Was Michael Jackson Really Bad? By Emily Smart

A Moonwalk Down Memory Lane

There’s been something of a Michael Jackson Renaissance in this house of late, as the kids have discovered the man in the mirror via YouTube. Hours are spent watching the creative genius moonwalk and dance his way through endless pop videos, from Blame it On the Boogie to Black or White. They love him. My eldest – just about to turn eight – daughter announced this morning, “You know Mum, I’m not so worried about death, ‘cos I’ll get to meet Michael Jackson.” Possibly one of the last things you want to hear from one of your kids and it’s gotta be up there with, “Mum, I accidently posted the party invite on Facebook” or “I borrowed the car Dad (even though you specifically said I couldn’t), then I sneezed and crashed into the car in front causing $2,000 worth of damage.” The latter actually happened to my brother, and we had to stop my father from phoning the police to tell them the car was stolen by my brother before he crashed it. But I digress…

Revisiting Mr Jackson with the children has been a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. Several songs resonate. I vividly remember Thriller. The ground-breaking video (it truly was) could only be shown after 9 pm at night (because of the BBC watershed). Under 15s weren’t supposed to see it, but I was staying at a friend’s who had very liberal parents, so at 14, I was allowed to watch. It was dead (zombie actually) scary. There’s no getting over it, the man was a brilliant performer. I can sit for hours watching the dance routines and I never get bored. So much for the watershed: my kids (all under 8) watch the Thriller video and find the ‘special effects’ hilarious. Whilst the make-up, arms dropping off and bad costumes look terribly dated, the music and dance is something else. The haunting voice of Vincent Price was a master stroke, and Jackson is at his best, performing at the height of his career. If you have 13 minutes and 43 seconds to spare, take a look. Skip the ‘acting’ bits and move straight onto the set dance piece. Much copied at weddings, re-worked into a ‘routine’ by a group of my mates and me at a school disco (see dodge pic.) Thrillerand parodied in films, it retains its magic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA

Really, Really Good

Another favourite is Bad. Again from a choreographically – think I may have just made up a word – viewpoint the dancing is fabulous.   However, the clothes are definitely of their time (whoever thought headbands were a good idea?). The concept for the video was innovative and edgy back in the day. Now, I can’t help laughing at Michael and a load of would-be ballet dancers prancing around in naff costumes and leg warmers with too much make-up singing, “I’m bad, I’m bad, really, really bad” in a high pitched falsetto. The groin grabbing and ‘woooh, jambons’ are quite simply ludicrous. I’ve seen Brownies trying to flog cookies at a bake stall look more threatening!

Dark side of the Moon – walk (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Then there’s the other side of the man. This has been so well documented that I don’t need to dwell on the details. I still feel sad when I watch a young Michael performing with the Jackson 5 and see this beautiful, talented black boy. By the time of his death he had lost his nose, hair, skin colour and possibility his credibility, but the punters still loved him and wanted more. It’s difficult trying to respond when your 5 year old asks why Michael Jackson is white when he used to be black; why he talks like a girl when’s he’s a man; why he wears Band Aid plasters on his fingers when he hasn’t hurt himself and why he wears a glove on one hand only. Thank God they don’t ask about the wardrobe full of bondage gear and dictator like uniforms, Bubbles the monkey, the Neverland ranch, and the allegations of paedophilia.

Looking back on Michael Jackson’s legacy, I can’t help wondering if he knew he wasn’t quite right all along. Surely he must have known that he was plagued with problems and that he simply wasn’t like most people when it came to emotions and relationships. Was he trying to tell us, his adoring audience, that he really was a wrong ‘un? “I’m bad, I’m bad, really, really bad.” When he turned into a werewolf and then a zombie in the Thriller video, was he revealing his inner demons? It certainly makes you think when you consider his other works where he was obviously trying to tell his fans something, consider the songs ‘Black or White’ and ‘Leave me Alone’.

There’s probably a college thesis in this, but I can’t be fagged to write it. For my money, the bloke was absolutely bonkers and probably interfered with children which, at the very least, should have meant a lifetime incarcerated. The irony that my kids love Michael Jackson is not lost on me, and when they are older, they’ll probably hear all the stories about him and make up their own minds. As for me, I suspend the belief in all the bad press when I see the man sing and dance, and focus on what a genuinely unique performer he was.


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