuse me if I can not express myself well in English, but I would say I feel your own feelings and I’m glad you understand that my “serious” and understood what I wanted to say.

            I would like to ask you if the video to which you refer in connection with the ropes and Gulliver is “Leave me alone” or if I’m wrong.
            Thank you for the link but when I click it I get “We are unable to locate the page you’ve requested.” Is perhaps a problem with my computer?
            I thank again with all my heart.

          • Francesca and Aldebaran, for some reason when I want to leave a reply this morning the site keeps taking me here, so it may not be your computer Francesca. I wanted to thank you for leaving the link for the Cornell West/Eric Dyson/Tavis Smiley show on PBS, Aldebaran. I saw it for the first time last night and was so grateful for such an intelligent discourse between the three about Michael. I would have loved for that conversation to continue for a few more hours!

          • Francesca, try this link for the Cornell West, etc interview: There may be an annoying commercial first, but the discussion is so good! And I see that though the comment page takes me to the wrong conversation, when it posts it’s actually in the right place after all!

        • Yes–the film is ‘Leave Me Alone’–thanks–I couldn’t recall the title in my post. Sorry the link I gave didn’t work, but yours4ever posted one that does work (thanks for that).

          I think MJ had a wonderful sense of humor (to get back to laughing) and was a prankster; he definitely had his lighter moments. He cared so deeply about children’s issues, children’s suffering, in a way I think we can’t imagine b/c most of us don’t have that sensibility that lets us visit sick children in hospitals, and orphanages, so I think it was so devastating for him that this deep issue was turned around and made the basis of allegations that he ABUSED children–the ones he loved so much. To make a parallel, I am very sensitive to any abuse of animals–I have that sensibility–and it is something that affects me so much. I have a hard time even hearing about it–it makes me very sad and outraged. I care deeply about the nonhumans. So if I compare my feelings to how MJ felt about children, I can understand that on this issue so close to the heart, there can be no irony–it is felt too deeply. Thanks for your compassion.

  20. This is a great article, but I sometimes wonder; if you are Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, with BILLIONS of fans around the world, do you really care about what some ignorant rednecks in America think? The negative stories about Michael were not hitting newstands elsewhere in the same way they did in the US. sometimes I wonder if Michael was being genuine in singing songs like these. He knew Americans weren’t so fond of him anymore, but he ended up going on a world tour anyway after the allegations; History was his high highest grossing tour, and he only did two dates in the US.One critic called Michael the world’s most “helpless billionaire” because most of HIStory and Blood O.T.D.F were about the media’s treatment of him.The stories about the hyperbaric chamber, skin bleaching, and the Elephant man’s bones only spread like wildfire because of Michael’s noticable silence on the matters, and then he plays the victim. He was interviewed by Jet and the interviewer asked him about the Elephant Man film, but Michael brought up the topic of the bones all on his own and said he went to see them twice. Why say that and fuel the lies? And why couldn’t he have just told people “Look, I have lupus and vitiligo” and been an advocate for both disorders? I understand the silence about plastic surgery-that’s the norm now in Hollywood-but the other things, I think the public deserved to know.

    I honestly don’t think Michael cared too much about public opinion; why else would he settle out of court, knowing people would think he’s guilty? The Ghosts video though, does allude to the 93 allegations, I must admit, and of course, being accused of something so horrendous-and dealing with a snake like Sneddon-would take it’s toll on anyone. But songs like “Scream,” and “tabloid Junkie” I don’t feel are honest. It didn’t matter what people here thought, because there were countless others elsewhere-especially in Japan- who loved him unconditionally. I think he was trying to make himself appear pitiful, to be honest.

    I don’t mean to bash anyone, I’m just sharing my opinion.

    • “I honestly don’t think Michael cared too much about public opinion; why else would he settle out of court, knowing people would think he’s guilty?”

      Hi Hilary. I’m not sure how much you know about the events of 1993 – I know I knew very little about what happened until after he died – but it’s an extremely complicated situation. And the more I’ve learned about it, the more I’ve come to sympathize with his position. In fact, knowing what I know now, if I were in his situation in 1993, I would have done exactly what he did: I would have settled. I never thought I would say that, but it’s true – I would. And I bet if you were in his situation, you would too.

      Joie and I talked about this a little bit in a post a few months ago. I think once you learn more, his reasons for settling will begin to make sense.

      • Hey Willa,

        I’ve researched the 1993 case a lot in recent weeks, and I understand why he settled. But according to Randy Taraborelli (I know the fan base has some mixed views about him) Michael said he didn’t “give a f*ck” if people thought he was guilty for settling. That’s what I meant. I also read on another site that about 85-95% of civil suits are settled out of court, so anyone who thinks a settlement means an admission of guilt is just ignorant. And I think Michael didn’t care what they thought either. He knew people were ignorant and so he continued living his life the way he wanted-by still inviting children over to Neverland. I think he became more genuine in his LIFESTYLE in the 90’s, but in the 80’s, I think he was the one leaking untruths to the press, thinking there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That’s why I don’t get why he keeps singing about himself as a victim, when his actions show he doesn’t really care too much about people’s opinions.

        • Actually Hilary, I respectfully disagree with you. I actually think Michael personally cared, maybe a bit too much, of what people thought of him. I think Michael wanted acceptance and validation and since he never got that in a healthy relationship as a child, I think he sought it out from the public and fans. Even better, his only validation as a child came from his worth in performance. I understand your comment about ‘victim’ and I’ve actually felt that way about people in my own life, but after reading so much about Michael, I actually feel like he is not wanting to be a victim or wanting people to feel sorry for him. He actually wants someone to acknowledge the pain he feels, even if his only outlet for expressing it is in his art. And then there is another factor that Willa, you and I will never understand and that is the fact that Michael was not just Michael. He was also a term I like to use for the billion dollar industry behind him – MJJ Inc. So I think Michael the person was advised, rightly or wrongly, to take the ‘hit’ and settle for the sake of MJJ Inc. Professionally it was great. Not only did MJJ Inc continue to make money, but also the media made billions of $$$$$ off Michael as well. I think Michael the person suffered greatly and I think it is one of the reasons for his the issues he struggled with in life. Not all, but one.

          • Hi Destiny (and others),

            This is an interesting discussion! I love how fans can respectfully disagree on this site and not make personal attacks on each other, unlike other forums and blogs.

            You say Michael never got love from a healthy relationship as a child; that I don’t feel is completely accurate. Part of the reason why I think he was ‘playing’ a victim is because Michael is the only Jackson that claims he was so severely abused by his father. The other Jacksons just say they were beat, and call that discipline, but Michael made his father look like a real monster. Michael is the only Jackson brother who said he never had a childhood, when his brothers had the exact same life that he did (as children). Why aren’t they saying they feel deprived of normal experiences? I’m not denying that touring at such a young age had a toll on him (Didn’t Stan Katz say Michael was a regressed 10 year old in the trial?) but I don’t blame his experiences for that. I think Michael internalized everything in a different way from his brothers. I used to not believe him when he said he never had a childhood; I thought that was another publicity thing, but then I heard that tape of him in the Murray trial and cried.

            I guess anyone would want people to think you’re innocent, but if your accuser doesn’t want to testify and you’re forced to settle, I guess you wouldn’t, because there are billions of people who still love you regardless. As for the other stuff (the plastic surgery), I still don’t think he cared too much, to be honest. I’m not saying Michael was a bad person or anything. I don’t think there are more than 10 people on the planet who could live that kind of life in the fishbowl, so in some ways, I sympathize with his choices. But I think he brought some of that ridicule upon himself for not responding in an appropriate way.

            The biggest reason I have for thinking he played a victim was the 60 minutes interview where he showed the bruises on his arm. How can handcuffs bruise your forearm? The bruises should be around your wrists. Roger Friedman said they were self inflicted and makeup was used, and I think I believe him. The police did an investigation into those claims by Michael, and they couldn’t find corroborating witnesses. Michael was kept in a holding cell with a toilet, according to the police. What bathroom was he talking about being locked in for 45 minutes, then? The entire arrest was in 63 minutes. He also said his shoulder was dislocated, but we see him leaving the police station normally…

            I wish to stress that I do NOT think Michael was guilty of ever molesting a child. At times, i doubted, but I believe now, he was 100% innocent. But I don’t think we can believe some of the other things he said. I’m not even going to say anything about the paternity of his kids; that’s a whole other can of worms (but now that I brought it up [LOL]; he raised them, so that makes him their dad, end of discussion).

            I’m not trying to start a debate or anything. I just wanted to share my views. This site is full of TRUE MJ fans, people who didn’t abandon him after 1985, and defended him in his darkest times, so I like hearing your different opinions, even if I disagree. Elsewhere on the Internet, you have a bunch of 12 year olds who never knew who Michael was until June 25th, 09 providing their ‘insight’.

            I apologize, Willa and Joie, if this is too unrelated to the post; if you don’t like off-topic discussions, then I won’t do it again. But I can’t help but feel this way about Michael. Please correct me if I’m wrong about any of the facts.

            Looking forward to your thoughts! 🙂


          • Hilary – Suzy below states some really good evidence as to why Michael settled in 1993, which for me tells me that if he was innocent in 1993, then he was innocent in 2005 because there are all the same players in both cases. I think we both agree on his innocence. But again, I personally believe that all members of the Jackson family have serious issues and I believe that each handles it in a different way. I believe that members of the family were abused physically and psychologically and not just by Joe, but by Katherine and people in the music industry. And feeling that the DA’s office and police in Santa Barbara County are corrupt at for even hounding Michael for decades, it would not surprise me if they had 63 minutes alone with him and would try to bully him even more. So with the above examples that you stated, I would be inclined to believe Michael 100% because the other parties have shown me moreso than Michael to be abusive and corrupt.

  21. Michael settled because he was put in a very difficult situation legally. This is well described in Geraldine Hughes’s book Redemtion which I recommend to everybody wanting to know why Michael settled. To sum it up:

    Two proceedings were going on parallely: a criminal and a civil proceeding. It’s the criminal proceeding that can result in jail time for the alleged perpetrator, the civil can only bring you money. The Chandlers filed their civil lawsuit in September, 1993, less than a month after they made Dr. Mathis Abrams report the case to authorities. In that they demanded $30 million from Michael. This is very unusual, because normally civil lawsuits are only filed after the criminal case is completed. At least when you seek justice, not money.

    The problem with the civil case preceding the criminal case is that it can potentially violate the defendant’s constitutional rights because it can give the prosecution in the criminal trial a major advantage because they have the opportunity to monitor the civil trial and study the defense’s strategy. They can then adjust their claims and strategy in kind. Furthermore, unlike in a criminal proceeding, where the defendant can constitutionally refuse to be deposed without consequence, a defendant in a civil trial cannot refuse it free of consequence. A deposition in a civil case, held prior to a criminal proceeding, has the potential of violating a defendant’s Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify in a criminal case. The prosecution can use the testimony from the civil deposition in the criminal trial.

    In addition, the burden of proof in a civil trial is lesser than in a criminal trial. For example, hearsay evidence is allowed in civil court while it is not allowed in criminal court. (The Chandlers had already selected witnesses for a civil trial, people such as Blanca Francia and Phillip and Stella Le Marque who were paid by the media to tell salacious stories about Jackson.) So a civil trial is riskier even if the defendant is innocent. And if Michael had lost the civil trial it could have prejudiced the jury in an upcoming criminal trial too.

    Because of all this there have been many precedent cases where civil proceedings have been frozen to let the criminal ahead. Geraldine Hughes cites such cases. According to such precedent cases: “When both criminal and civil proceedings arise out of the same or related transactions, the defendant is entitled to a Stay of Discovery and trial in the civil action until the criminal matter has been fully resolved.”

    So Michael’s attorneys were fighting to get the criminal proceedings ahead, while the Chandlers were fighting for the civil proceedings to get ahead. This is also proven by this part in Ray Chandler’s book All That Glitters. The conversation is between Larry Feldman, the Chandlers’ civil lawyer and Evan Chandler:

    „Later in the afternoon, after everyone had consumed their holiday repast, Larry Feldman called Evan with news they could all be thankful for. “Hey, Evan, you gotta hear this one. Howard Weitzman demoted Fields again. They definitely don’t want your deposition, or June’s deposition. They don’t want to preserve anything. If they’re gonna make a deal they don’t want anything on the record about Jackson.”

    No shit! Larry, these guys are in a real mess.”

    “Yeah, they fucked this up unbelievably. What could be better? But I’m going forward. We’re going to push on. So far there ain’t a button I’ve missed. The only thing we gotta do is keep the criminal behind us. I don’t want them going first.”

    Larry had said it before, but it hadn’t registered in Evan’s brain till now.

    “You mean if they indict, the criminal case automatically goes before us?”
    “Jesus Christ!”
    “Right! So we don’t want that.”

    “How would you feel if the DA let you try their case?”
    “Oh, I’d love it! That’d be the best.”
    “Would they let you do it?”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “Don’t you have Jordie’s testimony to trade on?”
    “Yeah, but I want to use it so they’ll stay behind me. Then they won’t have to deal with this either.”
    “It’s to their advantage to stay behind you, right?”
    “Right, to their political advantage.”

    Well, well…

    Remember that it’s the criminal trial that can put one in jail and the civil trial is only about money!
    Yet, Michael’s attorneys wanted the criminal to get ahead, while the Chandlers were trying to delay it to keep the civil ahead!

    Precedent cases were supporting Michael’s side, however the Chandlers had one trump card: Jordan’s age! Geraldine Hughes:

    “Michael Jackson lost all four motions. It was obvious from a legal standpoint of view that the scales of justice were not pointing in Michael Jackson’s favor. Instead, it was weighing heavily in favor of the 13-year old boy. Michael Jackson’s attorneys were applying precedent laws which were applied in a similar sexual battery case. Pacers Inc. v. Superior Court specifically held that it is improper invasion of the defendant’s constitutional rights not to stay civil proceedings where a criminal investigation is ongoing. But Mr. Feldman’s trump card was, “a child’s memory is developing,” and their inability to, “remember like an adult.” This law was designed to protect a small child’s ability to recall for prolonged periods of time after being a victim and/or witness to a crime. This case, however, involved a 13-year old boy, who was soon to be turning 14 years old.”

    Using this reasoning, Feldman filed a Motion for Trial Preference for the civil proceedings. “This is a special request to have the trial heard within 120 days after the motion is granted”. Hughes:

    ““Mr. Feldman filed a declaration by Dr. Evan Chandler in support of the Motion for Trial Preference which had one statement: that the child was under the age of 14. That was it! Dr. Chandler did not state anything else in his declaration, which is a written statement under oath declaring statements of truth. I have never seen a declaration concerning an important case this short in my entire legal career. A declarant will usually attest to several facts, especially concerning an important case like this one. They will also declare that said facts are true and correct and state their willingness to be called to competently testify under penalty of perjury. Is it possible that the information that Dr. Chandler declared was the only information he could competently testify under penalty of perjury?”

    Under extremely unfavorable conditions, Michael’s and his attorneys might have found themselves in a position where they would have had to fight and defend Michael on two fronts at the same time – in both a civil and criminal trial. On top of that they would have to prepare for a civil trial within 120 days, while the police for the criminal proceedings had seized all of his personal records and refused to provide copies or even a list of what they took. Hughes: “The District Attorney’s office was operating, with the blessings of the Court, in violation of Michael Jackson’s constitutional rights, and the Court was weighing heavily in favor of the 13-year old boy.”

    So this is what was Michael’s main reason to settle. And it’s a myth that he bought himself out of the criminal indictment. The settlement only settled the civil proceedings! It’s not allowed by law to settle criminal proceedngs! The criminal were going on and they were brought in front of two Grand Juries in February-April, 1994 and none of them found evidence sufficient to indict Michael!

  22. Suzy, you need to put this information in a Youtube video, pronto! There are a lot of losers out there who think Michael “paid off” his accusers (as if that was legally possible). Unlike most people, I doubted Michael’s innocence in 2005, not 1993, only because the Arvizo’s didn’t file a civil suit, and the charges they brought against him were so colorful, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could make them up. But I spent a LOT of time reading court transcripts and learning the histories of both the Chandler and Arivo families. In the end, you can’t prove something didn’t happen, as Mary Fischer said, but you can look at the people making the claims and decide who’s more credible. The Arizo’s are professional con artists, and the Chandlers weren’t any better. In fact, in 2006, Jordy sued his father for life threatening bodily harm. Clearly, this guy wasn’t accusing Michael for his son’s safety.

    What I think is horribly sad though is the fact that whenever anyone is asked in interviews “why did Michael settle” the reasons they give are crazy. Frank Dileo and Tom Mesereau were on Tru Crime with Aphrodite Jones and they said “To Michael jackson, $20 Million is like a quarter,” which doesn’t help the cause. Why can’t they include THIS information? The worst offenders though are the members of the Jackson family. Jermaine was on Joy Behar’s show, defending Michael by saying “Why didn’t Michael go after the boy’s mother?” I’m sorry, but WTF!? I feel like you guys know more about both cases than the family.

    @Destiny That’s a good point you brought up. Sneddon/SBPD clearly had a vendetta against Michael, so Michael is the more credible one in that situation. But it’s the photo that bothers me…Then again, why would Michael LIE on national television, when he’s facing 20 years in prison? OK fine, you’ve convinced me. LOL. Now I have to feel even MORE sorry for this guy… 😦

    Oh, this is totally off topic, but you guys are smart, so you probably know. Was Michael being charged with molesting Gavin alone, or was he being charged with molesting Gavin AND Star in 2005?

    • He was accused of molesting Gavin–Star claimed to have seen some of this.

    • I strongly suggest you read Aphrodite Jones’ book about the 2005 trial– ‘The Michael Jackson Conspiracy.’ You are saying things here that tell me you do not have the info you need to understand the 2005 trial. For example, the Arvizos COULD NOT file a civil suit first–they HAD to file a criminal case. Why ? B/c Sneddon had the law in CA CHANGED after the 1993 case was settled–the new law says the criminal trial MUST come first. Actually, this is better for the defendant (for reasons Suzy explained)–it means there is no double-jeopardy or loss of a person’s right to due process guaranteed under the Constitution. The Avizos wanted to win the criminal case and THEN they would have sued for damages–big time– in the civil suit.

  23. Hilary: I want to recommend a book to you, ‘My Friend Michael’ by Frank Cascio. He is a 1st hand witness, as a child and an adult, to Michael’s life from his own experiences over 25 years. He addresses some of the issues you bring up in a straight forward, honest way, from his individual perspective.

  24. Hilary–I think it is obvious that MJ was EXTREMELY upset about the allegations in ’93–one person close to him during this time period has attested to this–Lisa Marie–she has made it abundantly clear how upset he was. I would not give a quote from a dubious author much importance–Taraborelli–this is a person who was not close to MJ EVER, and knew him only slightly when he lived at Havenhurst. Geraldine Hughes’ book Redemption is essential to understanding why MJ settled (thanks MUCH for the great summary, Suzy.

    There is a blog website rhythmofthetide that details the child abuse issue from MJ and other people. Think about it–when the group formed Michael was the youngest–it was during rehearsals that Joe would get abusive (not exclusively, but this was a frequent time he was abusive, when he was ‘training’ the group). Look at the size differences in the J5 when they are performing–MJ is a small child and the brothers are grown. Getting hit or beaten when you are small (more defenseless) is more traumatic than when you are grown and close to adulthood–you have more physical and emotional development to handle the abuse when you are older. You can’t measure emotional pain–MJ clearly suffered.

    Your sources for your opinions are not reliable–Taraborelli, Roger Friedman, lots of people made huge amounts of $$ by lying about MJ. Diane Dimond claimed on Larry King and Fox Gretta Van Sustern that love letters between Jordan Chandler and MJ existed–they did not–there are too many lies out there, so you have to go to reliable sources.

    As far as why MJ settled in 93, in addition to the legal mess that Suzy summaries from Geraldine Hughes’ book, there is the awful fact of MJ’s humiliating strip-search–one of the worst violations that could have been done to anyone, let alone an artist of his stature. This was done on Dec. 23rd–right before Christmas–he settled a few days later. If you don’t think he cared about being strip-searched–letting a bunch of strangers look at him naked and take photos of his private parts for 20 minutes–you can see his impassioned response that he released to CNN, or the comments of Dr. Strick, who was there as the court appointed dermatologist.

    Stan Katz is not a reliable source–he was the psychologist for the infamous McMartin case, where children accused their daycare staff of abuse and claimed they were involved in Satanic rituals–all later proved FALSE even though the staff went to jail on the basis of the testimony. Katz was the psychologist for the Chandlers AND the Arvizos.

    As far as the 60 minutes interview–I would have to go back and look at the bruises–they were bad–and I don’t think make-up would do it–(I have to say I do not consider Frank Cascio a completely reliable source–he is Roger Friedman’s source). If there is something tight around a person’s wrist, then the swelling would be above the wrist, it seems to me. (I suffered some dog bites and my whole hand swelled up!) I know MJ much better than I know Frank Cascio, I know MJ from so many different avenues–his music, films, interviews (and he made the points you wanted him to make many times), performances, press conferences, books, etc.,–I feel I know him well and I believe him more than sources who knew him slightly, for short periods, or in limited ways.

    Have you read Dancing the Dream?

    • All excellent excellent points, aldebaran. I want to add that not only was Michael the youngest and smallest, as lead vocal and sometimes as a solo artist, he had the heaviest workload of all the brothers. This would also inform his experiences and longing for his lost childhood as he had to work harder and longer than the other brothers, at a younger age.

      • Great point, yours4ever, MJ did have the heaviest workload to carry the song and the performance in the J5! He showed so much INTEGRITY throughout his career. He expressed himself so powerfully in his music, as well as in many other ways–I recently heard a talk by ‘Sam’ of the MJ Academia Project–he talked about MJ’s song ‘Don’t Walk Away,’ where MJ asks so poignantly, ‘Why? all my dreams been broken?’–then he says, ‘Don’t let go. I don’t wanna walk away. Please don’t go.’

        I think we need to show as much courage and integrity and loyalty to what we hold in our hearts as MJ. He not only FIRED his abusive manager and father (Joe), he called him out on his abuse! And he had the courage to go solo when the family did not want him to. As Al Sharpton said in his memorial service speech–‘Michael never stopped’–he never stopped being great artist, never stopped fighting, never lost his humanity, never stopped loving.

        Here is a link to the talkshow–with Armond White and ‘Sam.’ The MJ Preservation Project.

        • There was another comment that Al Sharpton made at the memorial service, “there wasn’t anything strange about your Daddy. What was strange was what he had to deal with.” (not a direct quote but close I think). I didn’t understand the importance of that sentence until I had done a lot more reading and research about Michael. I don’t think anyone on earth has ever had to deal with as much or on as large a scale. He had to have been incredibly strong to maintain. My heart goes out to him daily for all he suffered through and how he still maintined his beautiful spirit.

          • I loved that quote from the memorial. Because it really WAS strange what he had to deal with. Blood sucking leeches willing to destroy thier children’s reputations for money, vitiligo, lupus, LaToya’s accusations, and his fame was unparalleled. I never thought of Michael as “weird” though, even when I was a kid, because I feel you can’t hold celebrities to the standards of ‘normal’ people.

          • Thank you, yours4ever, for your beautiful expression! Yes, my heart goes out to him daily too–we just didn’t know how much he had to deal with. When he sang (in ‘Childhood’)–‘no one understands me,’ he was speaking the truth. Now finally we are ‘getting it’ at last!

      • I wanted to add that right after Michael’s death there was an article in a local Chicago paper. The basis of the story was the J5’s time in East Chicago recording songs that would later be a part of the Steele Town records collection. But the impression that I got as the author tried to track down the actual recordings and the musicans that work on them was that Joe was willing to do whatever to have his children in the entertainment business, even if that meant leaving the other brothers out of a contract that would be just for Michael. I just wanted to point that out because I think it gives us a look at the kind of pressure Michael was under even as a young child. There was also a poster I saw of the J5 as a opening act (it was on some collector website). This was way before Motwon, actually with Bobby Taylor’s group. Even at 7 or 8 Michael was playing for 10 mights in a row. Again, just speaks to the pressure.

        • Thanks, Destiny, for this. I read that when MJ was young, I think around 9 or so, he got pneumonia. I know now that young kids do get pneumonia, even toddlers, but then it was very unusual for such a young child to get such a serious disease. I have had it once and I never want to get it again–I could barely walk from one room to the other. It really knocks you out for an extended time. So when MJ got it, all shows that were scheduled had to be cancelled–without him, no show was possible. Enormous pressure. His life as a child was very unhealthy–up late at night, in strip-clubs, being with adults ALMOST ALL THE TIME, and the pressure to rehearse, to perform, to be the family bread-winner. And he got pneumonia.

          I checked his concert history and I estimate he performed from 500-800 live concerts in his life–to around 10 million people! This does not account for the films, studio recordings, or the live media performances–just the concerts. There may have been even more b/c some in the early days were not recorded.

  25. @ Hilary

    “That’s why I don’t get why he keeps singing about himself as a victim, when his actions show he doesn’t really care too much about people’s opinions.”

    It’s one thing not to care about whether people think you sleep in a hyperbaric chamber or not, but how can one not care about it when he is accused of one of the most horrible crimes?

    He sang about him being a victim because he was! What was done to him both in 1993 and in 2005 and between is nothing but a modern day lynching and torture. Not with stones like in the past but with words. The media literally paid out millions of dollars to people to just to say the most horrible things about Michael! The DA didn’t leave him alone. How can you not care?

    “You say Michael never got love from a healthy relationship as a child; that I don’t feel is completely accurate. Part of the reason why I think he was ‘playing’ a victim is because Michael is the only Jackson that claims he was so severely abused by his father. The other Jacksons just say they were beat, and call that discipline, but Michael made his father look like a real monster. Michael is the only Jackson brother who said he never had a childhood, when his brothers had the exact same life that he did (as children). Why aren’t they saying they feel deprived of normal experiences?”

    Have you looked into the lives of the other Jackson kids? LaToya’s behaviour, Randy beating up his wives and children and even being in jail for that in the early 90s, Jermaine leaving kids left and right and then not taking care of them etc. etc. These people are obviously not healthy and did not grew up healthy and they all have issues. Just because they don’t acknowlede the source of their problems doesn’t mean Michael didn’t correctly identify that source. IMO he is the only one in the family who did and who more or less at least faced it.

    “(Didn’t Stan Katz say Michael was a regressed 10 year old in the trial?) “

    No. He said this in a conversation with a detective, not at the trial and this was just his opinion. He never sat down with Michael and talked to him so he cannot form an expert opinion on him. Also his expertise is pretty questionable when you know about his role in both the 1993 and 2005 cases and also in the infamous McMartin trial.

  26. @Suzy @aldebaran The reason I quoted Stan Katz is because even though he was pro-prosecution,he was saying something helpful. I know it was over the phone as well, which is what made that more interesting. What I didn’t know was that he never examined Michael. So I’ll never repeat that tidbit again.

    @aldebaran By the arvizos filing a civil suit, I meant AFTER the case. Tom Mesereau was asked that on Larry King the day after the verdict. I knew Tom Sneddon had some laws changed regarding civil suits during a criminal trial. And yes, I know about Dirty Diane Dimond’s lies on LKL; and now, she’s criticizing Sharpton and Jackson for advocating on the behalf of Trayvon Martin’s family, saying they are just seeking media attention (as if all of America didn’t already know who they were). I wrote a comment on her article calling that ironic coming from her, but of course, she wouldn’t approve comments that expose her hypocrisy. 🙂

    @Suzy I didn’t know Randy beat his wife and kids…How did you find that out? :O I knew Jermaine was, well, you know, but I never connected that with abuse. I guess I “liked” Jermain’s explanation better in YANA. But LaToya’s behaviour was cause of that Jack Gordon demon, wasn’t it? It’s hard to trust anything LaToya says, but I believe the spousal abuse and control. But in the end, I stick by my general point-Michael reacted to the abuse differently than his brothers. You guys have changed my opinion on Joe, though. I used to kind of fell sorry for him, for being villified in the public, because even Katherine the Saint defended him.

    As for Taraborelli-I know people write lies in books all the time, but usually their lies are coming from SOURCES, like Stacy Brown asking Bob Jones what happened with Michael and Jordy, and Diane Dimond and her lovely friends. But Taraborelli used direct quotes from Michael, Lisa Marie, even Donald Trump. Aren’t those quotes real? How can someone just make up some BS and publish it like that? I started doubting Taraborelli when he wrote an article saying the last four years were Michael’s happiest, after admitting the last time he saw Michael was the day he was acquitted. He said michael was so drugged up at the time, he didn’t even know he was found not guilty. Oh please-he was just stunned is all. Mesereau said Michael was NEVER on drugs during the trial.

    The reason why I asked about whether Michael was charged for abusing Star Arvizo was that I read somewhere that Star accused Michael of molesting him. Is that true? I couldn’t find the document/interview myself. If that’s what he said, then shouldn’t Michael have been charged with molesting Star?

    Thanks for clearing things up guys! 🙂

  27. @ Hilary

    “The reason I quoted Stan Katz is because even though he was pro-prosecution,he was saying something helpful.”

    No, he didn’t. If you read that quote in full that’s not helpful or pro-Michael at all. And it’s not very professional either. He is just speculating and guessing, not what you’d expect from a responsible professional therapist. And looking at his career it’s almost as if you want to falsely accuse somebody of child molestation you just have to call Dr. Katz. He will support your case, no matter how crazy it is and how many holes and inconsistencies and contradictions it has. I have my opinion about Dr. Katz as a professional and it’s not positive. No wonder he was the choice of both the Chandlers and the Arvizos.

    As for Randy. Here’s an article from 1991:

    There’s also a story about Tina Turner once shooting him. It was not without a reason. Randy was dating Tina’s assistant and he was abusive with her. When this happened Randy was raging and trying to break into Tina’s house to get to his girlfriend. It was self-defense and in defense of her assistant by Tina.

    LaToya: it’s simplicistic to blame everything on Jack Gordon. Why do you think LaToya hooked up with someone like him in the first place? And Katherine is no saint either.

    Michael did react to the abuse differently than his brothers, like he said to Glenda: he took it out on himself, not on others. But why should this make us question the legitimacy of his of his feelings and hurt about his childhood? Would it have been better if, instead of complaining, he’d have beaten his wives and children? His complaining was not whining or playing the victim: he WAS a victim of his childhood!

    “But Taraborelli used direct quotes from Michael, Lisa Marie, even Donald Trump. Aren’t those quotes real? “

    When Taraborelli writes there are two people in the room, say Michael and Lisa Marie, and then he quotes verbatim full conversations from them, how do you think those quotes could be real? Only if Taraborelli was a fly on the wall. Not likely.

    The Arvizos did accuse Michael initially of inappropriately touching Star as well, but then they somehow dropped it on the way to the trial.

    • I think the quote Michael says to his friend Glenda (which on on the YT tapes) is “They are angry and they hurt others. I’m angry and I hurt myself”. I hope I have that right, but still, it is very telling.

    • Right Suzy, just like they changed the dates of the supposed inappropriate behaviour. First they said it happened before the Bashir mockumentary, then changed it to taking place afterwards. What kind of sense does that make? The entire process, accusations and trial were a sham from the beginning.

  28. Thank you very much, Yours 4ever, I’ll try to figure out something even if it’s hard for me. You know, as Nicoletta was saying, here in Italy, does not circulate important issues about Michael and that little is just the usual trash about him. is very, very sad .
    thanks with all my heart.

  29. Hey Suzy,

    Yeah, I know the full quote Katz said…Very disgusting…But a few articles in Time Magazine also expressed those same thoughts. Like “could this boy-man know the difference between hugging and fondling,” or something to that effect. *shudders*

    I didn’t think of Taraborelli that way, but I’ve heard people argue that the reason why his book isn’t an authorized biography is because Michael didn’t want people to know the “truth” that Taraborelli does. LOL, sounds pretty dumb now. Michael’s wikipedia article (which has been locked since the day he died) is full of references to that book.

    So those Michael-Glenda tapes are real? I hoped they were, cause they reveal a lot. When Aphrodite Jones was on the Carlotta Chatwood show, she was asked if those tapes were real. Apparently they were going to be used in court to prove Michael wasn’t gay (or so Carlotta said), but Aphrodite said she’d never heard of them. Is that true?

    I thought it was suspicious that Sneddon wouldn’t charge Michael with molesting Star…How many times did they folks change thier stories? Unbelievable. And yet there are idiots who still think the man was guilty.

    I’m glad I came on here and posted my ‘doubts’, cause you guys cleared them up. I didn’t come on here doubting his innocence or his reasons for setting, but I learned even more on here to solidify my belief in his innocence. The majority of Michael Jackson “fans” are very misinformed (I don’t consider myself a “fan,” I just have immense respect) and stir up a lot of trouble. For instance, a girl who never really cared about Michael before that ill-fated day in 2009 FB messaged Star Arvizo after Michael’s death, expecting him to confess to lying, and just made things worse.

    The people on here are so intelligent and articulate, I wish the world knew THIS side of the fandom. 🙂 Now I gotta go through and read all the other posts on this blog! 😀

  30. @ Hilary

    “Yeah, I know the full quote Katz said…Very disgusting…But a few articles in Time Magazine also expressed those same thoughts. Like “could this boy-man know the difference between hugging and fondling,” or something to that effect. *shudders* “

    But this is NOT positive. They insinuate that MJ did the things that he was accused of, only because he was a regressed 10 year old he didn’t realize they were wrong. But it’s not true. He wasn’t a regressed 10 year old and he knew wrong from right and he never touched any child in an inappropriate way. Dozens of children testified to this fact in 1993 and in 2005! The people who insinuate he was regressed and he was touching kids out of ignorance should first prove he did touch kids inappropriately. But they can’t because it never happened!

    The Glenda tapes are real, but it’s a myth they wanted to used them in the 2005 trial.

  31. @Suzy It wasn’t until after I quoted Stan Katz that I remembered the full quote, so I agree it wasn’t positive (I should have made that more clear). I shouldn’t have used it. I just remembered it off the top of my head. Now that I know he was involved in the McMartin preschool incident, I’m even more angered at how people could find Michael guilty when everyone involved in the prosecution was scum. I was really shocked to find people connecting p***philia with the whole Peter Pan thing. It’s like everything he said could somehow be twisted and used against him.

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