Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Metaphor of Hybridity: The Body of Michael Jackson

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Metaphor of Hybridity: The Body of Michael Jackson

Article excerpt

Abstract

In her study of Michael Jackson, Margo Jefferson states that the task of the black artist "was not actually one of creating the uncreated conscience of his race, but of creating the uncreated features of his face" (97). Jefferson attempts to set up a reading of fluid race and gender of Michael Jackson, all the while focusing on this notion of the black woman embodied by Michael's mother, Katherine, and Diana Ross as if black femininity were at the core of his representations, or as if "black femininity" were in a representational domain of its own. Critiquing Jefferson's study on Michael Jackson, I propose an alternative reading of Michael's body whose performativity went far beyond dance and approached the realm of somatic change which included a blurring of the lines between male and female, between black and white and between human and animal. In the end, Michael Jackson's body defied definition: he was sexless as he interpreted the roles of both man and women; his sexuality was represented as either non-existant or hyper-active, between the media sensationalism of his not possessing a sexuality whatsoever to his preying upon children; and likewise Jackson defied race as he was neither black nor white, paradoxically because he was both black and white.

"To be different is to lead a life of pain and persecution"

-Nip/Tuck

Many writers and theorists have attempted to deconstruct the persona of Michael Jackson from his superstar emergence in 1979 with the studio release of Off the Wall-from Jean Baudrillard to Margo Jefferson to Bernard-Henri Lévy to all media sources and any pop psychologist who wants to comment about any number of newly generated "syndromes" or social behaviorisms in the past twenty-five years. However, no treatment of Michael Jackson had ever been so extensive and post-mortem in the clinical sense of the word as how Jackson's body was textually treated after his death 23 June, 2009. Jackson's body was, in a tradition reminiscent of 19th century anthropology, diagnosed from afar-ETV, Geraldo Rivera and every media pundit with a clip-on microphone espoused Jackson's illnesses: how he was "emotionally" a fourteen year-old child who just wanted to recreate himself as Peter Pan in both thought and physical incarnation, that he was bulimic, that he had body dysmorphic disorder, that he tried to look like Diana Ross, that he bleached his skin, among a myriad of other speculations. Jackson's life and body were analyzed ad nauseum to the point of revisiting his legal and financial woes and his legal troubles were revisited in a scene reminiscent of a very dark Christmas Carol such that it was clear that the "truth" about Jackson would only be revealed by attaching specific meaning to his body, in all its dimensions and polymorphic positionings.

Herein I propose an alternative reading of Michael's body whose performativity went far beyond dance and approached the realm of somatic change which included a blurring of the lines between male and female, between black and white and between human and animal. In the end, Michael Jackson's body defied definition: he was sexless as he interpreted the roles of both man and women; his sexuality was represented as either non-existant or hyper-active, between the media sensationalism of his not possessing a sexuality whatsoever to his preying upon children; and likewise Jackson defied race as he was neither black nor white, paradoxically because he was both black and white. Jackson modeled his body after the coincidences of its condition, of its somatic health (and disorder) and he sculpted his identity into and around these narratives creating a being that put into question his markings within a culture rather obsessed with names, a culture where identity is singular or, at the very least, hyphenated. Michael Jackson's body reveals a life which attempted to release the fixed corporeality to a specific tradition of identity within a social landscape wherein naming is everything, where names reveal and where play and gesture are secondary. …

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