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On Michael Jackson

On Michael Jackson

迈克尔杰克逊全传

作    者
Jefferson, Margo;  
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所属分类
Biography & Autobiography > General
Music > Genres & Styles > Pop Vocal
Social Science > Popular Culture > General
出版社
Random House Inc
ISBN-13
9780307277657
ISBN-10
0307277658
出版日期
2007-01
页数
146
单位
尺寸
20.96 * 1.27 * 13.97
装帧
Paperback
版本

Product Description

Michael Jackson was once universally acclaimed as a song-and-dance man of genius; Wacko Jacko is now, more often than not, dismissed for his bizarre race and gender transformations and confounding antics, even as he is commonly reviled for the child molestation charges twice brought against him. Whence the weirdness and alleged criminality? How to account for Michael Jackson’s rise and fall? In On Michael Jackson—an at once passionate, incisive, and bracing work of cultural analysis—Pulitzer Prize–winning critic for The New York Times Margo Jefferson brilliantly unravels the complexities of one of the most enigmatic figures of our time.

Who is Michael Jackson and what does it mean to call him a “What Is It”? What do P. T. Barnum, Peter Pan, and Edgar Allan Poe have to do with our fascination with Jackson? How did his curious Victorian upbringing and his tenure as a child prodigy on the “chitlin’ circuit” inform his character and multiplicity of selves? How is Michael Jackson’s celebrity related to the outrageous popularity of nineteenth-century minstrelsy? What is the perverse appeal of child stars for grown-ups and what is the price of such stardom for these children and for us? What uncanniness provoked Michael Jackson to become “Alone of All His Race, Alone of All Her Sex,” while establishing himself as an undeniably great performer with neo-Gothic, dandy proclivities and a producer of visionary music videos? What do we find so unnerving about Michael Jackson’s presumed monstrosity? In short, how are we all of us implicated?

In her stunning first book, Margo Jefferson gives us the incontrovertible lowdown on call-him-what-you-wish; she offers a powerful reckoning with a quintessential, richly allusive signifier of American society and popular culture. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Margo Jefferson has written for The New York Times since 1993 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. She lives in New York City.

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson is a lucid and elegant cultural analysis of the rise and fall of the King of Pop.

An award-winning cultural critic, Jefferson brings an unexpected compassion as well as her sharp intellect and incomparable insight to Jackson’s 2005 trial for child molestation, startling us with her erudite illumination of a media-drenched circus that we only thought we understood. As only she can, Jefferson reads between the lines of Jackson’s 1998 autobiography as well as published accounts of his childhood, his family, and Motown--where Michael and his brothers first made the Jackson 5 a household name--leaving us with provocative and perhaps unanswerable questions about Jackson, child stardom, and fame itself.



Margo Jefferson on the Life and Death of Michael Jackson

Pundits love to talk about the crises and cultural flashpoints that give Americans the chance to grow up and think outside of the usual dualities: this is good, that is evil; we hate her, we love him. Michael Jackson’s death gives us yet another chance.

Talent, scandal, sudden death, and a 24/7 media cycle make us very worshipful or very cynical. We can do better this time around. We don’t have to sneer or be pious. We know Michael Jackson was a genius, and we know he became a tortured soul. The first three days after his death were our grace period. We watched videos, replayed our favorite songs relived our youth, and waxed nostalgia about the good old days when all we had to deal with was his enormous talent. And though I never much liked the song, "we" were definitely the world--crowding onto streets, into theaters and parks, dancing (or at least swaying) to his music. North and South America. Europe. Africa. Asia. Only Antarctica and most of the animal kingdom stayed uninvolved.

Then the nasty stuff started creeping out again, like the ghouls in Thriller. Drug reports, rumors of custody wars, tours of an empty Neverland, memorial extravaganza plans; the sight of Michael’s father hustling family unity along with his new record company; the statements and counter-statements of siblings, lawyers, ex-employees, companions and bottom-feeders. And, of course, the three children. Whatever we don’t know about them, we do know they’re worth their weight in gold records and posthumous business deals. And it’s only just begun.

But we can live with the damaged life and the great work: both of them, all at once. We have to. So much of Michael Jackson’s damage reflects the worst in our culture, and so much of his talent reflects the best.--Margo Jefferson

(Photo © Brent Murray)

Review

"Stimulating.... Incisive, intelligent.... Engaging, well written and consistently on target."
The New York Times

"Jefferson writes...with elegance and attitude....One closes the book hungry to hear her take on other talented but troubled celebrities."
The Washington Post

"Sparkling....Eloquent and provocative.... Watching Margo Jefferson's mind at work is as pleasurable and thrilling as seeing Michael Jackson dance."
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Hers is a dazzling act of sustained vivacity and wisdom. Margo Jefferson brilliantly illuminates both Michael Jackson’s psyche and his art, giving us in the process a fascinating broader picture of American pop culture. Shockingly, Jackson turns out to be as representative as he is singular."
—Ann Douglas, author of Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s and The Feminization of American Culture

“Margo Jefferson, an unfailingly shrewd and eloquent cultural critic, finds in Michael Jackson a paradigm for probing the ambitions, desperations, triumphs, and sacrifices of an artist who stakes everything on a crown. Beyond palace intrigue, she explicates the meaning of show business masks, of racial and social determinants, of spectacle on stage and in the courtroom. She is compelling.”
—Gary Giddins, author of Weather Bird and Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer-winning New York Times critic Jefferson collects her meditations on what may be the oddest show-biz figure of all time. "Freaks" is the title of her first essay, and she notes Jackson's attraction to Barnum as well as the strangely apt imagery of his best-known video, "Thriller." Born in 1958 to a bullying father and a mother who was a Jehovah's Witness convert, the youngest member of the Jackson Five quickly became its VIP. Child stars are never "normal," and Jefferson glances at Buster Keaton, Jackie Coogan, Sammy Davis Jr. and, of course, Shirley Temple, the only one of them even more famous than Jackson, unless you count Elizabeth Taylor, Jackson's "best friend," who supplanted Diana Ross as his apparent role model. Jackson, Jefferson believes, is a "sexual impersonator," imitating, at times, a gay man, a white woman, a "gangsta" and a "pop Count Dracula." His bizarre looks and behavior drew literally thousands of cameras to his 2005 trial for child molestation. Jefferson concludes that Jackson may be a "monstrous child," but that he is, to a degree, a mirror of us all. Her slim, smart volume of cultural analysis may remind readers of Susan Sontag's early, brilliant essays on pop culture. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Longtime New York Times writer Jefferson devotes her short first book to the man who surely must be the most interesting living American entertainer. She tries to account for how Michael Jackson became what he is, beginning with the chapter "Freaks," which uses Jackson's interest in P. T. Barnum--he gives copies of the great bunkum artist's autobiography to all who work for him--to suggest that Jackson is not uninterested in being a freak and is intrigued by public deception and deliberate ambiguity (when a Barnum attraction was shown up as phony, Barnum wouldn't dispute revealed truth but also wouldn't retract the falsehood; that way, both truth and falsehood became means of attracting paying customers). In "Home" and "Star Child," Jefferson brings in the domestic and professional peculiarities, many of them pretty unwholesome, that nurtured Jackson's narcissism and perfectionism and led him to become the nonpareil physical figure she considers in "Alone of All His Race, Alone of All Her Sex" --that is, an apparently raceless, sexless, humanlike being. Finally, "The Trial" discusses how Jackson prevailed against child molestation charges and speculates on his guilt or innocence, inclining to the latter because of Jackson's fetishization of childlike innocence, positing that Jackson is tempted to molest but gets his kicks, as it were, out of always resisting. Replete with exegesis of Jackson's exceptional dancing and his great music videos and how they derive from African American entertainment traditions and relate to Jackson and his public's fascinations, this is one smart little book. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Every mind is a clutter of memories, images, inventions and age-old repetitions. It can be a ghetto, too, if a ghetto is a sealed-off, confined place. Or a sanctuary, where one is free to dream and think whatever one wants. For most of us it’s both—and a lot more complicated. A ghetto can be a place of vitality; a sanctuary can become a prison. Michael Jackson escaped the ghetto of Gary, Indiana, and built the sanctuary of Neverland. It’s become a circuslike prison, emblematic of the mind of Michael Jackson.

Think of his mind as a funhouse,1 and look at some of the exhibits on display: P. T. Barnum, maestro of wonders and humbuggery; Walt Disney, who invented the world’s mightiest fantasy-technology complex; Peter Pan (“He escaped from being human when he was seven days old”2); a haggard Edgar Allan Poe (he was the only character besides Peter Pan that Michael Jackson planned to play in a movie); the romping, ever-combustible Three Stooges; a friendly chimpanzee named Bubbles who has his own wardrobe of clothes; and a python lying coiled between placid white llamas.

Tears roll down the gnarled lizard cheeks of E.T. as he dreams of home; Charlie Chaplin sits alone on a stoop, his Little Tramp chin in his hands. A knife gleams in a darkened alley; a panther stalks through and disappears; ghouls and werewolves dance in a crumbling mansion; Captain Eo wears silver when he comes down from outer space to save children from the evils of our planet. Now lines of song-and-dance men kick, strut and turn in perfect unison. Children of all nations float happily through the night sky like Wynken, Blynken and Nod, then come down to earth and sing of peace in high, sweet voices; a colossal statue of Michael Jackson himself in military dress bestrides the world to the rapturous attack chords of “Carmina Burana.”

Here is Elvis Presley, who is one of himselves; Diana Ross, who is one of himselves; Elizabeth Taylor, who is one of himselves; wee, nut-brown Emmanuel Lewis and pert, milky-white Macaulay Culkin, both parts of himself; Joseph Jackson, the father who believes in whippings but not beatings; Katherine Jackson, the mother who is always supportive and always elusive. See photos from childhood onward and videos of Michael; they are mirrors reflecting each stage of his life.

Let’s begin our tour.

Phineas T. Barnum? A model for Michael. The ringmaster of American entertainment. Fantasy, fakery and touches of uplift. No one knew better than Barnum how to thrill audiences, give them raw sensation and a stirring, not especially accurate education. Barnum’s first spectacular success came in 1835, when he bought the rights to exhibit an ex-slave named Joice Heth at his Connecticut theater. Servitude had left her a near cripple; the showman saw promise in those gnarled limbs and stooped shoulders. Barnum put her in a clean gown and a fresh white cap, sat her down and introduced eager crowds to the 161-year-old nurse of George Washington. “To use her own language when speaking of the illustrious Father of his Country, ‘she raised him,’ ” his advertisements proclaimed.

When Heth died the next year, Barnum ordered a public autopsy. An unexpectedly honest doctor revealed that, far from being born in 1674, Heth was no more than eighty years old. Barnum professed astonishment. He’d been conned by Heth and her ex-master, he declared. Then his business partner upped the ante and declared that Barnum had found Heth on a plantation and trained her himself to pass for Washington’s nurse. The public enjoyed both tales, and Barnum enjoyed spreading both tales. People wanted to believe and know they’d be conned, as long as they didn’t know when or how.

In 1842, Barnum opened his American Museum on lower Broadway in New York City. It cost twenty-five cents to get in, not an inconsiderable sum in those days: “One ticket guaranteed admission to lectures, theatrical performances, an animal menagerie and a glimpse of human curiosities, living and dead.”3 An exhibit features Madame Clofullia from Europe. Madame was born in Switzerland. In a photograph she stands quietly in her black ruffled gown, resting a hand gently on her husband’s shoulder. There is a bunch of white lace at her throat. But it is partially hidden by her long, dark, bushy beard. An angry museum patron takes her to court. She is a man, he protests. The suit is free advertising for Barnum. He takes a group of physicians to court with him; together they offer medical proof that Madame Clofullia is biologically female. She goes on working at the museum.

It isn’t always easy to find genuine human wonders like Madame Clofullia. As a man of the theater, Barnum knows how to turn a startling visual effect into an adventure yarn. Put a tattooed man in a loincloth and he becomes Prince Constentenus of Greece. The prince was kidnapped by the Khan of Kashagar: that is why he has 185 tattoo patterns on his body, each one cruelly carved into his flesh with needles.

Michael Jackson read Barnum’s autobiography fervently (at least one of the eight versions) and gave copies to all his staff, telling them, “I want my career to be the greatest show on earth.” So he became both producer and product. The impresario of himself. Who among us can’t recall at least one of the stunts that followed: Michael sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber like a handsome young pharaoh in his tomb or the lovely Snow White in her glass casket? He was obsessed with the Elephant Man; he claimed he saw the movie thirty-five times, never once without weeping all the way through! He made repeated attempts, offered millions of dollars, to buy the bones from The British Museum. He appeared in public wearing a surgical mask: he could have been the doctor in an old horror film, looming over the evil or tragic man about to have his identity and destiny changed forever. Then we see him without the mask, onstage, at an awards ceremony, in court, and realize he has been that man for a long time.

He became a one-man conglomerate with global reach: his own records and videos; the Beatles’ catalog; Pepsi commercials; world tours. He was transnational. He reenacted his supremacy in video after video. “If you wanna be my baby / don’t matter if you’re black or white.” If you want to dance with me, don’t matter if you’re Indian, Russian, African or Native American. You can morph into anything (pudgy Eskimo into buff, white American lad with straight, honey-blond hair; American lad into slim, brown-skinned lass with dark brown frizzy hair); you can be any age, race or gender. Global idealism is at one with global marketing. If you want to buy my records, don’t matter who, what or where you are.

Barnum’s museum exhibits, ethnological curiosities and circus sideshows also set the pattern for our daytime talk shows. The difference between then and now? Barnum’s people were supposed to be freaks of nature, outside the boundaries of The Normal. Ours are marketed as lifestyle freaks. Psychology and sociology have played as big a part as biology; that’s the point of those long confessional interviews with the host and those fraught exchanges with the audience. Nighttime shows like Fear Factor are recreational sideshows. Eating slug sandwiches and jumping into sealed tanks turn the old carnival tricks (sword swallowing, biting chickens’ heads off) into middle-class pranks. Everyday people indulge their whims and get their hit of fame. More and more, they involve playacting and wish fulfillment: this week you make deals Donald Trump respects; you’re the “average Joe” the right woman picks over the handsome stud; your “extreme makeover” turns you from a dog to a babe.

More and more of these shows are updates of the old talent contest. Now, though, the backstage tale, the life story, matters as much as the performance. Maybe more. It’s about watching the struggle to be the best that you can be, even when you’re preposterous; it’s about living out your dream. These stories follow—or long to follow—the arc of Michael’s early life. You start small, but you have the talent; you work night and day; you make your way to the big city at last, audition for the right talent scouts and producers. You win a contract and your shot at fame. Star Search. American Idol. So You Think You Can Dance.

Michael Jackson became world-famous because he was a world-class talent. His 1983 performance of “Billie Jean” at the televised tribute Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever placed Michael Jackson against the backdrop of his show-business childhood. The other performers were aging; they looked like they were barely surviving liquor and drug crises, feuds, plain old illness and career lapses. Michael looked like a pristine creation, untainted by that past.

Michael was in profile as the bass line of “Billie Jean” rumbled up: legs apart, knees bent in demi-plié, one hand lightly touching his fedora. A hoofer cavalier in high-water pants. Eight counts of pelvic thrusts turned him into a soul-man cavalier. A quick kick and thigh slap on each side, then he faced the audience and—smack on the beat—threw his hat into the wings. Song-and-dance man. Then he mimicked a fifties bad boy, giving his hair a quick comb.

All the elements of the persona we would come to know were on display. The wardrobe that joined severity (black pants, fedora, loafers) with glitter, sparkle and eccentricity (sweater jacket and shirt, white socks, single white glove). Passion that stirred the audience, yet felt private and mysterious. The intense theatricality and how he stretched small gestures into long lines of movement. Every chore...

From Bookmarks Magazine

It’s a high-wire act to admire and defend someone as genuinely bizarre and embattled as Michael Jackson. Most of the public has long come to a conclusion about him, so much so that his name rarely grabs tabloid headlines anymore. That Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning culture and theatre critic for the New York Times, is able to tease out some new insights into Jackson’s relevance is something of an accomplishment. That she provokes some sympathy for her subject is even more impressive. Not that the praise is universal. Her own home paper finds that fanaticism blurs her judgment, something we’ve all been guilty of from time to time.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.