In The First Book of Michael, I write how
“…barely a Disney or Dreamworks animation goes by without the obligatory inclusion of the film’s characters performing the ‘Thriller’ choreography as part of the DVD extras.”
And – true to form – the same applies to the most recent Disney phenomenon, ‘Frozen’.
As a matter of personal principle, my children have limited access to all types of media. Nevertheless, via everyday conversation with their peers, and through the unsolicited deluge that is the gratuity of commercialism we are all naively exposed to, my daughters have become veritable connoisseurs of the characters, the songs and the storyline of said movie – in spite of them never having actually seen it.
Any parent of preschool children will duly confirm how inescapable this phenomenon has been.
Any parent of preschool children will also empathise with how mutable principles become, as they watch their children sitting on the couch, interminably scratching at their chicken pox.
However, not every parent will have been so easy to manipulate as I was when my daughters managed to persuade me that – apart from the traditional treatment of calamine they already strongly emanated of – the only other recognised pacifier for chicken pox known to mankind was the song ‘Let It Go’.
And not, they insisted, the version sang by me.
I refused to acquiesce to their demands. But I compromised.
I put on some Michael Jackson.
Of course, they’d seen Michael’s videos before, and heard his music many times – he’s the sole soundtrack to any journeys in the car. But such is the terror of chicken pox – and with my daughters becoming increasingly adamant, with each video played, that Michael’s work was also a tried-and tested panacea for the condition – we ended up having a Michael video binge.
The elder daughter had contracted the dreaded pox first, which meant that she was basically now over it. However, having been the recipient of the initial wave of neurotic parental nurturing, she assumed a war-veteran sense of experience, and ergo, an entitlement to belittle the ongoing suffering of her three-year-old younger sister. Any time the younger complained about her sickness, the older would immediately tell her that she wasn’t as poorly as she, had been the week before.
As the ‘Smooth Criminal’ short film played, my younger daughter, feeling somewhat put-out after having stoically managed days of this perpetual undermining of her illness by her elder sister, responded to the song’s refrain, “Annie, are you okay?” by shouting defiantly at the monitor screen with the words, “No, Michael! I’m not okay! I’ve got chicken pox!”
And her name isn’t even Annie.
There was a fascinating instance as the girls were watching the short film, when, during the segment in which the young character Zeke is dancing outside Club 30’s, after claiming he taught Michael “everything he knows”, my elder daughter told the younger, “that’s Michael.”
The younger acknowledged this information with no concern whatsoever for race or chronology. They simply, indiscriminately accepted that the black child representing a young Michael Jackson, dancing outside the place in which the adult, physically dissimilar Michael Jackson was simultaneously performing, were one and the same person.
A generation of people will grow into adults that retain this same lack of prejudice. This is the pregnant power that Michael’s legacy contains. It simply cannot be overstated how culturally significant Michael’s life was. The uniqueness of the trajectory it followed, with its Truman-esque documentation and synonymous sacrifice, combined with the benefit of hindsight and the distance of history, will mean that the destiny of Michael Jackson’s very existence will ultimately become one that is universally, exponentially exalted.
As we continued to watch ‘Smooth Criminal’, I found myself flagrantly boasting about how I could dance like Michael. After the girls requested I gave this claim credence by demonstrating ‘The Lean’, the subject of Michael being magic then came up.
I quickly diverted their attention to the subsequent YouTube offering that began to play. After all – what better demonstration of Michael’s magic than ‘Earth Song’, in which Michael summons the divine to reorder time, so as to rejuvenate the hopeless war-torn, and resurrect massacred elephants?
“Why is Michael making mud pies?” they enquired.
I decided it was perhaps more age-appropriate to show some less-abstract Michael-magic. Remember The Time seemed the obvious choice.
And I managed to avoid spoiling the ambience of the piece – captivated as the girls were – by resisting the temptation to provide a running commentary on the profound subtleties and political nuances contained within it.
But therein lies its genius.
The oracular Michael Jackson consciously captures young hearts through the medium of pure entertainment. He stokes their curiosity to hold their attention for long enough, so that over time, those awestruck feelings evoked by witnessing Michael disintegrate into golden sand, mature into critical thinking – into thoughts that question why the protagonists for the Remember The Time short film are exclusively black, and why the story’s narrative concerns black royalty, when the school history books are practically devoid of such information.
Michael knew that he was playing the long-game. That the extent of his unprecedented fame carried an inevitable longevity meaning his art would continue to be interpreted for millennia to come.
We couldn’t quite escape ‘Frozen’, though. That golden sand I just mentioned?
“Actually, daddy – that’s ice.”
For an in-depth exploration into the art of Michael Jackson and its cultural significance, get a copy of my book, The First Book of Michael.