Black Skin, White Masks

Reflecting in the wake of the news of MJ’s sudden demise, it seems natural to consider his fate, or at least that of his physiognomy, as a classically Fanonian tragedy : of the subject  ‘overwhelmed to such a degree by the wish to become white, because he lives in a society that makes inferiority possible’ –a pattern  Fanon (writing in 1951) read in Lacanian terms.

This, and its complex genealogical deformation in the circuitry of celebrity, family tragedy, psycho-sexual trauma etc, is an integral component of the Jackson mythos. Its appeal operative even on those who claim that they ‘simply love the music’, the obsessives that proclaimed his innocence.

Hence the inadequacy (as well as racial segregation, note the ethnicity of all the privileged deremptors –sonic revolution as the prerogative of the master) of readings such as this:
Confronted with performers as appealing and disturbing as Elvis Presley, the Beatles or the Sex Pistols — people who raise the possibility of living in a new way — some respond and some don’t. It became clear that Michael Jackson’s explosion was of a new kind.’

Granted Marcus’ comments are probably decades old (‘disturbing’ having become MJ’s defining characteristic), nevertheless the life and death of Jackson offers a better index of our time, its torsions, pressures and psychic toll,then anything offered by Presley, the Pistols and their latter day heirs.



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