He’s a Monster, He’s an Animal

Willa:  Joie, I know we’ve tended to stay away from breaking news and sensationalized stories, with good reason. It’s all too easy to get caught up on the rollercoaster of rumor and innuendo and pseudo news, and lose sight of the big picture. In general, I think it’s much better to focus on Michael Jackson’s art and let the sensationalism wear itself out.

Joie:  I couldn’t agree more.

Willa:  But one interesting aspect of Michael Jackson’s art is that he wrestled with complex issues like mass media, public perception, and prejudice, and the complicated interconnections between them. And something happened last week that really underscored that for me. Wade Robson’s lawyer, Henry Gradstein, said in a prepared statement that “Michael Jackson was a monster, and in their hearts every normal person knows it.”

Joie, how many times did Michael Jackson warn us about this – about “normal people” becoming fearful of those who are different, and imagining they’re “monsters” because of that fear? That’s the central plot of Ghosts. (I can actually close my eyes and imagine the Mayor saying Gradstein’s words during that long speech when he’s confronting the Maestro:  “We have a nice normal town, normal people, normal kids. We don’t need freaks like you. …”) He addresses that fear in Thriller as well – in fact, it provides the psychological underpinnings of that short film. Thriller “works” because it taps into that fear. And that’s exactly what he’s talking about in “Is It Scary,” “Threatened,” and “Monster” as well.

Joie:  You know, Willa, it’s still so shocking to me that people feel that way about him. I mean, it’s one thing to jump on the bandwagon and badmouth someone when everybody else seems to be doing it too. But to attack someone after they’re gone in such a vicious manner … I was just really shocked when I read that quote last week. In fact, I think I still am.

But to get back to what you just said, you’re absolutely right. Michael addressed this very topic over and over and over again. It’s almost as if it was constantly at the forefront of his mind and his imagination. And if you think about it, I’m sure it probably was. I mean, after all, it was a subject he just couldn’t seem to get away from. It was, quite literally, “the story of his life.” And I just think it’s so sad. When you first proposed this topic for this week’s post, the lyrics to “Monster” came immediately to my mind, and I just felt so tired. Do you know what I mean?

Willa:  Oh, I do. I know exactly what you mean. …

Joie:  Like I actually took a deep, sad breath and I just felt so exhausted. If I felt that way, can you imagine how he must have felt when he wrote these words:

Monster
He’s a monster
He’s an animal

We hear that short refrain over and over again in the song, and it just breaks my heart. He goes on to say:

Why are they never satisfied with all you give?
You give them your all
They’re watching you fall
And they eat your soul like a vegetable 

Don’t you ever wonder what that felt like to him? How lonely and miserable that must have been? I don’t know that there has ever been a more miserable soul on this planet than Michael Jackson’s. Which is truly heartbreaking when you think about the immense amount of talent he possessed and the staggering numbers of people that he brought happiness to. And yet, he himself was this miserable, tragic, sad, sad creature.

Willa:  Well, yes and no. I mean, Michael Jackson endured a level of public vilification few of us can even imagine. I mean, it’s literally unimaginable to me – beyond my capacity to comprehend what he went through. But I think he also experienced a kind of joy few of us can imagine either – the joy of creative ecstasy as we talked about a little bit with Give In to Me last spring. So I guess I feel he had higher highs as well as lower lows.

But I do know what you’re saying, Joie, and I think those lyrics you quoted are really important, especially that last line, “they eat your soul like a vegetable.” One reason that jumps out at me is because it echoes words he wrote much earlier in “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” where he repeatedly sings these lines at the end of each chorus:

You’re a vegetable (You’re a vegetable)
Still they hate you (You’re a vegetable)
You’re just a buffet (You’re a vegetable)
They eat off of you (You’re a vegetable)

This song was written in the mid-1970s and “Monster” was written in the mid-2000s, sometime after the 2005 trial – that’s a 30-year time span – yet both songs express a similar idea using the same metaphor:  that the press feeds off him (“they eat your soul”) just like the zombies in a horror movie feed off the souls of the living.

So there’s this interesting reversal where the mass media is portraying him as a “monster,” but he’s saying they are the true monsters. He’s alive – vibrantly alive – with the exuberant vitality of a dancer and creative artist, but their souls are dead – they have no creative spark animating them – and so they try to feed off him. He makes that reversal explicit the last couple of times he sings the chorus you quoted earlier, when he reverses the meaning by adding interstitial lines:

Monster
(Why you haunting me?)
He’s a monster
(Why are you stalking me?)
He’s an animal
(Why’d you do it? Why’d you? Why you stalking me?)
 

Joie:  Willa, I think that’s a wonderful interpretation of “Monster” and I love what you just said, comparing the press to flesh-eating zombies that can’t wait to feed off of Michael Jackson’s creativity and vitality. It’s a beautiful assessment of the situation.

Willa:  It is fascinating how he sets that up and then flips it around, isn’t it? And that idea that the tabloids are feeding off him reminds me of those threatening teeth in Leave Me Alone that we talked about last fall. Those chomping teeth form the bass line of Leave Me Alone, which is an extended look at media excess that links modern tabloids with exploitative freak shows of the past. So again he’s suggesting that the press wants to feed off him, and the sound of those teeth throughout the video reinforces that.

Joie:  What’s really interesting to me, Willa, is how, in one corner, you’ve got the press, who keep repeatedly referring to him as a monster, and all of the “talking heads” from all of the news outlets (be it tabloid or mainstream) join in on the charge. But then in the other corner, there’s Michael himself, pointing back at the press and stating very clearly for all who will listen, that he’s not the monster … they are! It almost feels like that episode of the old Twilight Zone series where the people in a diner all know very clearly that there is an alien/monster among them. Only no one is really quite sure exactly who the real monster is and they’re all accusing each other! Remember that episode?

Willa:  No, I don’t think I ever saw that one, but it sounds really interesting. And thinking of The Twilight Zone reminds me of “Threatened,” with its posthumous Rod Serling intro:

Tonight’s story is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. A monster had arrived in the village. The major ingredient of any recipe for fear is the unknown, and this person or thing is soon to be met. He knows every thought. He can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster.

And then we hear Michael Jackson’s voice – he’s the monster Rod Serling was talking about. So we’re in the unusual position of hearing the story from the monster’s point of view.

And that reminds me of one of the first monster stories, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. In the original novel, Mary Shelley casts Frankenstein’s monster as an intelligent, sensitive soul who’s abused and mistreated because his appearance is so frightening. In fact, in some ways the people he meets are the true monsters because they’re so vicious to him. So the question is, who’s the real monster in this situation?

That’s a question Michael Jackson raised many times. For example, in “Is It Scary” he says, “It’s you who’s haunting me / Because you’re wanting me / To be the stranger in the night.” And he concludes with this fairly blunt assessment:

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

In other words, the “evil” that people fear is coming from their own minds. They’re imposing their fears onto him, and he’s just a mirror reflecting their own thoughts and fears back at them:

Can the heart reveal the proof
Like a mirror reveals the truth?
See the evil one is you

Joie:  Yeah, that song is just so telling. And really, if you just sit and listen to them, most of the “scary” songs are very telling, deeply personal glimpses into what his life must have felt like to him. And you know, Willa, whenever I let myself dwell on it, I just cannot imagine living with that level of scrutiny every single day of my life, and still being able to function. And ultimately, I guess the argument could be made that he wasn’t able to function that way for very long.

Willa:  Oh, it’s just unbelievable what his life must have been like, but we can kind of get a glimpse of it through these “monster” songs and films because one thing he’s trying to do in these works is show us what it feels like to be in that position – to be the object of everyone fears.

You know, Michael Jackson had an incredible habit of empathy. We see it in his work as well as interviews. Whenever he’s trying to understand a situation, his first impulse is almost always to immediately look at it from the other person’s point of view. We see that over and over again, like in “Dirty Diana” where a groupie is trying to manipulate him, but instead of simply rejecting her, or using her and walking away as many rock stars would do, he tries to understand her by looking at things from her perspective. He does something similar in his “scary” songs where he doesn’t just push back against the attacks, but also tries to get inside the mind of his attackers and understand why they are treating him like a monster. (And by the way, this habit of empathy is one reason I’m so sure he would never molest a child, in addition to all the evidence. If you have that habit of empathy, you can’t abuse someone because you’re too aware of how that abuse must feel to them.) And he also encourages us to try to see things from his perspective as well.

So one way of interpreting his “monster” works is to see them as an artistic way for him to work through these issues and explore why the police, the press, and the public were so insistent on seeing him as a monster – and there are important cultural and psychological reasons for why that keeps happening. As he tells us in “Threatened,” “I’m not a ghost from Hell / but I’ve got a spell on you.” He is the Other, the “monster,” the embodiment of difference that both fascinates and frightens us – that is the “spell” he has on the public imagination – but he’s an Other who seems to know us all too well:

You’re fearing me
’Cause you know I’m a beast …
I’m the living dead
The dark thoughts in your head
I heard just what you said
That’s why you’ve got to be threatened by me

So we fear that he’s a “beast” but an extremely intelligent beast, a beast who knows “the dark thoughts in your head” and can move us emotionally and psychologically in ways we don’t fully understand – and what could be more frightening than that? That’s why he tells us “You should be watching me / You should feel threatened,” because he represents our worst fears.

But that’s not really who he is – he’s not really a monster – it’s just a reflection of our own minds. We’re simply giving vent to all our deepest fears by projecting them onto him.

Joie:  And the ugly truth is that he made such an easy target of himself. He made it almost effortless for those doing the venting to project that madness onto him. But he always turned the other cheek with such dignity and grace, never lowering himself to their standards, never lashing out in anger. Not really the actions of a monster, huh?

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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 15, 2013, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Have you guys heard this song yet? I don’t know when it was recorded, or if the Cascios/Teddy Riley sampled their beat and melody, or vice versa. I figured you’d want to hear this, and possibly add it to your post. Thanks!

  2. If I were the Estate, I would have started making a whole lot of noise as the AEG vs. Katherine Jackson trial began… at least as much noise as the tabloid hacks. I would also have released “Monster” as a single (with “Threatened” on the B side) and bought a whole lot of air time for it on prime-time radio. After that I would release another single: “Money” backed with “Tabloid Junkie” – and get them on heavy rotation too.

    Nobody speaks for Michael Jackson – why not let his inimitable voice speak for himself? As you say, he has predicted what we’re hearing now many times before… So glad he doesn’t have to hear it himself.

    • “Nobody speaks for Michael Jackson – why not let his inimitable voice speak for himself?”

      Chris, wonderful idea!

    • Good idea, but I think the Estate doesn’t want to further damage their relationship with Katherine – it’s been not that good.

      In the light of Robson allegations though, I thing they could give a proper release to “In the back”.

      • LOL! “In the Back” could and should definitely be heard once again.

        Doesn’t seem logical that the Estate would worry about relations with Katherine when her efforts, however well-intended, might measurably undercut the hard work the Estate has accomplished to build the financial security (through MJ’s artistic legacy and unreleased songs hopefully still to come) that will support her and his children.

        IMO there’s a vaguely familiar (and familial) attitude of disrespect concurrent with the AEG trial that has once again made it “safe” for slimy worms like Robson to wiggle out of the woodwork and try to turn into butterflies. Caterpillars they ain’t though… and their delusions have no wings.

  3. I saw an interview clip during the time of Michael’s passing of Kenny Rogers, who seems to be at least friendly with Michael over the years. He commented that you marvel at Michael and think “wow, what it must be like to be him”, the you think a little harder and sorrowfully think “wow, what it must be like to be him”.

    I do believe that there is no one that has crossed this Earth that knows what it must be like to live the life Michael had. It reminds of the great quote by James Baldwin:

    “The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael. All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; the blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair…”

    Thanks for another great post ladies!!!!!

    • Mr. Baldwin definitely made a strong point in calling it “…a carnivorous success”.

      Matter of fact it was a downright cannibalistic success. And it’s still consuming Michael Jackson.

    • Oh how I love that quote. James Baldwin really understood what Michael was up against — but I’m not sure even he understood the magnitude of the reaction to Michael’s “table turning.” And the beat goes on.

  4. NO..Michael was,never The Monsters .. The Monsters were the ones,who in their diviant and filthy and perverted minds were doing all these,crimes.. But this the way of The World isnt .. You go and find some one to dump all your dirty thoughts and lust and fears hoping that you can destroy them..and make miserable..Y cuz,Misery loves,company.
    Those,who have tried to attack Michael have in fact attacked themselves and Now all the world knows who you really are. These ppl have exposed themselves when they went after Michael and doesnt stop there ..Those who have lifted their hands against Michael will suy get their karama .. their karama is at the door for them now..

    Michael was,just a nice sweet guy who actually lived his Faith to the end… Michael was a True Christain at the time of his untimely passing ..he had done nothing to.warrant what was to.happen to him.. O! what a sad day for them all .. no pitty will shown them when The Wrath of The Most High comes to make them reap what they have sowen in this,life.. Peace Love Joy.. Remember We have won Game over ! ♥♔✌♬ I love U ♥

  5. I don’t want to dwell in the whole Cascio debate, but since this post is mainly about the song “Monster”, I have to say I’m very sceptical about Monster being an MJ song. Monster imitates one of his recurring themes, yes, but I don’t think it’s him.

    But Threatened was the first song that came in my mind when I read that “monster” quote from Wade Robson’s lawyer. In the same statement he also praised Wade as a gentle, kind, talented, wonderful family man. Clearly the purpose of that statement was the emotional manipulation of the public, once again to set it up as a story of a “nice, normal guy” vs. a “freak monster”. At that moment you could be sure they would gonna play it in the court of public opinion…

    “Half of me you’ll never be, so you should feel threatened by me”.

    Isn’t this so true of this situation? Wade just showed his true colors and what kind of person he really is. He will never be half of Michael – either as an artist or as a person. So feeling “threatened” by him, they have to portray him as a horrible monster.

  6. @Jacksonaktak: “Wade just showed his true colors and what kind of person he really is. He will never be half of Michael – either as an artist or as a person. So feeling “threatened” by him, they have to portray him as a horrible monster.”

    Had exactly the same thing in my mind …

    @Willa and Joie: Thank you for another wonderful both sad and comforting post. I´ve been reading your blog for about a year and always enjoy the focus on the artist and his work. (I didn´t comment yet, because its difficult to write about a complex topic like Art in English for me.) I´m glad you went into the actual situation this time, because it´s something we need to understand the artist as well. Plus I appreciate everybody who is backing MJ and isn´t content with just railing against at WR.
    The situation is terrible, but I have a strong feeling that in the end it will help to clear MJs name in a way it hasn´t been yet, because WR will make a complete fool of himself and just everybody will sense it.

    • I had a strange experience this week which has left me with a heavy heart. I had just gotten a copy of Aphrodite Jones book Michael Jackson Conspiracy. I knew that trial was extremely difficult for Michael. After reading this book I really don’t know how he could suffer through it. AND then this Wade Robson comes on the scene with his claim.
      It is truly heartbreaking to see this.
      I have felt from the very first mention that Katherine Jackson’s trial with AEG was going forward that this was going to open the door once more to the media and talking heads to probe more into the privacy of Michael’s life.
      I have not been able to understand why she would pursue this: how could she not realize how damaging this would be to Michael? It seemed to me, that finally he was receiving some respect from the media in some ways. Now this.
      Gloria

    • “The situation is terrible, but I have a strong feeling that in the end it will help to clear MJs name in a way it hasn´t been yet.”

      Hi Karla. I’ve wondered about this also. Maybe I’m just trying to find a silver lining in a very bleak situation, but I was really struck that in a recent article, even Diane Dimond questioned whether Wade Robson was telling the truth. I don’t think she has ever done that before, ever.

      You know, child abuse advocates have adopted the stance that every child should be believed, and in general I would agree with that – without the influence of adults, I don’t think a child would ever invent a story of abuse on their own. But that wasn’t the situation in 1993. Evan Chandler clearly coerced his son into agreeing with a story he himself had invented. As Chandler wrote in the chronology he gave to police, he “falsely told” his son that he knew he had been abused – specifically telling him “I know about the kissing and the jerking off and the blow jobs” – and asked him to repeat that story back to him. He goes on to tell his son that if he doesn’t, then “I’m going to take him (Jackson) down” and basically destroy his career.

      Importantly, Chandler begins this section of his chronology by saying this conversation happened when his son was no longer sedated (“When Jordie came out of the sedation, I asked him to tell me about Michael and him”). But in a KCBS-TV interview, Chandler says his son was still sedated when this conversation took place.

      In such a situation – where a child was drugged and coerced and manipulated by an abusive father – how can any reasonable person say that the child’s testimony should be accepted without question? But Diane Dimond and many others did. They felt that every child should be believed, which actually leaves those children open to exploitation by unscrupulous people like Evan Chandler.

      But maybe this latest story will force people to go back and reconsider the rather simplistic stance that every accusation should be accepted as true, without considering the context in which it was made.

  7. Too bad for Wade that the public learned about Ariel Castro just as he set his plot in motion – now that’s a real monster, with the power to put the lawyer’s grandstanding hyperbole in perspective.

    If only Wade had managed to keep the directing job on that masterpiece of the cinema, Step Up 4. The guy just can’t handle disappointment.

  8. Caro Attwell

    Hi guys

    great post but I have to comment on Joie’s comment – ” I don’t know that there has ever been a more miserable soul on this planet than Michael Jackson’s. Which is truly heartbreaking when you think about the immense amount of talent he possessed and the staggering numbers of people that he brought happiness to. And yet, he himself was this miserable, tragic, sad, sad creature.”

    I think I have said this before, but really I cannot agree with him being a “miserable, tragic, sad, sad creature.” Yes he was a victim, but the victim of others greed and jealously,. I think he did remarkably well for someone who went through all that – it would have probably have killed anyone else!! and yet he came back time and time again, and in my book that makes him a very inspiring hero, not sad or tragic. I hate it when people view him like that – sorry Joie. When anyone says that to me, I just take them to task and point out all the wonderful things about him. I know I am an eternal optimist, but I don’t feel we do Michael any favours by being down on him as well. I remember when I first saw him on Oprah thinking that he had the sadest eyes and air about him that I have ever seen, but the more I look at him and learn about him, the less I feel that way, and anyone who wrote some of the songs he did like Speechless, Best of Joy and others was inspired not tragic. Sorry again Joie, but I am already feeling very sad about what is going on with this trial, and you just pressed another button with those comments. I do want to thank you for all the info you are posting on the fan club about the trial in a kind and loving way – I do applaude you for that.

    I much rather go with Willa’s view of him and agree that yes he had the lowest lows but he also had the highest highs, and that what he has given the world. I think his talent and the happiness he brought others is what kept him as strong as he was, and we need to honour that.

    • I’ve said to people many times that if we had to go through an ounce of what Michael did that we would be sitting naked in a corner, rocking back and forth and playing in our own feces. Michael was a strong man, no doubt.

      But I also agree with Caro here. I’m not one who believes Michael was miserable, tragic, sad or even tortured – another word used to describe him. I actually believe Michael was a very hurt person who didn’t know how to process those feelings. And although not popular in the fan community, I believe the inability to process those emotions and feelings are what lead Michael to things such as drug addiction, insomnia, eating disorders and changes to his appearance.

  9. I am grateful Michael has this all behind him now and his main concern is his children and their “freedom” AMEN!

  10. Robson was on the TODAY show this morning; now claiming his is NOT a case of repressed memory, imagine that! Wonder if his mental health expert bailed on him after these last few days of media conjecture over the validity of repressed memory claims. Now Robson claims he was brainwashed and manipulated. Into doing what? Lying on the stand in 2005? Perjuring himself? He was 22 years of age in 2005, surely old enough to know right from wrong, a lie from the truth! Would Robson be making this claim if he had secured the two Cirque MJ positions? Highly doubtful, imo.

  11. The first thought that came to my mind after Wade’s betrayal was, “Et tu, Brute?” It rings in my head, still.

  12. Thanks again, for another insightful post.

    I just listen to his music and its beauty and its power drown out all the monstering. He understood what was going on psychologically, but he also felt the pain — how could he not?

    The music, the art will last. The other stuff will slowly fade away. In spite of the low-lifes that still crawl out of the woodwork hoping to make a meal off him.

    And, Joie, I think he did lash out in anger — but he did it through his art –in his music and his dance — and I love his anger.

    • Caro Attwell

      You are so right Eleanor, I just wish I could drown out the monstering and not be so upset by it, but I really feel for Michael – it is almost as if his pain is my pain, and I suppose on the All Is One level, it is!! The blood inside of him is the blood inside of me, and I can feel it!!

      I look forward to the day when all this nonsense is over, and we can just concentrate on his music and art, which you so rightly say will last and last and last.

  13. I wanna shout!
    Throw my hands up and shout, “What’s this madness all about?”

    Why you wanna trip on me?

    Tired of injustice
    Tired of the schemes
    The lies are disgusting
    So what does it mean?
    They’re kicking me down
    I got to get up
    As jacked as it sounds
    The whole system sucks

    With such confusions don’t it make you wanna scream?

    Just stop doggin’ me around!

    I’ll never betray or deceive you my friend but…
    If you show me the cash then I will take it
    If you tell me to cry then I will fake it
    If you give me a hand then I will shake it
    You’ll do anything for money

    Just because you read it in a magazine
    Or see it on the TV screen don’t make it factual

    They told me
    A man should be faithful
    And walk when not able
    And fight till the end
    But I’m only human

    Stop pressurin’ me!

    Somebody’s out
    Somebody’s out to get me
    They really wanna fix me, hit me

    When I go, this problem world won’t bother me no more
    Xscape
    Xscape
    Xscape
    Xscape

    Relax
    This won’t hurt you
    Before I put it in
    Close your eyes and count to ten
    Don’t cry
    I won’t convert you
    There’s no need to dismay
    Close your eyes and drift away

  14. Caro Attwell

    Hi Aldebaranredstar

    I have just finished your fantastic book Thinking Twice About Billie Jean – well done you. I love the way you have woven so much about Michael’s life into the lyrics of the song. I am going to give it 5 stars on the Amazon review list.

    Apropos my previous comment about Michael being victimised, but not a victim, I read the following quote by him towards the end of your book, and he says himself what I feel is most true about him.

    ‘I know who I am inside and outside and I know what I want to do. And I will always go with my dreams and my ideals in life. And I’m a very courageous person and I believe in perseverance, determination, and all those wonderful things, and those ideals are very important for a person who is goal-orientated.’

    He was the epitome of courage, perseverance and determination – nothing sad or tragic in that.

    • aldebaranredstar

      Hi, Caro, Wow–Thank you so much! I am very, very happy to hear your response and thanks for writing a review too. I really appreciate your support!

      I have been away for a few days and need some time to catch up before commenting on the new blog post, but I will soon.

      P.S. Joe Vogel has an article about the Robson claim on his website.

  15. Willa, you write:

    ”(And by the way, this habit of empathy is one reason I’m so sure he would never molest a child, in addition to all the evidence. If you have that habit of empathy, you can’t abuse someone because you’re too aware of how that abuse must feel to them.)”

    I don’t want to play the devil’s advocate here, but I have to point out that there are pro-pedophilia organizations (one in the US; can’t remember it’s name!) that argue that some children enjoy having sexual relations with adults. A person with such a point of view could touch a child inappropriately out of ”empathy”: ”I enjoy it, so the child must enjoy it too.”

    Now, this doesn’t harmonize with anything I know about Michael Jackson, and I pray and hope there isn’t a single grain of truth in the allegations.
    But for the sake of the argument, I don’t think empathy and erotic feelings towards children are always incompatible with each other. (Wish they were!)

    • Wow, Bjørn, I never considered that perspective. My first response would be to say that imposing your thoughts and feelings onto another person isn’t empathy – just the opposite, actually – but I see what you’re saying. I guess it’s better to just focus on the evidence. The evidence is compelling enough, all on its own.

      • Hi Willa, I agree with you that
        ”imposing your thoughts and feelings onto another person isn’t empathy”.
        But yes, the waters are muddy, and we’ll have more impact by focusing on the evidence, as you say.

  16. aldebaranredstar

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post, Willa and Joie! It’s interesting that the subtitle for Frankenstein was “A Modern Prometheus,” as I see MJ that way as well. To the Romantics (such as Mary Shelley), Prometheus represented the artist who breaks away from stultifying traditions, as Prometheus did when he gave humans the gift of fire, which was supposed to be reserved for the immortals. Prometheus was punished by being bound to a rock where an eagle tore out his liver every day. This was an eternal punishment b/c the liver regenerated overnight and was devoured again the next day. Eventually, Prometheus was freed by Hercules. MJ also suffered many torments, artistically and personally, due to breaking the rules of tradition. Prometheus is also seen as a great humanitarian, one who promotes civilization and the arts. There are many comparisons here.

    I agree too the while MJ certainly suffered greatly, I think he enjoyed the ‘highs’ of his creativity–the creative fire. I LOVE this quote from Nate Gorgio, an artist who was friends with MJ:

    “People always talked about how he was a prisoner, and that he could not go anywhere. Like all serious artists, however, he was mostly just a loner. MJ did not seem to worry about living a normal life. When an artist creates, that artist steps into his own little world, which is a much stronger place than people think. That world is not fragile, but is instead full of power and creativity. MJ, I believe, was like this.

    http://dansetrack.com/nate-giorgio-artist-and-friend-of-michael-jackson/

  17. Hey guys. Great post, Joi and Willa, as always.

    I wanted to read and comment before, but these have been difficult days. I have a blog that is focused on defending MJ form 1993/2003 accusation, so I’ve been very busy the last few days, as you can imagine.

    Wade’s allegations hit me like a sledgehammer, honestly. Worse, in fact, I feel like I’ve been run down. I was devastated.

    I know exactly what you mean about feel tired, Joie, because I feel exhausted. It is twenty years of suffering, 20 years in this battle, and when we think we’re getting to the beach, a wave throws you back to the stones. But Wade is being unmasked. His infamous accusations are ridiculous and there is no way to he explain all these years defending and praising Michael at every chance he had. His testimony in 2005 was very safe and secure. He can’t convince anyone with a brain that he was lying in 2005, further as he claims he did not know (being 22 years old)what a sex act is.

    I’ve cried a lot, I have discussed with haters, I have said things to fake fans as Chuky Klapow, and now I’m calmer and ready to go on defending Michael

  18. The lyrics of these songs are really brilliant and terrifying. It is sad to see how he felt. I would not have supported a tenth of what he endured.

    And he was right, these people, these Diane Dimonds, just throw the horrors that is in them on him, he’s just a mirror that reflects the monster they are. As Joe Vogel said, “why can’t we accept that a man enjoy being with children without wanting to have sex with them? ” Is it not because our soul is too dark, and our minds too dirty to see this for what it really is: just a man pure of heart that surrounded the children because he believed they would not harm him? With sure this Diane Dimonds can’t, and they just be happy when another person sells Michael for gold, as Wade is doing now.
    Thanks for quoting Frankenstein Mary Shelley, is one of my favorite works and I cry my eyes out whenever I read the the book or see the movie because the “monster”, as you said, Willa, was a good person, and he just wanted a friend and was rejected by the way he looks, even by those who created him, his father, who must to love him.

    And the story resembles John Merrick, who was abused and mistreated because of his physical deformity, but he was a sweet soul, sensitive, pure. I watched The Elephant Man many times, and I cry a lot, but I feel sorrier for the humanity than for Merrick. Humanity is really the monster in that story. In the end, I did not even notice deformation on Merrick’s body, so beautiful he seems to me, because of his soul, but the people who assaulted him, they cause me disgust.

    And I compare these four CHARACTERS: John Merrick, Frankenstein, Michael, and Erik, The Phanton of Opera. I find the stories very similar. The four were persecuted and mistreated because of their appearance and they four were fascinating person and good and full of love. But Frank and Erik left their hearts were corrupted and became vengeful and violent. But Michael and Merrick remained immaculate, with child soul, a child heart.
    And I think this world just not deserve Michael

  19. Great post Willa and Joie, and great comments on it too. I’d like to just add these words of Reverand Al Sharpton at Michael’s memorial.

    There are those who like to dig around mess, but millions around the world, we’re going to uphold his message. It’s not about mess, it’s about his love message.
    As you climb up steep mountains, sometimes you scar your knee, sometimes you break the skin, but don’t focus on the scars, focus on the journey. Michael rose to the top. Michael beat ’em, Michael rose to the top. He out sang his cynics, he out danced his doubters, out performed the pessimists. Every time he got knocked down he got back up. Every time we counted him out, he came back in. Michael never stopped, Michael never stopped, Michael never stopped.

    (to Prince, Paris and Blanket) There wasn’t nothing strange about your Daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with, but he dealt with it anyway, he dealt with it for us.
    ~Rev. Al Sharpton

    • Fantastic!!! thanx for the reminder to Keep The Faith, not with Mchael (that is never in doubt for me), but for Michael in these dark days, again!!!.

  20. This isn’t strictly on topic – an article just popped up on academia.edu : Negotiating The Legacy Of Michael Jackson: Bad 25 by Lyle De Souza http://www.academia.edu/3585366/Negotiating_The_Legacy_Of_Michael_Jackson_Bad_25

    what do you think?

    • Thanks a lot for sharing this article, sfaikus. I hadn’t seen it before, and it raises some interesting points, especially how it addresses specific ways Michael Jackson’s posthumous work and legacy are being presented for maximum market appeal.

      There are some things I disagree with, mainly that the author, Lyle De Souza, doesn’t grant Michael Jackson himself any degree of agency. For example, De Souza writes, “Bad … began a period of intense makeover and transformation both by Jackson’s PR and the media.” In other words, De Souza treats him as simply a product of his marketing team and the press, rather than an artist actively engaged in his career and public persona – what I tend to think of as his “art of celebrity.” As we’ve talked about many times on this website, I believe that “transformation” was motivated primarily by Michael Jackson himself, and that he had fascinating artistic reasons for transforming his career and image the way he did. De Souza ignores that possibility entirely.

      However, De Souza does raise some interesting questions. As he writes, “there are moral questions for the media too not only for their role in dehumanizing Jackson through their ‘Wacko Jacko’ stories but also for their coverage in regard to the child abuse allegations against him (both before his death for their presumption of his guilt and after his death for appearing to ‘forget’ entirely about the allegations).” While I appreciate that the allegations are no longer dominating public perceptions of Michael Jackson, I don’t think it serves him or his legacy well to simply sweep them under the rug. At some point, maybe when we’ve gained a little more emotional distance, there needs to be a thorough investigation of those allegations as well as how they were investigated (or not) by the police and reported (or misreported) by the press.

      Thanks again for sharing.

  21. Hi sfaikus — I think that Lyle De Souza really misses the boat on MJ. I especially take issue with the following —

    “As arguably the biggest-ever popular music
    cultural product, Jackson’s symbolic meaning has long been contested between the media and his PR. Each has attempted respectively to either transform or sanitize
    Jackson to present him more favorably for consumption, even (and especially) after his death in 2009.”

    He is totally leaving out MJ’s art. MJ was not a product, he produced. His symbolic meaning is contained in his art. It is his art, not how he was presented, that was responsible for his cultural impact.

    “In this article, I show that whereas in his life transformation and makeover was from one particularity to another (child to adult, Motown to global, black to white); in death transformation and makeover has diverged towards ambiguity, universal appeal and loss of subjectivity.”

    Again, I disagree, I think his universal appeal after his death results from the falling away of media crap, and the focus on his art, which has global appeal not because of a loss of subjectivity, but because MJ’s art is now less obstructed and obfuscated by all the sensationalism. I don’t find him ambiguous in the least. His message and his art are constant and clear and authentic and true. Just because ideas about him are all over the place doesn’t mean that he was.

    It is his knowledge of who he was that makes his art so powerful.

    MJ took advantage of his vitiligo to deliver the message that being black culturally has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin. Even tho’ his skin was white, he continued to be a black man — a proud black man — a black man with white skin.

    I think this guy is really annoying.

    I could go on and on, but you get the idea….

    • Dear Eleanor; I agree with you 100 percent!

    • “He is totally leaving out MJ’s art. MJ was not a product, he produced. His symbolic meaning is contained in his art.”

      Absolutely. Like Gloria, I agree 100 percent. However, I guess I would complicate your next line, Eleanor, where you say that “It is his art, not how he was presented, that was responsible for his cultural impact.” I think that “how he was presented” was part of his art – maybe even the most important part.

      Like Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson crafted a public persona that in many ways stands as a new and distinctly different art form. That’s what I mean when I talk about his “art of celebrity.” Of course, this persona was a point of constant mediation among Michael Jackson as artist, the media (especially the tabloid press), his fans, and his critics – he did not have complete control over his image by any means – but that doesn’t diminish it’s value as a work of art. In fact, I believe that constant mediation is part of what makes it so dynamic and interesting.

      • Right. I was assuming that his art included his persona. I was talking about how he was presented by others — how the tabloid media presented him, how Rolling Stone presented him, how music critics often presented him — not as a serious artist, but as a “pop” star, etc. And I believe that his own presentation of himself — his persona — was part of his art and I believe his very conscious persona as well as his artistic performance will in the long run outlive how others distorted and continue to distort his image.

  22. I want to remark on the “wanna be startin sometin”. There he sings: I am a vegetable, I am a buffet. There was some 2+ years ago a really interesting video to go with this. With reference to cannibalism if you so want. There is a big table with a person lying on it and covered with all kind of edibles, some seminaked females dancing around this table, a baccanal in fact.
    Michael felt he was eaten alive by the bad press, the legal system and to some extent the general public. I am sure he knew all along about Victor Guitirrez, NAMBLA and the press that followed their foot steps.
    And Wade R. claims he does not need money nor fame? Did he not do badly after his nervous breakdowns and what is going on with his mind now then. Sort of gradiouse.

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