Saturday, July 11, 2009



Perhaps Quincy Jones said it better than I ever could: “It’s ridiculous, man! Chemical peels and all of it. And I don’t understand it. But he obviously didn’t want to be black.” It’s more than being ashamed. It is a perfectionist strain that has haunted MJ; not just in his music, but in his appropriation of his looks. Michael said that his brothers teased him about his nose, and his father claimed that his looks did not come from him (ick. He is a nasty man). I think for Michael, the messages from his family about his looks, and a difficult puberty and teenage years all combined to create some self-loathing on his part. Once all of that had been internalized, the leap to turning into a more acceptable version of himself was only limited to the scruples of the surgeons he consulted. And who really knows what his “fantasy world” was like. With his predilection for Disney, Peter Pan and all of that, its not like that world was constructed by writers that were focused on “blackness”—except in denigrating ways. On the other hand, what I find profoundly interesting is that even though he changed his phenotype, he leaned on his “cultural” blackness, even though he was a pop star. His dance moves, beats, themes of his music; all of it was out of a black cultural tradition that not even cosmetic surgery could erase.
Finally, what is most troubling, and more telling than his surgeries, is the fact that his “children” may not even have his (nor ex-wife Debbie Rowe’s) DNA. In his quest to become “white”, he even passed off his children as a creation of his own ideal of what he should look like. That to me, is much more troubling than the skin lightening. Michael was his own god, able to create his children “in his own image.” I have the feeling that the court case involving custody is going to set legal precedent, for sure. -Anthea Butler

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