About Us

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 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.

If you would like to contact us, you can do so at dancing.with.the.elephant@gmail.com.

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  1. Could you please tell me if this book is only on Kindle, I would desperately love to have a copy but can’t seem to find one. Please put me out of my misery, I so need to read this and think it is a shame I can’t get hold of it.
    Rita

    • Hi Rita. Yes, unfortunately Willa’s book is only available in electronic format at this time. She is working towards getting M Poetica formally published.

    • Hello Rita,

      I bought the electronic version on amazon. You do not need a kindle, it’s also possible to store it on your pc. Let’s give that a try.

      Yours Jutta
      (Germany)

      • Hi Rita and Jutta. I wish the book were available in print! I’m working on it. But one nice thing about the Kindle version is that you don’t have to have a Kindle to read it. As you mentioned, Jutta, you can also read it on your computer, iPad, iPod, iPhone, . . . I tried to make it as accessible as possible, but I realize it’s not the same as reading a real book. . . .

  2. Your discussions are fascinating. Have you ever thought about “Susie”? She appears in several songs (Blood on the dance floor, Little Susie, and I think one other song).

    • I’ve also wondered about Susie– deadly in Blood on the Dance Floor, innocent in Little Susie… the duality of fame? the good he can achieve with it, and the toll that it takes out of him? the burden of the gift of his talent? I’d love to hear your take Willa and Joie. and thank you so much for this site devoted to MJ’s art!!

    • Hi Sandra and Zenriver – Willa and I have actually been thinking about Susie lately so, perhaps we will talk about her in the coming weeks.

    • Another Susie observation: I just noticed that when the knife strikes he heart picture at the beginning and end of the Blood on the Dance Floor video, it cuts the writing “susie + me” in half, resulting in “su me”. Hmmmmm, sue me…….

  3. I am amazed… I am reading M Poetica, first chapter, and I finally understand the video for Stranger in Moscow. THANK YOU! It now makes sense, and it is so very powerful. Here is the section from your book that grabbed me by the throat:

    “It begins to rain, pretty much a universal symbol for hard times… The adults hunker down, shielding themselves from the rain and feeling even more sad and isolated.  Suddenly we hear an excited shout, and then a small group of kids comes splashing through the downpour…. The creative energy of childhood still exists, and still has the ability to inspire.  Through them, the meaning of the rain itself is transformed from a hardship to a type of baptism, a source of renewal.  One by one the adults reach a hand into the rain and begin to venture out.

    By the end of the video, Jackson is in the rain as well, completely drenched.  He flings his head back and his wet hair arcs over him.  Then he stands with his arms outstretched, rain falling down.  It’s a striking gesture since this was such a characteristic pose for him when he was in concert—one he typically adopted during an audience’s applause… However, here he isn’t awash in applause but condemnation, and his arms droop with the weight of it.  But he’s decided to accept these hard times just as he once accepted the applause, and while he’s not happy, maybe like the children running by he’ll find it within himself to have joyous times in the rain as well.”

    Amazing that MJ was turning his pain into a source of creative inspiration. What an incredible artist.

    • Hi Sandra. Stranger in Moscow is so beautiful to me – just this exquisite gem of a film. He made so many amazing videos it’s hard to pick a favorite, but Stranger in Moscow may be my favorite. I love everything about it – his voice, the images, the cinematography, and especially the ideas. I completely agree when you say, “Amazing that MJ was turning his pain into a source of creative inspiration. What an incredible artist.” I think that’s why this video is so deeply moving for me, especially when I think of everything he was going through then.

  4. Another thought came to me while reading about the “Bad” video in M Poetica. I always thought that the tortoiseshell glasses must have some deeper significance. Daryl’s friend puts them on to look good for the paparazzi, but they don’t help him see (no lenses) and he doesn’t know their name (calls them turtleshell glasses). He wants fame, but doesn’t understand the dangers involved?

    • Interesting! And critiquing the media and paparazzi are a common theme in his work, so your interpretation fits that way as well.

  5. Sylvia J. Martin, PhD

    Hello, I am really enjoying this blog. In particular I found the last post about Invincible interesting, especially Joie’s observation that Michael was singing these songs of loss to “the others” – not the fans who were still loyal, but specific individuals and the general public who had moved on from him. This was very poignant because I think it was this fall from grace with the ordinary people who had loved him since he was little Michael, with the media who had thrived off his earlier successes, and with friends who abandoned him which broke his heart.

    Dr. Stillwater, I’d like to send you an email about my forthcoming work on MJ. Can you please respond to my email below?

    Thank you.

  6. I just started reading M.Poetica and I just can’t tell you how beautiful it is, thank you so much for such a wonderful analysis. I love Michael and his music but I can’t say his whole message was ever as clear to me as it is now. Thank you again, so much.

  7. Hi, Willa–unfortunately, I cannot access ‘M Poetica’ at all–my operating system is not new enough for a direct download and I don’t have the Kindle–sigh. So I was excited to read some comments here about your discussion of ‘Stranger in Moscow.’ I was so interested to hear you say it is your favorite film of MJ! I agree is is wonderful in many ways and I love the song itself–so beautiful.

    I also would like to suggest that the rain can signify healing and god’s grace. Without the rain, crops, trees, etc., cannot flourish or even grow (if there is drought vegetation dies). Rain is considered a blessing by many. In Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Portia states–‘The quality of mercy is not strained. It falleth as the gentle rain from heaven . . . .’ MJ is asking, ‘Lord, have mercy.’ I would like to suggest that God’s mercy is embodied by the rain–which heals, cleanses, and purifies, and renews.

    Thanks for the opportunity to express views about MJ–I hope your book will be published in book form one day!

    • Hi Aldebaran. I love your approach to Stranger in Moscow, and I agree – the rain is such an important metaphor of healing and renewal in this film. I don’t see it in religious terms so much, though that’s certainly a valid way to interpret it, but I love way the meaning of the rain shifts over the course of the video. At the beginning, he sings, “I was wandering in the rain … Sunny days seem far away” and then “On and on and on it came / Wish the rain would just let me be.” So at the beginning, the rain seems to act as a metaphor for the despair he’s feeling because of the molestation accusations, and his “swift and sudden fall from grace.”

      But by the end, the rain signifies something completely different. It has become a source of spiritual awakening and rejuvenation – as you say, it “heals, cleanses, purifies, and renews.” So the meaning of the rain shifts dramatically over the course of the video, and importantly, it’s the three children/teenagers running through the rain who bring about that shift. The suffering adults shielding themselves from the rain – the man behind the glass of his apartment, the woman behind the glass of the coffee shop, Michael Jackson’s character under the awning – see the children running by, and it’s after witnessing their joy in the rain that the adults venture out as well.

      This is such a poignant film, and the deft way he handles those complex ideas and images is so skillful and subtle, and just so beautiful to me. It’s very moving, and makes you want to go stand in the rain. …

      So I’m really sorry the Kindle app doesn’t work on your computer. You can also read it on an iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Droid, and some other smart phones, I think, if you have any of those. And I’m still trying to get it published the old-fashioned way – there’s just something very satisfying about holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. Keep your fingers crossed.

  8. Hi, Willa–Thanks for your comments on the film ‘Stranger in Moscow’–I will have to look at it again in light of what you wrote. Maybe you and Joie will do a weekly blog on that film? The word you use–‘poignant’ is right on. He sings about his pain in such eloquent and moving terms. Some people think the film is bleak–it’s in black and white, of course. It would be great to have a fuller discussion of it one day.

    I don’t have any smart phones–so I’ll just keep hoping ‘M Poetica’ will be available in book form–fingers crossed!

  9. Hi Willa. I bought your book and I’m reading it on my computer. Thank you so much for your work and your commitment, you help me to better understand Michael and keep alive hs legacy

  10. Maria, Greece

    Thank you Mrs Willa Stillwater and Mrs Joie Collins for this great blog! You have been providing us with such insightful analysis with your excellent conversations! You are doing a wonderful job…helping preserve Michael’s true legacy alive! God bless you! You are both so committed and truthful.. Much love!

  11. Mrs Janice Offord

    Thank you so by much for all your hard work in keeping Michael’s memory and legacy alive through your very insightful Blog. I enjoy it so much and my heart leaps when you pop up in my mail box. My love and appreciation is reawakened and renewed every time I read your works. Please, please continue. By the way,I am interested to know why you you have given your work the title of Dancing with the Elephant please?

    • Hi Janice. That’s a good question. It’s not an obvious title for a blog about Michael Jackson, is it? Joie and I talked about it a little in our very first post, but there are some other reasons as well – like Michael Jackson really loved elephants, and there are some interesting similarities between elephants and humans. For example, both have a very long period of childhood, which is a rarity in the animal world. There are some other reasons as well. Maybe Joie and I should talk about that again sometime.

  12. Mrs Janice Offord

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. X

  13. Willa and Joie, I started a new blog about memorials to MJ around the world: http://theworldremembers.wordpress.com. If you can add it to your blogroll, I’ll appreciate. Thanks!

  14. I found this blog today, a very interesting discussion of Michael
    http://elizabethamisu.com/tagged/dangerousphilosophies

    • Hi sfaikus. I was just visiting that blog and read a powerful article she wrote comparing the media treatment of Michael Jackson with the Biblical story of Naboth, an innocent man who was falsely accused and publicly stoned so the king could acquire his land. Here’s a link to the article, “Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson.”

  15. Yes, that is what caught my attention. She is also writing about other Jacksonists, including you and Joie.

  1. Pingback: MJ Academic of the Week 12/12 – Willa Stillwater & Joie Collins – Writing Eliza

  2. Pingback: Interview with Willa Stillwater – The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

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