Four Faces of Michael Jackson

© Brandt Hardin

The only constant is change: the seed becomes a tree, the caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly, the world-famous pop star whose indiscretions brought shame in life becomes a pixelated god after death. Even before his deification, Michael Jackson was transformed from a cute black boy in the 70s into what Dave Chappelle calls a “white, ghoulish-like creature” by the late 90s. Perhaps this is an ominous omen of the Post-Human Age that is fast approaching. As fans consume MJ’s corpse on this second deathday like autograph-hungry maggots, at least they can take comfort knowing that one day they will all become beautiful flies.

Baby Mike

When little Michael Jackson came to the forefront of the Jackson 5, the pop world stood still for his love songs. How could such a young boy be so grown up? What does an adolescent kid from Gary, Indiana know about romantic love and relationships that gives him such passion and insight on the subject? Of course, little Michael knew nothing of love—but he did know that one false note would earn him a belt-lashing from his father, Joe, so he quickly learned to perform a convincing charade.

Joe Jackson was one mean son of a bitch. He beat all of his many kids relentlessly, boys and girls alike. If you pissed him off, he would beat your ass. If you made him happy, he would beat your ass some more, just to make sure you didn’t think he was going soft on you. Michael attributed his excellence in song and dance to his father’s strict discipline, but the emotional scars would rise to the surface in time.

Michael was completely isolated by child stardom like a self-obsessed midget in a doll house. His days were spent rehearsing under threat of beatings, his nights were spent performing with Joe watching backstage. La la la, boogie boogie boogie—backhand to the chin. What a life. Any spare time he found in between was spent mulling over his own flaws, consistently pointed out by his sadistic father.

Joe Jackson made fun of his son’s acne and called him “Big Nose” because of Michael’s wide, African snout. Little Michael couldn’t even bear to look in a mirror. To the world he was the cutest little button in the bundle. To his own eyes, he was a fucking monster. How ironic that the tables would turn completely at the hands of various inept plastic surgeons and the kazillion photos that would make him immortal.

The King of Pop

© Jeffrey Bertrand

The 80s came like a foaming wave of pop obsession, with Michael Jackson riding atop on a sequined surfboard. We saw him knife-fighting his way through “Beat It.” We watched him attempt to moonwalk away from accusations of sexual irresponsibility in “Billie Jean.” We were terrified at his monstrous transformation on “Thriller.” The yellow eyes, the prominent cheekbones, the button nose. I am still scared shitless.

The theme of “Thriller”—in which an otherwise normal guy morphs into a blood-thirsty beast, then later on, into a rotten, urban zombie gyrating his pelvis with lascivious pop star sensuality—is a striking metaphor for the primal urges we all feel from time to time. Beneath the fur, fangs, and grunts of classic monster movie villains are the disturbingly mundane desires that overtake men with weak impulse control.

The Werewolf is a symbol of unbridled violence and sexuality. The seductive Dracula is the wealthy noble who goes after virgin village girls, draining them of life and making them into slaves. Swamp Thing is a fish-smelling coonass who carries his buxom victim off to the marsh to have his way with her. Frankenstein’s monster is a stitched up freak that only a child could love. No wonder Michael could relate.

Thriller remains the best-selling album in the world, though Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream may soon break Thriller’s world record as the only album to have five #1 singles. The success of the album rocketed Michael Jackson into the farthest reaches of space, where his quasar continues to pour radiation down to Earth. Jackson’s choreography is impeccable, copied from the black street dancers of New York and Los Angeles. His vocals are at once impassioned and totally under his control. The beats were no joke, either—unless you count “Weird” Al Yankovic’s renditions. Michael Jackson was a pop genius, pure and simple.

By the end of the 80s, he was raking in millions of dollars. The entire world knew his name. Fans would risk life and limb to touch the hem of his garment. Grown men wore single sparkling gloves in imitation of their idol. Women would burst into tears upon catching a glimpse of his white smile. Despite his pious rhetoric, which stemmed from a devout upbringing in the Jehovah’s Witness sect, Michael Jackson had become a god on Earth with a halo of flaming hair and a spirit animal, “Bubbles” the chimp, to guide him on his way.

Wacko Jacko

© Jeffrey Bertrand

As his music matured, the King of Pop began to inject Messianic visions of One World under Michael into his songs. We would save the children and heal the world with love and indiscriminate acceptance of personal idiosyncrasies. That’s pretty cynical—and clever—when you consider the allegations of child molestation which surfaced against the singer in the early 90s.

Of course, young Jordan Chandler’s claims that Jackson enticed him at 13 years-old into kissing, wanking, and felating were dismissed by the legal system after an undisclosed monetary settlement closed the case. But after that, many of us began to wonder if Michael Jackson was really a wholesome secular Messiah, or just another smooth criminal.

Absolute excess is nothing new to the entertainment elite, but somehow Michael Jackson’s increasingly bizarre appearance made the prospect of child molestation that much more disturbing—for those of us who cried “Guilty!” anyway. Others were more charitable. Like Christians who are willing to go to blows at the suggestion that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman centurion, or neo-Nazis who maintain that Hitler was just misunderstood, obsessed MJ fans refuse to believe that their hero would ever stoop to buggering children.

If I ever had any doubts about MJ’s guilt, they were completely dispelled when Living with Michael Jackson aired in 2003. At the opening of the documentary, we see Michael sitting beneath a fine arts painting of himself as a muscular pagan god with alabaster skin. Youthful cherubs caress the painted pop star as he stares impassively at the viewer. The effect is chilling.

Over the course of the film we listen to MJ lie through his teeth about his plastic surgery. He claims that he is the biological father of his three children, then finally he denies any sexual misconduct with the twelve year-old boy with whom he holds hands and cuddles with on camera.

By this point, the plastic surgery is beyond obvious—the guy looks like Marilyn Manson with Tinker Bell’s nose for Christ’s sake. His hair is as straight and black as Eazy E, his eyes are slanted like media reports on Biggie Small’s death, his lips are thinner than Karen Carpenter, his cheekbones are higher than Sid Vicious, there is a dimple in his chin as deep as Patsy Cline’s vagina, and his nose is barely hanging on. Yet he looks the interviewer in the eye and tells him that God made him that way. Unless “God” is a metaphor for medical ingenuity and millions of dollars, I call bullshit.

Strike one.

Michael parades his pale children through the streets wearing carnival masks. All three are whiter than the blue-eyed Devil. He dangles baby “Blanket” from a fourth-story balcony, then crams a bottle into the squalling kid’s peachy face the next day, saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” staring with psycho almond eyes. When confronted about the baby-dangling, he denies responsibility, arrogantly stating that he was just being kind enough to let fans see his veiled rug rat. The kicker: Later on Michael not only claims to have contributed his own thoroughly African sperm to Blanket’s genetic make-up, he insists that the unpigmented infant’s mother is actually black!

Strike two.

At the end of the program, Michael defends himself against suggestions that it is inappropriate for a middle-aged man to share a bed with adolescent boys in his magical Neverland mansion, but I have lost all sympathy for him at this point. When he says, “The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone”—particularly impressionable, prepubescent boys—my Pervo-Meter is spitting out sparks and springs.

Strike three.

Dedicated fans rallied behind their golden idol. They kept chanting in unison, “Fuck the press, you’re the best!” Over the course of the 2005 trial, it became clear that the accuser Gavin Arvizo’s parents were as shady and opportunistic as Jordan Chandler’s parents had been in 1993. And who would deny that any parents willing to accept money to allow their child to sleep over at a celebrity robber baron’s mansion are untrustworthy?

The media was equally calloused—after all, how cruel do you have to be to make multiple teenagers world-famous for getting molested by Michael Jackson? Still, only a rube would buy into Jackson’s bald-faced insistence that he was an innocent victim of a worldwide conspiracy to rob him of his Messianic destiny. Nonsense. MJ was just another billionaire lab monkey with a button wired to the demented pleasure centers of his brain, and he just couldn’t keep his sickly bleached thumb off of that motherfucker.

They don’t call it a sick, sad world for nothing.


Even after the “not guilty” verdict, Michael was ruined. Bankrupt, humiliated, and perhaps hungry for some Arab action, he high-tailed it to Bahrain where he was hosted by the sheik in his palace. Decadent elites of a feather?

Then in 2006, the incorrigible King of Pop(ping man-cherries) was ready for a comeback. He began recording with the Black Eyed Peas’ in Ireland. The next year, he did a final interview with Ebony magazine. In 2009 he rounded up the roadies and geared up for yet another world tour. The Earthlings still loved their fallen angel—within two hours, over a million tickets were sold for MJ’s first residency stint at London’s O2 Arena. Then came the grand finale.

Just when you thought the cult of dead rock stars was a thing of the past, on June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson died of cardiac arrest. You have to wonder if the appropriately entitled This Is It tour was an intentional reference.  His personal physician stands accused of manslaughter for administering the anaesthetic Propofol, along with a cocktail of other pharmies, to relieve Jackson’s insomnia—which Propofol was never intended for.

The entire world went nuts. Every day, for days and days and days, all you heard were Michael Jackson songs. They played “Billie Jean” at bars. They bumped “Smooth Criminal” from their cars. They showed “Thriller” on TV. Billions of frantic searches for more information on the star’s death broke the fucking Internet.

Fans gathered to weep and mourn together at the Staples Center in LA, where MJ held his tour rehearsals. They left flowers and devotional prayers on his star on Hollywood Boulevard. Even now, they are gathering in his hometown of Gary, Indiana to honor their mutant Lord. Fans will forgive anything if you just make the hook catchy enough. Most people will cover their eyes and follow spiritual charlatans, corrupt political leaders, and yes, even pedophile pop stars over the edge of a moral precipice when the piper calls the tune. It’s just human nature. The technological creation that was Michael Jackson is no exception.

Fuck me once, shame on you. Fuck me twice… well, I guess that means I asked for it.

© 2011 Joseph Allen

Michael Jackson — “Thriller”