Michael Jackson: 1958-2009

The King of Pop is dead. Long live the King of Pop. Say what you will about Michael Jackson—he was certainly not conventional, and the oddities surrounding his life are sure to engender even more speculation now that he’s gone—but he was a masterful entertainer: a dancer, singer and songwriter without peer. If “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” doesn’t get your ass moving, you’re a statue (I was going to say “robot,” but MJ himself showed us that even robots can dance in his movie Moonwalker). He was also the most science-fictional of personalities: constantly reinventing himself, and through his videos and movies constantly placing himself in improbable, fantastical and certainly science-fictional settings and situations.

As is to be expected, posthumous homages to the Mono-Gloved One are popping up all over the place. Annalee Newitz has a nice piece up at io9 touching on his science-fictional life; Roger Ebert has a lament for the boy who never grew up; Sarah Weinman writes a fantastic elegy to the Dancing Machine, complete with tons of linkage.

And yeah, everyone’s going ga-ga over Thriller and teh zombies, which is fine. But I’m going to leave you with my favorite of his videos, “Scream.” Aside from being a beautifully art-directed, choreographed, and shot piece of film, the song itself is a lashing out at the way the media treated him through most of his life, particularly during the time of his child-abuse trial. As such, the depiction of MJ and his sister as aliens on a spaceship, separated from the world in the sterile environment in orbit seems an apt one. With “Scream,” Michael Jackson shows us that he understands science fiction’s penchant for using fantastic settings and premises to comment on our day-to-day life.


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