The Trilogy: They Don’t See You As I Do

Willa:  So Joie, as Michael Jackson and his collaborators were preparing for the This Is It concerts in London, they created some film segments to be shown on that huge screen behind the stage during the performances of “Bad / They Don’t Care about Us,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Earth Song,” and “Thriller / Ghosts / Threatened.” Kenny Ortega included those films, or parts of them, in the movie, This Is It, and they’re very interesting – like little vignettes or short stories within the larger film.

I’m really intrigued by those short films and how they were going to be incorporated into the concerts. I’m especially intrigued by this one moment in This Is It, just as “Thriller” is about to segue into “Ghosts,” where we see Michael Jackson dancing to “Thriller,” then see a film clip of a rat climbing on an iron fence, and then see one of those huge ghost puppets that were going to be carried throughout the audience during “Ghosts.”

That moment is so interesting to me because, if I had to identify the works that best illustrate Michael Jackson’s aesthetic, I would have to say “Ben,” Thriller, and Ghosts. I find myself returning to these three works again and again when trying to clarify for myself Michael Jackson’s ideas, and his strategies for conveying those ideas. To me, they are the trilogy at the center of his belief system and his aesthetic. And for one brief moment in This Is It, they seem to come together – almost as if they are clasping hands.

Joie:  Ok, Willa, I have to be honest and say that you have me a little baffled here. Please explain what you mean about ‘the trilogy’ because, I’m having difficulty understanding how these three works connect for you because, to me – on the surface anyway – the song “Ben” has very little to do with the Thriller and Ghosts short films.

Willa:  Well, for me, Michael Jackson was always very interested in “difference” – how we designate it, how we perceive it, and how we respond to it. Because he was Black and because the U.S. is so fixated on race, we tend to interpret his work in terms of racial prejudice – and it’s true that challenging racist ideas and biases was very important to him. But I think he was also talking about difference more generally, and working toward overcoming boundaries of difference based on race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, disability, height, weight, wealth, social status, or even just a vague sense that someone is “weird” or “freakish” or uncomfortably odd in some way.

And I definitely see this in “Ben” – this impulse to question how we perceive and designate difference, and to challenge the prejudices that often result from that. After all, “Ben” is a story about a rat who is despised by most people simply because he’s a rat.  But he’s befriended by a boy who is able to see beyond those prejudices and love him for who he is inside. As the boy sings,

Ben, most people would turn you away
I don’t listen to a word they say
They don’t see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I’m sure they’d think again
If they had a friend like Ben

There have been other works that have tried to turn rats and mice into appealing characters – for example, Stuart Little, or Ratty in Wind in the Willows, or Ralph in Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle stories, or Mrs. Tittlemouse in the Beatrix Potter stories.

Joie:  Or Mrs. Fribsy and The Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brian. I love that book!

Willa:  Oh, that’s a great example! Or more recently, there’s Ratatouille or The Tale of Despereau. But what’s interesting is that in all of these works, these characters are made acceptable by making them less rodent-like and more human – in other words, by making them more “normal” from our point of view. They wear human clothes. They pilot a boat or ride a motorcycle. They live in human-like houses and cook human-like food and do human-like chores. Here’s a picture of Mrs. Tittlemouse:

But “Ben” is very different. The boy knows that Ben is a rat, knows that he is marked as different because of that, but loves him just the way he is. In all those other works, there’s this very strong impulse to make these little rodents cute and appealing and more “normal” – more human. But that impulse is entirely absent from “Ben.” The boy doesn’t seem to feel the need to change Ben to make him more acceptable. He doesn’t dress him up in doll clothes or give him a toy motorcycle to ride or humanize him in any way. It’s much simpler than that. He loves Ben, Ben loves him, and that’s it.

Joie:  Ok, I see what you’re saying. And you’re right; he doesn’t attempt to humanize the rat at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As you said, he knows that Ben is a rat and that he’s “different.” But he’s not afraid of or intimidated by those differences. Instead, he embraces the differences and loves Ben anyway. It’s a lesson that we can all learn from – love and tolerance. Even though we’re all different doesn’t mean we can’t still treat one another with decency and respect.

Willa:  Exactly, and I love the way you put that: “he embraces the differences.” He’s not saying differences don’t exist. They do – we’re all wonderfully different. Instead, he’s saying that those kinds of surface differences shouldn’t determine how we respond to each other and feel about each other. He knows Ben is a rat but he also knows his heart, and that’s what’s important. He’s still able to “see” him and genuinely know him, and love him. So instead of trying to make Ben acceptable by trying to change him and make him “normal,” he challenges us to overcome our prejudices and accept Ben the way he is. As he sings, “They don’t see you as I do / I wish they would try to.”

Joie:  It makes me think about a video I recently came across by rapper Adair Lion. The song is called “Ben” and, even though he is addressing homosexuality, the song’s message could be talking about racism, sexism, or any other form of prejudice. He samples Michael Jackson’s “Ben” quite a bit in the song and I think that Michael probably would have loved it. Here’s the video:

Willa:  Oh heavens, Joie, what a wonderful video! Thanks for sharing that. And you’re right, Adair Lion is talking about homophobia but he also parallels it with racism and other forms of prejudice – like when the white girl goes to kiss him and the other white girl stops her and gets pretty violent about it. And he makes those connections explicit in the rap when he says:

I guess him over there
He chose to be Black
And her Asian
And them White
And those god-awful gays
Chose to live that life

So he’s talking about specific forms of prejudice, but by paralleling them he’s also talking about difference more generally, and that’s very Michael Jackson – and very appropriate to the message of “Ben,” I think.

I’m also really drawn to the scenes of the little girl trying to spend the birthday money her two fathers gave her. It’s a $3 bill, and the woman at the ice cream store rejects her funny money and refuses to serve her an ice cream cone, and the woman at the toy store rejects it as well and refuses to sell her a doll. But then she comes to the taco stand where Adair Lion’s character is working, and his buddy is surprised by the $3 bill but accepts it – he not only sells her a lollypop but gives her two extra ones. It’s a simple straightforward message, but very moving.

And then the video ends with this powerful postscript:

Coincidentally, Ben is the name of someone I’ve never met – my dad
So why would I ever judge someone who’s trying to be two
Of what I never had?

As you know, Joie, “Ben” is very special to me, and to be perfectly honest I was pretty reluctant to watch this video because the original means so much to me. I guess I was worried he’d misappropriate it or trivialize it somehow. But actually it made me cry. I’m not sure why it affected me so much – maybe because I was about the same age as that little girl the first time I heard “Ben” – but also because this video feels so heart-felt and sincere.

Joie:  It is a pretty compelling video; you’re right. And the fact that he has sampled Michael Jackson’s “Ben” only serves to make it that much more powerful since that song is all about seeing past the differences in all of us.

You know, Willa, the sweet sentiment in Michael Jackson’s voice as he sings that song is so overwhelmingly pure and real. And I wonder sometimes if – at only 14 years old – he understood what a huge message that song carried. It certainly feels very heartfelt when you listen to it. The song was written by Don Black and composed by Walter Scharf, and was the theme song for the 1972 film, Ben (the sequel to the 1971 movie Willard, about a killer rat). It was originally intended for young Donny Osmond but he was on tour and unavailable at the time. So, Michael was actually the second choice to record the song – which just confounds me because, as wonderful as Donny Osmond is, I just can’t imagine anyone else but Michael singing it.

Willa:  Oh, I know, and apparently Michael Jackson couldn’t either! In an interview with Life After 50 a few months ago, Donny Osmond says he told him that “Ben” was originally written for him, and Michael Jackson said, “Get out of here!” He couldn’t believe it, and I can’t either. “Ben” and Michael Jackson are so connected in my mind.

And you can tell “Ben” was very important to him. You can hear it in his voice, and by how often he returned to it. He sang it in concerts for years, and he included it on almost all of his compilation albums, including The Best of Michael Jackson, Anthology, Number Ones, The Ultimate Collection, and The Essential Michael Jackson.

Joie:  That’s true; he did return to it again and again.

Willa:  He really did. And as a child he even adopted some pet rats. Here’s a picture:

Perhaps most importantly is how the themes of “Ben” recur in his later work – not just confronting prejudice against difference, but linking that prejudice to perception. In “Ben” he sings, “They don’t see you as I do.” In “Can You Feel It,” he sings,

Can you see what’s going down?
Open up your mind …
‘Cause, we’re all the same
Yes, the blood inside my veins is inside of you

In “Another Part of Me” he asks, “Can’t you see / You’re just another part of me?” Repeatedly he tells us that prejudice against difference is simply a matter of perception, or rather a culturally produced misperception. Those prejudices aren’t real and natural – children aren’t born with them – they’re just part of our social “conditioning.” And I think we see him challenging this misperception most dramatically in the changing color of his skin. He proved in a way that cannot be denied that, regardless of race, we are all connected. We are all gloriously different, unique individuals, but we are all one people. As he says, “Yes, the blood inside of me is inside of you.”

Joie:  Willa, I think that’s a wonderful observation, and I agree completely. I think the message of “Ben” was obviously very important to him. As you pointed out, he would return to this message, in various forms, many times all throughout his career. It might even be fair to say that the message of this song helped to shape the man he became – the songs he wrote about unity and acceptance, the humanitarian causes he chose to support, the humble, loving way he lived his life. I think “Ben” probably had a very profound effect on him.

Willa:  You know, that’s interesting because I’ve wondered about that a lot – about what exactly “Ben” meant to him – and I think you’re right. I think “Ben” probably did have a profound effect on him, or maybe it gave him a way to express something he already felt. I know he felt a lot of sympathy for Ben – you can tell that simply by listening to his voice as he sings the lyrics – but I wonder if he identified with him as well. After all, Ben isn’t accepted simply because he’s seen as different, and that’s something Michael Jackson struggled with too. Even as they idolized him, people still treated him as uncomfortably different.

In a 1980 interview with 20/20, his mother tells reporter Sylvia Chase,

“Wherever he goes, everybody’s coming out to see Michael Jackson – you know, want to look at him and see what he looks like – and he said he feels like an animal in a cage.”

When Sylvia Chase asks him about this, he says, “I do, all the time. Well, I shouldn’t say all the time, but I get embarrassed easily. … Being around, you know, everyday people and stuff, I feel strange. I do.” She follows up by saying, “There are some people who believe that, having always been on stage, you’ve never had to deal with the real world.” He replies,

“That’s true in a lot of ways. That’s true in one way. But it’s hard to in my position. I try to sometimes, but people won’t deal with me in that way because they see me differently. They won’t talk to me like they will a next-door neighbor.”

So as he says, people don’t interact with him in a casual, typical way “because they see me differently.” And if he felt that way in 1980 – before Thriller, before vitiligo, before the 1993 allegations and the 2005 trial and the screaming headlines about Wacko Jacko – imagine how he felt later on.

Joie:  You’re absolutely right; his isolation only grew as his fame grew. I’m certain that he probably did feel very much ‘like an animal in a cage.’

Willa:  Oh, it’s just unimaginable what he had to endure. And there’s another connection between Ben and Michael Jackson that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now but still haven’t reached any firm conclusions about, and that’s the reasons why they were seen as so strange. And while I’m still trying to figure this out, I think a lot of it has to do with cultural taboos against crossing certain boundaries.

Think about it – why are rats so abhorrent to so many people? I think it’s because they cross boundaries, or rather live in that weird in-between place where two distinct categories overlap. After all, when we think about rats, we don’t generally think about them living in the woods or in meadows or along streams. Instead, we think of them living in sewer pipes and garbage dumps and the basements of tenement buildings or dilapidated houses. In other words, we think of them living at the margins of civilization in places that are neither completely wild nor completely civilized. They exist in this weird no man’s land that blurs the boundary between what’s wild and what’s civilized. We tend to want to keep those ideals distinct and separate, but rats blur the boundary and threaten our notions of both civilization and wilderness – and it’s that threat that makes them abhorrent.

And in many ways, Michael Jackson did the same thing. He lived in that no man’s land between Black and White, masculine and feminine, gay and straight, upper class and lower class, liberal and conservative, child and adult, Christian and Jewish and Islamic and Buddhist, soul and blues and disco and rock, singer and dancer and filmmaker and philosopher. He challenged so many artificial, culturally constructed boundaries. And he didn’t just cross those boundaries. He lived in the in-between space where those categories uncomfortably overlap, and demonstrated that those boundaries are artificial constructs. And that was very threatening to a lot of people, especially those who want to keep those categories clearly defined and separate.

Joie:  Ok, Willa. That was yet another ‘Wow’ moment for me! You have just connected the dots and drawn all the parallels between Michael Jackson and the subject of the song “Ben,” and it makes total, perfect sense. And you’re right; people are typically freaked out by rats and it is because we tend to think of them as living on the fringe of society. But rats are actually really cool. Most people are usually very stunned to learn that rats make really good pets. In fact, rats make better pets than mice because they don’t tend to bite like mice will. They are very intelligent, social animals that can be easily tamed and most owners compare the companionship to that of a dog!

So, next week, we will continue this discussion of what Willa calls ‘the trilogy’ with a look at the Thriller short film. And, I have to say, Willa, I’m still not seeing how “Ben” relates to the Thriller and Ghosts short films for you. Maybe I can see the Ghosts video somewhat, as that one really is all about being different. But I guess I just don’t think of the Thriller video in those terms at all. Yes, Michael Jackson’s character in that one is constantly changing from a teenage boy to a werewolf to a zombie and back again but, I just don’t think of this video as being about our “differences.” But, we’ll discuss that next week.

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About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

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

Posted on May 17, 2012, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. That’s one of the most fascinating things about Michael, that he could take a song whose lyrics and melody were written by others and make them so completely his that their contributions almost ceases to matter. The most striking examples are Ben and Man In The Mirror. In this blog, you included the first of a sequence of pictures of Michael that always break my heart. In the rat picture you see a child who has given us his best, feels the whole world’s approval and love, and is reflecting it back to us in his eyes. The second is of the young adult giving an informal interview at the fountain of Hayvenhurst, where he talks about some of the things that are important to him and about his aspirations. He’s on top of the world. He’s trusting us with his innermost self and spreading his wings. The third is the gaunt trial images, the haggard, suffering face, the haunted eyes, the weight of our rejection that is crushing him night and day. When I see those trial pictures, I see the loving little boy with those shining eyes whom we crushed precisely because he was so open and loving and trusted us to always love him back. We asked him to give us the best of what he had, and when he turned himself inside out for us we slapped him down for it and did our utmost to destroy him. Although I personally never stopped seeing him as the trusting little boy who is posing so proudly with his rat-friends, I feel an intense shame whenever I juxtapose those three images of him. It’s why I appreciate your intentions to concentrate on the art that he gave us, which is the key to his soul.

    • I really appreciate your comment here. I feel that way about Michael as well – as if we (the public) are the reason for so much of his pain.

    • This makes me cry, Kris. “I used to say, I and we/ Now it’s us, Now it’s we.” MJ just wanted to be loved and for us to love each other and he loved us so much–all his fans. I think it was the media, though, rather than the public that created the torment for him. When the allegations came up, and I read that Vanity Fair hit piece, I just didn’t know what to think. It gave me an image of darkness about MJ’s home at NL. Was it true. I mean we didn’t know but I just hoped so much it wasn’t true and I was very happy and relieved when the verdicts came in not-guilty and I was glad when the TII concerts were announced. So many people never stopped believing in him, that is why he was mourned worldwide by millions and billions, while the “blood-hound” media (A. White) still were going after him. I think they have been revealed for what they are. I am very happy that Rebekha Brooks, who was the editor of The Sun, the tabloid that did MJ so much damage, has been charged and now faces 20 years in jail! Let them eat their ‘W–J–‘ garbage. So disrespectful to a great and beautiful soul.

      One thing that makes me happy is that when MJ got the Diamond Award in 06 in London, the fans went wild–you can see it on youtube. MJ looks so happy and he was bathing in all the love. Also there were 7,000 people at his press conference for TII. That’s a lot of people for a press conference. So he knew that the fans still loved him.

      I understand totally what you are saying, though. When I saw the autopsy photos I cried. It’s too sad. Yes, it is great about Willa and Joie’s focus on MJ’s art, which is, as you say so well–“the key to his soul.” He always quoted Michelangelo’s words about the artist will die but the work will live and that’s why I ‘bind my soul to my work.’

      • aldebaran –re: Rebekha Brooks — Interestingly, I was watching a Frontline program on the downfall of the Murdoch empire and the politician, whose lawsuit actually started the whole crash, referred to the effect of the Murdoch smear campaign against him as “being monstered.” I wondered if that was a common usage in Brit. English before MJ — or if Michael’s references in his music to the media portraying him as a monster had been incorporated into the language.

        • Wow, Eleanor, he actually said he’d been “monstered”? That is fascinating! I really wonder where that expression came from, and if maybe the central idea of “Monster” came from that expression, or gave birth to it. That is so interesting.

          • Hi Willa. Take a look at the PBS Frontline documentary, Murdoch’s Scandal — about 7 minutes in.

            http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/murdochs-scandal/

            This expression is used several times by a couple of different people. I’m betting MJ started it. Would be interesting to find out. Maybe a British follower of this blog might know.

          • Hi Eleanor. That is so interesting! I did a little research, and the Online OED says this under the verb form for “monster”:

            verb [with object] informal, chiefly British

            criticize or reprimand severely: my mother used to monster me for coming home so late

            It also says the origins are “late Middle English,” but it’s not clear if that is for the verb form, or for the word “monster” as either a noun or verb. So it could be a very old usage of the word, but with new connotations applying specifically to what the tabloids engage in. I’m very intrigued by all this.

  2. El simbolismo entre hetereo-gay. Blanco-negro. judeo-crisrtiano-islam-ect…. clases sociales.liberal-conservados. ( algo dificil de comprender para un europeo, ya que aquí se entiende como ” derecha”) Es algo tan innovador e impactante sobre su persona, que me ha dejado en estado de Choc, gracias de nuevo por tan interesante análisis

    • “The symbolism between hetero-gay, black-white, Judeo-Christian-Muslim, etc. between social classes, liberal-conservative (this is something difficult for a European to understand because here it’s seen in terms of ‘rights’). This is something so innovative and powerful about MJ that it has left me in a state of shock. Thank you once again for such an interesting analysis.”

      Hola, Mahuoly– intente de poner sus pensamientos en ingles. Supongo que cuando dices ‘sobre su persona’ que estas hablando de MJ, no cierto?

      • Excuse, I answer in English, but not if the concept forward as well use the google translator, which translates literally not idea.Si MJ I meant, and that vision of duplications that occur in the life of Michael and what I had not noticed and that is like a leitmotif in his life. I am interested on how to consider that MJ had several multiple personality

  3. Sorry for having written in Spanish, this is the translation (via google) excuse like that.
    The symbolism between hetereo-gay. White-black. crisrtiano Jewish-Islam, ect …. sociales.liberal-conserved classes. (Something difficult to understand for a European, because here is understood as “right”) is something so innovative and impressive about you, that has left me in a state of Choc, thanks again for this interesting analysis

  4. @aldebaran–Michael did have many loyal fans, particularly outside his own country. But the fact is that of all the people I know there is not one I can discuss him with. Not only do they recoil from any conversation about him, but the mere fact that I bring up his name labels me as kook and a somewhat distasteful human being. And I live in a progressive town. It’s nice of you to separate regular people from the media, but the fact is that if regular folks would refuse to buy, turn on or click the media lies, the misbegotten stories would cease from one day to the next. It is us who are feeding them, thereby keeping the sensationalism going. In fact, it’s probably the fans more than anyone else who encourage the scandal-mongers, because in our effort to defend Michael we are the first to click on, and even if we barrage the comment sections with our protests, the fact that we criticize misleading articles means nothing. The media thrive on controversy. Quite simply, It’s our clicks they want, whether we agree with them or not. We are the ones putting money in their bank.

    • Kris — that is my experience exactly — at least among older people. I am happy to say that my children and their 30-something friends love MJ. Although not quite like I do.

      I try to say to these people — my own friends — just listen, just look, open your ears and your eyes and your heart. You will be blown away. But, no dice. It has almost been a reason for me to end friendships; I get so frustrated. He has completely changed my life, and I want to share the joy that is MJ with others. But, I refuse to let their upturned noses discourage me from continuing to plug away at their deep deep prejudices — because that is what is at the bottom of the recoiling, etc. and the worst offenders are among the “liberal elite.”

    • ok, Kris, they want the clicks–but look at it from another point of view, when fans post the truth, give accurate info, show their love, other posters are reading what the fans say–and I have noticed that the haters are less prevalent than before. Whereas before I used to read maybe one positive comment and 4 negative ones, now I read more positive comments than negative ones. Things are definitely turning around, and I think the fans have a lot to do with it–all the comments, the websites, and flood of info in various media. I am 100% sure that the fans are responsible for this media swing that is happening. One media host was saying how Paris has ‘that Jackson magic.’ When was that mentioned while MJ was alive on a mainstream TV show?

      People have been brainwashed and they need education: first, to have a critical thinking position in regard to the press, and second to learn to do their own research and to find sources that are more reliable. They have been fed ‘junk food,’ as MJ said. This leads into a whole other discussion about ‘freedom of the press’ and what the founders meant by this. Did they mean the situation we have today, where media has dumbed down, lied to, and manipulated the public for gain? Where the media is controlled by corporations with corporate and political agendas? No. I read a recent piece called “Media Conscience and Accountability” where the author speaks of the fact that the gov’t, due to the 1st amendment, can only pass laws restricting the press in cases of libel, while the press is largely unresponsive to complaints from the public. He recommends an ombudsman approach, among other things,–I will try and find the link. The UK Murdock empire investigation is a wake-up call for the ‘filthy press’ (as MJ called it, with good reason). One friend recently commented that people are naive and believe what the press tells them–they can’t accept that the info they receive is biased and has an agenda.

      I am sad to hear that you, and to some extent Eleanor and Juney07, and probably many others, including myself, can’t speak openly to friends about MJ and the feelings, thoughts we have. I do have a friend who is conservative politically, so I never expected her to appreciate MJ, but was blown away when I brought him up and she volunteered that he was “a prophet.” Wow–I never expected anyone to use that word about MJ, and this was soon after he passed. I did lose one friend who didn’t like my interest in ‘an entertainer.’ I don’t care. I just do my thing. I made a YT video (very amateur) as a tribute to MJ and sent it to all my friends so they would know where I stood. When they say something like, ‘I didn’t know you were such an MJ fan” I just say yes, I am. And if they say “he sure looked feminine at the end”–I respond with (and I agree with Joie and Eleanor here) that I think he was masculine and very hot. If you just look at his face, you might think he was feminine, but if you look at his whole body, you can see he was masculine, athletic, strong, sexy (I digress).

      I don’t think, just my 2 cents, it’s a good idea to try and convince anyone–that can make them recoil. The more you push, the more resistance. I will keep loving MJ, listening to his music, and having him in my life on my own if need be.

      So glad to have this forum to speak about deep feelings and thoughts about MJ. Also, I have to say, Kris, I love reading the heartfelt comments of the fans. They give me insights and the knowledge I am “not alone” in appreciating and loving MJ. I am very touched by the beautiful fan comments in fact. It means a lot to me when people share their love for MJ in public forums.

  5. @Kris, what you have expressed, that you have no one to talk to about Michael, mirrors my life on this issue. I have a good friend at work with whom I can share much, however, when I turn the conversation to anything Michael, there is a withdrawal in her demeanor. Although she has not directly addressed me on the trial and the issues leading up to it, I know she believes he was guilty. And doubly frustrating is that she listens to me, reads the articles and blog comments I give her, but remains unswayed. Also, there is no one in my immediate family, husband, children, siblings, to whom I can turn for a good discussion. Nothing on their part to do with guilt or innocence, they just don’t want to be bothered. However, I don’t believe we, the regular fans, keep the sensationlism going. Michael has no voice, his family is silent except when it serves some other agenda; I feel we must counter the still-occurring media attacks with the truth. And in the past few years I see significant changes of position or at least softening in some of those who were the most virulent. It’s a lonely battle for sure but one, in my opinion at least, we need to keep fighting, by CORRECTING, rather than criticizing, misleading articles.

    • I agree that the perception we have of MJ, switches between the general public and is looked upon with more respect and accept all his genius and his followers that we had something to do and I am pleased, but not be if you has happened, but here in Spain ami, I have taken several disappointments because there as a war to see who is more fan who admires him more or defends it better, they filled his mouth to say it important is your message, but they fight a lot if you do not see things as them, and criticize, which I confirmed that there is much hypocrisy and little understood the character (I’m still trying to understand that special, so thank you so much Willa reflections and Joy)

  6. Willa and Joie, Thanks again for a great discussion. I think the topic of MJ and differences is very very deep, and can be mined endlessly. And, Joie, like Willa, I also love what you said about the way he embraces differences. He never tries to boil everyone down into a single gluey substance, but instead celebrates each and every difference. Take for example the morphing sequence in B or W. Each face is wonderfully, clearly, radically, distinctively different from the next.

    And, similarly, I have never seen him as some amalgam of male and female, as androgynous — but as a very male male who used female beauty to set off his masculinity and to enhance his own masculine beauty. It was very daring, but it worked. And in being brave enough to make himself up after the manner of a beautiful woman, he was both paying homage to female beauty and redefining maleness as unafraid to be associated with the feminine. And, I have never experienced him as a blend of black and white (even tho’ genetically speaking he was, as are many black Americans), but as a black man with skin whiter than white — and, by being a black man with white skin, totally blowing our minds. What a genius!

    • Hi Eleanor. I think what you just said is really interesting. I also have NEVER seen Michael as some androgynous creature – a curious mixture of male and female. No. I do understand why others like to use that term to refer to him, but I have never agreed with it. I’ve always seen him as a very ‘male’ male – as you said. And I used to think that I was alone in this and that it had to do with the fact that I fell in love with him at such a young age. So you saying that lets me know that there are others out there who think the same way.

  7. Just wanted to share something I found–it’s Andre Rieu performing ‘Ben’ to 9,000 people in Maastricht on July 13, 2009. Afterwards, he gives a short eulogy and then introduces Carmen Monarcha to sing Earth Song. I wanted to share b/c to hear the instrumental version helps us to appreciate not only the pathos of the song but how deeply MJ is connected to it, so that we still hear him singing it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo2lzhB282Y

  8. twinlakesprairie

    I have wanted a circle of friends to talk to about MJ, and I was really looking forward to “Plant Michael”, the virtual world that was due to start several years ago. It seems to have fallen through.

  9. Again, another great post. I love that you talk about the song Ben in this way, since for me has a completelly diferent meaning, very personal thou.

    This song for me has always being about Michael and me. Everytime I hear this song is like I am singing this to Michael. I am the one who wishes people look him like he really is, how amazing and wonderfull he is “they dont see you as I do”. Also is about how he is a very important part in my life “now is us, now is we” and how greatfull I am with him for everything he teach me and gave me.

    Since I have always have this feelings with this song I have never really stop to think about other meaning. So thank you very much 🙂

    • Hi pgapplehead. What a beautiful interpretation – one that gains more and more poignancy and relevance as his life progresses and he is pushed further and further into the “Ben” position by the popular media. It’s very true that for many of us who cared about him and believed in him, there was a strong feeling that “they don’t see you as I do.”

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