The Popcorn Reel


What Michael Jackson Means
By Omar P.L. Moore/      SHARE
Monday, June 29, 2009

(Updated with corrections)

A phenomenon unlike any other, Michael Jackson was synonymous with the greatest show on earth, and with his shocking, untimely passing last week he suddenly has become as revered as he was when physically alive.  More to the point, Mr. Jackson's music in the United States -- which until the sad afternoon of June 25 had been severely lacking in popularity there -- has instantly resurged, with his albums populating the highest echelons of and iTunes, record number of downloads bolstering Mr. Jackson's album sales.

There isn't another entertainment icon on the planet -- whether in movies, music or otherwise -- who was as beloved, talented, idolized and recognized as Michael Jackson was. 

So with that said, what did Michael Jackson mean?  Scratch the surface and you'll see that he meant a multitude of things to a million different people.  Father.  Fallen star.  Incredible icon.  Fantasy child.  Famously infamous.  Infamously famous.  Greatest entertainer ever.  Humanitarian.  Innocent man.  Naive native.  Otherwordly being.  Controversial character.  Stratospheric sensation.  Eccentric excellence.  Generous genius.  A Talent Beyond Compare.

Whatever Michael Jackson meant to you, there's one thing he meant to the entertainment world: short-film maker.

Mr. Jackson may have starred in such feature-length films as "The Wiz" and "Moonwalker" and appeared in "Men In Black II", but he had a resume of short films that catapulted him into even the most passive observer's conscience.  "Thriller", "Beat It", "Bad", "Smooth Criminal", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Captain EO", "Black Or White", "Remember The Time" and "You Rock My World" are just a few of the short films that revolutionized the way American music television operated.  In the early 1980s MTV did not show any black artists' videos including Mr. Jackson's, and it took "Thriller" to break the barriers of racial discrimination in the videos that the network chose to ignore.  MTV is now essentially an all-reality television network, but Mr. Jackson and numerous activists have to be commended for forcing MTV's hand, shattering the bias against black artists on the station. 

Twenty-years ago Mr. Jackson's short films became an event, being shown in prime-time (8:00-10:00p.m.) on American television and around the world.  "Bad" was shown in the U.S. on CBS, while "Black Or White" and "Remember The Time" were shown on Fox.  Controversy swirled around both "Thriller" and "Black Or White" but both garnered enormous television audiences as did "Bad" when it was shown.

Mr. Jackson's visual sense was strong, from the videos to concert choreography.  We'll never know whether he'd give film directors like Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh or Martin Scorsese a run for their money but Michael Jackson certainly had a keen sense of direction.

Above photo: Michael Jackson as Darryl in the short film "Bad", directed by Martin Scorsese in 1987.

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