Much Appreciation to Popular Musicology http://www.popular-musicology-online.com/issues/02/stillwater.html
“However, his face—or more precisely, the way he choreographed our constantly shifting perceptions of his face—is a work of art unlike any we’ve ever seen before, of a scope and genre unlike any we’ve ever seen before, and I believe it has the potential to fundamentally alter how we perceive, interpret, and experience our world. It’s a work that both evokes and contests some of our deepest prejudices, forcing us to look at our own reflections and question our own motives, responses, and beliefs. For example, when confronted with the changing color of his skin, what exactly did we feel (pity? contempt? shame? sorrow? embarrassment? guilt? maybe even a smug superiority?) and what do those emotions tell us about how we read and interpret racial differences? When evaluating the plastic surgery scandal and other scandals surrounding him, whom did we believe, whom did we treat with skepticism and disdain, and on what basis did we make that distinction?
And when contemplating the idea of a black man “turning white,” what was so very threatening about that—so threatening he was publicly castigated for it for more than two decades—and what accounts for the rather fevered insistence that a black man must stay black? His ever-shifting face—or rather, our ever-shifting interpretations of his face since his actual face changed very little—is a work that unhinges perception, frays the linkages between signifier and signified, and defies the many cultural narratives imposed on him and his body: narratives of race and gender, sexuality and criminality, and ultimately identity itself. It’s a work so revolutionary it requires new tools and new interpretive strategies to understand it.”
Monsters, Witches, and Michael Jackson’s Ghosts
“It’s right that I be contemplated
After having been stared at”
Wade Robson, a witness for the defense in the 2005 trial of Michael Jackson, recently recanted his sworn testimony that Jackson never molested him—testimony he steadfastly affirmed again and again, under oath, throughout vigorous cross-examination. However, he now says he was molested, and he and his lawyer, Henry Gradstein, have filed a creditor’s claim against the Jackson Estate seeking financial damages. In a prepared statement quoted May 9, 2013, by the New York Daily News and others, Gradstein told the press, “Michael Jackson was a monster, and in their hearts every normal person knows it.” In other words, Gradstein suggests “normal” people should follow their instincts and assume Jackson was guilty, before any evidence has been presented or considered, because Jackson was clearly not one of us. He was not “normal.” He was, in Gradstein’s words, “a monster.”
Ghosts can therefore be interpreted as Jackson’s imaginative reenactment and engagement with the scandal that had engulfed him off screen—specifically, with the cultural, emotional, and psychological dynamics of the accusations and the public outrage that followed. Viewed in this way, Ghosts has the potential to profoundly influence how we perceive and respond to Jackson himself, both as a “Maestro” accused of corrupting a child and as a fellow human ridiculed and feared because he was seen as suspiciously and irreconcilably different.
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