The Amazing Morphing Man

Michael Jackson is a fascinating and frightening character. What is amazing is that a person so obviously emotionally troubled can be held in such high regard by so many people. Maybe people don't see it, or maybe they are so caught up in his output (music and image) that they don't care what has led him to his role as icon.

This man says so much about what we value as a culture. He began as a little black boy, then transformed himself into what appears to be a white woman, now in a recent incarnation he seems to be headed into a japanese look (straight jet black hair cut short). He is culturally plastic, transforming himself with a naive innocence, seemingly unaware of the irony of his adjustments, with none of the savvy and market know-how of another pop icon 'shape shifter', Madonna (Blonde Ambition? from a dark haired Italian woman?). He sings the lyrics, 'It doesn't matter if you're black or white', yet, given his appearance, it seems to matter a great deal. The song's message is lost.

No surprise, then, that the technique of "morphing" first made it big in a Michael Jackson video, the same "Black or White" song, in which people's faces smoothly transform into the face of someone of a completely different race or nationality. At the end of the video, Michael Jackson himself morphs into a black panther (the animal, not the political figure).

Michael Jackson paints himself as a monster in Thriller, as a gang banger in "Bad", and as a black panther, all things he definitely is not. Underlying his highly processed image one suspects there is a deep lack of identity, looking for an anchor in a sea of possible faces.