Monday, December 7, 2009

Image control - Michael Jackson style

If it's propaganda, that doesn't mean it's not true.

I said these words to a couple of family members after seeing This Is It, a fantastic documentary about Michael Jackson's last tour that will make people appreciate the King of Pop again.

Let's face it, the images most people had of Jackson, both the visual one he crafted for himself and the events of his life the media reported, were freakish. He has been accused of being a child molester, twice. He hung his baby off a balcony. The pale vampire face and off-putting cosmetic surgery, reinforced the freakishness of the man.

By giving us a behind the scenes look at Jackson preparing for his concert, the filmmakers showed us an entertainer in complete control of his craft. Jackson told musicians how to play HIS music and told stage managers when to cue the lights. Image Beyonce or Britney trying to play similar roles. I can't. I also can’t image how much it costs to produce a show like his tour, but I know the pressure to make it successful must have been enormous. I can understand way he had trouble sleeping.

As a piece of propaganda, the movie is a successful attempt to regain his legacy as the King of Pop. Simply by showing us Michael Jackson as a performer and performance manager, the movie reclaimed the King of Pop's role as one of the most important songwriters and entertainers of our time.

There is a reason Thriller is the best selling album of all time. Hint: it's the music stupid. Even a couple of decades later the riffs are infectious. Because MTV has stopped playing videos, most folks don't remember that releasing a killer video on MTV was a national event. The video for Thriller's title song remains one of the most parodied videos of all-time because it is so ubiquitous, and that's not even getting into Beat It or Billie Jean. Oh yeah, and he reintroduced the moonwalk.

Jackson helped shape music videos and he in turn was shaped by it. I tend think he got the dirtier end of the bargain. Few entertainers who find wealth and fame at an early age are enriched by the experience, or maybe we only hear about their abhorrent behavior precisely because it is newsworthy.

Thankfully and hopefully, the movie will push our memories of Jackson the Freak to the backburner. What will remain is the image of him gliding across a stage singing a song that has a killer hook. Propaganda is using media to shape emotions and that’s not always bad. For me, This Is It recreated an emotion bond to the performer I knew from childhood.

I’m okay with that.

1 comment:

Tony Mackey said...

Sorry man, but I won't watch the movie and he will always be a freak to me. Remind me to get you better taste in music for your next birthday. Ever hear of Rock and Roll?

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