Michael Jackson trying again
Fashion provides a shortcut by which we enter another identity and join a subculture that insulates us from other styles - Michael Jackson trying again introduction. It offers choices images in which one could produce their individual identity. Many public figures experiment with fashion and style in order to create, change, and construct their social identity. Since the early days of the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson had set himself apart from every other musical artist with his unique sense of style and impressive talents. He had been both a pop icon and a fashion icon for the past decade. Each decade of his career provided a host of incredibly creative design element. His constant change of fashion and image promote the creation of one’s own individual style as well as identity. He did much to change the social conventions around racial and gender classification. Disguising his own identity, whether male or female, black or white, Michael Jackson suggested that identity was a construct, and it could be perceived through appearance.
Traditionally, it was not acceptable especially for Michael Jackson to blur his own identity. There were proper codes of appearance and fashion that people perceived as social acceptable. These codes were created as a norm that the appearance should be able to identify one’s identity in a particular social class, gender, and status. Gradually, these traditional cultural codes had been overthrown. Douglas Kellner suggested that it was during this overthrow when fashion became “an important element of the construction of new identities, along with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, phenomena also involved in the changing fashions of the day (161). The codes were no longer the norm but overthrowing these codes became a norm. It was during this time when public figures like Michael Jackson became prominence.
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ANALYSIS of Michael Jackson’s fashion, style, performances, work, dance, etc.
Michael Jackson easily projected distinctive contrasting and constant changing images from his first performances with the Jackson Five through the present. His unique combination of contrasting mixed with a tough street gang style and a subtle feminine image exceeded predictable fashion predictions and expectations. He combined two opposite images at the same time as opposed of projecting one image then portraying another. He portrayed a gay guy being really in love with a woman who is trying to get her attention, a tough street gang member who has feminine characteristics and black and white. Another contrasting image is distinctive in his fashions is rich vs poverty level dressing. In the majority of his videos, he wears clothes that anyone could wear in everyday life without raising any eyebrows, unless someone is paying attention to the colors, fabrics and so on. Normally, such opposite characteristics in one person seems like some fantasy or make-believe image in a fairy tale book. His simultaneously contrasting images changes what people will socially accept. Through his fashion, he promotes creation of individuality as well as social identity and change the social conventions around racial and gender classification. Michael actually did what most people, including most men, always wanted to do, but they never did because of what people would say. Michael showed everyone it does not matter what people say. Through his ground breaking images, styles and fashions, Michael Jackson influenced the progressiveness and advancement of creativity in individuals in their dress, hairstyles, and personal impressions.
Michael known for getting people talking, was a phenomenal video star, actor, song writer, singer, excellent dancer and choreographer. Staying on top of ever changing current trends kept the world entertained and fascinated for years. However many of the current trends developed because of Michael Jacksons unique identity and personal expressions. Michael first appearances with Jackson Five, were an extension of what was familiar to him, and everyone else. Yet, in those days, the Jackson Five was controversial. In his first videos he wore a dark colored suit with a red tie and bell-bottom pants. He had an afro, dark skin and black facial features. At the time, any trends he would have set, would had have been the image of his brothers, not necessarily him. All that changed.
In the late 70’s, Michael made his first album, Off The Wall, establishing a very exotic Michael Jackson. His singing talent was obvious, however, he wanted to make his mark as an established dancer. Michael’s creative choreography in Off The Wall were being duplicated by technical dancers in dance studios and non-technical dancers in the night clubs. He became famous for the moon walk. His dancing style contributed much more to his unique and individual style that was exclusively Michael Jackson. In Rock With You, his fashion style were already showing opposition. Artists expressing opposition were not unusual, the degree and intensity of Michaels contrasting images broke barriers in society. The changes that influenced public behavior and officially identified Michaels image through plastic surgery, clothing styles, hair styles had yet to come.
Another dramatical change in Michaels image, is credited to his extensive plastic surgery. Over the years, he totally changed his features to the point that no one would recognize him as the same person. He had some plastic surgery by the time Off The Wall came out. His nose were narrowed, and his afro were straightened out moderately. At this time, it was not traditional for African Americans to straighten their hair, not even moderately. His complexion was much lighter. Michaels repeated plastic surgery operations were available only to the wealthy at the time. Health insurance plans do not cover plastic surgery operations, giving the misconception that vanity and selfishness is not acceptable. If Michael was considered selfish or vain, the overall population sure did benefit from his selfishness. Michael totally changing features through plastic surgery with no complications and an increasing improved appearance encouraged people to opt for cosmetic surgery. Today, a divisions of cosmetic or permanent surgery is permanent eyebrow dying, injected eyeliner, died eyelashes and waxing. Manicures and pedicures became more widespread. These trends and services did not exist before Michael’s fame and popularity, or if it did. The cosmetic services and salons were not as available at the time.
Another difference Michael made through his extravagant hair and make-up was the impact and impression it had on men. Men, especially the macho street gangsters portrayed in his videos, would had never thought of walking into a cosmetic salon, having pedicures or manicures, cosmetic surgery or going to a hairstylists. They may have went to a barber for a haircut. They would not have gone to a stylists to have their hair styled, and bleached, permed straightened through chemical processing. Furthermore, men would not have walked out of their houses with colored, styled sprayed hair and manicured nails. Jewelry was another fashion setter. Years ago, it was a big taboo for any heterosexual masculine male to wear jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces, pins. Almost anything except a wedding band or graduation ring were considered off limits to any respectable man.
In his video, Rock With You, he was in the beginning stages of breaking comfortable traditions through his appearance, dress, hairstyling and dramatic make-up. His dancing style is what is contributing an unique individuality in his first videos. The video background scene opens up with bright stars, then the images change constantly throughout the video. During the entire video, in his first significant album, Michael never looks directly into the camera. In his Thriller and Bad videos , he is staring directly into the camera. An energizing and upbeat rhythm and melody in his music videos symbolized he wanted his fans to feel something by his music, not just merely watch his music. At this time, the fitness industry was just beginning to become popular. People were purchasing health club memberships, running, rollerskating. The parks and beaches were filling up with joggers, runners and rollerbladers and having walkmans with radio or cassette tapes depending Michael Jackson;s tunes to keep them motivated. Everyone was interested in a healthier more active lifestyle and Michael’s music videos and concerts encouraged physical activity. The ever increasing interest in physical lifestyles boosted record sales. Michael’s music composure were blending with the current trends.
Another area Michael influenced men were to take up choreographed dancing lessons in studios. The bigger cities that have a higher percentage of educated and creative people have dance studios catering to male dancers. Once again, these tough biker gang members Michael hired for his videos would never have been seen anywhere near a place where ballet is taught. Even today, there are issues about it, but overall society is more accepting to men having formal dancing training. Michael broke these traditions. Once again, it is only the areas no one wants to be in anyway that are prejudice against male dance training.
In Thriller album, Michael’s own created identity were distinguishable more then ever at this time. Everyone in the world, whether they did not like him or loved him, certainly knew who he was, and could not stop talking about him. In a way, Michael wanted his unique image to stay solely his. He wanted to remain a mystery for the most part. He had even more plastic surgery further defining his unique image. People trying to keep up with Michael had to have a small fortune at the time. His breaking these rules changed this concept. The chemical straightening of the hair, extensive plastic surgery, and the skin lightening were distinctive, but not easily copied. That is part of what kept people fascinated and intrigued with Michael; he could never be completely figured out. Only very creative people could copy Michael’ s fashion, and feel comfortable with it mainly around people they wanted to impress. In Billie Jean, he wore a black business suit, but it was a satin material. He is being stalked or followed by someone accusing him of getting a girl pregnant. The man disguising his identity wore dark sunglasses to hide eye color, hat to conceal any description or style of his hair, and a long coat to disguise his height and build. The man in the video was the one having something to hide, not Michael. In this video, Michael wore a red bow tie, pink shirt, and black shiny suit. A pink shirt at this time was a definite no-no for any macho characters or for what anyone cared at all what other people thought of them. The colors contrasted, a red tie with pink shirt. Michaels makeup was something that no male would copy either, at least not in public and be comfortable with it. His makeup was bordering on the idea of being a drag but it was still obvious Michael was a man. He still had an unmistakable masculinity identity. His hair was straightened somewhat, but still had an afro base.
Michael’s outrageous contrasting dress that traumatized everyone changed what is acceptable and tolerable in culture. Before Michael set the trends, anyone not following traditions were not employable. Michael’s publicizing his unique style and coming out and telling everyone he is going to be who he is, is what changed people’s narrowminded attitudes. Gossip mongers had nothing to talk about. Everything they could think of saying behind closed doors, Michael is confirming it in public. His outrageous fashion trends that everyone considered socially unacceptable or the type of people everyone wanted to avoid, has made more creative employment jobs. Today, only in the areas of uneducated, backwoodsy, lazy, working class people that no one would choose to live in, is still stuck in the traditional way of thinking, are emotional or has issues with men (or women) with long hair, thick make-up, someone they know driving convertible cars, or a credit card is a totally new concept to them. These are the locations that universities are nothing more then a vo-tech school, although they are somehow mysteriously an accredited school. Most of the people in these areas do not like Michael Jackson and use uneducated slang terms to describe Michael. These are the people who cannot accept that Michael is an entertainer. They are the weird ones who cannot deal with reality, not Michael. Everyday ordinary average people cannot deal with the reality they will never be as talented and intriguing as Michael. Michaels perception of reality is just fine. Michael totally reversed the overall prejudices. At one time, no one would want to associate with people perceived as the image Michael portrays. Today, no one wants to associate with the people who cannot accept people with special talents, which artist can care less anyway what any one else thinks. Michael would have still worked long hard hours singing and dancing in a private studio just for the sake of doing it. Many great artists, including Michael have quoted they would give up all the fortune and fame to be left along. Michael love and dedication for music, singing and dancing is why he is so well loved and successful.
Michael has another surprise, in the Thriller album. His song, Beat it, once again Michael is sending the message that macho men are all talk. He is telling these macho people to Beat It! Or get lost. The contrast here is that these tough people who really want to fight for no other reason other then territorial reasons, are not really that emotional about it after all. The gang leader is wearing white while all the other members are wearing black with chains. At the end of the video, they are drawing their knives on each other then within a few minutes are dancing together in the same territory they were going to fight over. In the video, Michael clothes, the colors and fabric are combining two totally opposite statements. He is wearing an expensive red leather motorcycle jacket but underneath his jacket, he is wearing a shirt with a variety of pastel colors. One of the gang members is wearing pastel blue tennis shoes.
The song Thriller, name of album, comes more contradicting The video starts off with two people at a drive in movie in a grave yard. The lighting and make-up makes Michael freaky looking, yet the girl he is with is very tame, gentle sweet and innocent. He turns to a werewolf at night. Michaels makeup looks like a devil, but he wearing a jock sweater. Then the scene shifts, it turns out they were just watching a movie. She runs out of the movie house because she is so scared. Then Michael is suddenly wearing a loud leather red jacket with black trimmings, The girl he is with wears a traditional blue jacket. She is dressed casual but has elaborate earrings. The scene keeps going from one extreme to the other. The unignorable video shift scenes points out, what is peoples problem? They imagine this big werewolf, this monster, and it turns out the reality of terror is only in peoples imaginations. At the end of the video, the girl wakes up screaming, and Michael is laughing asking, what is the matter in a calm voice? As they are walking he turns back and looks back into the camera and turns into a werewolf. In other words, he is not a symbolism of a werewolf in real life, but he can be if necessary.
In Michaels Bad video, Michael is a bad, tough street gang leader, in a low-income part of town wearing a pricey black leather costume, with styled chemically enhanced long hair with thick make-up. He is wearing designer clothing and jewelry and blending in well with these people from the street. His dancing style of the sharp moves is portraying violence, fighting anger, but the moves are professionally choreographed being copied in dance clubs and taught in conservative dance studios where the dance instructors are not allowed to wear midriffs showing tattoos and belly button piercings.
In Smooth Criminal, Michael outlines the recognizable signs of what everyone knows all to well about, white collar crime, the crime of politicians and mafia organizations. Conspiracy is being planned out with no visible detection, no warning, never see the people involved until the moment arrives for the plan to be carried out. The reason for carrying out the crimes almost always involve a threat to someone’s status or knowing information. In this video, everyone is wearing dressy, upscale clothing, the total opposite of the street gang clothing, even the designer street gang clothing in Michaels other videos. Michael is wearing an all white dress suit, with a white hat. The video is taking place in a welding warehouse. The welders are the ones carrying out the crime. The building catches fire, then Michael is holding a machine gun looking for the suspect, whom is nowhere to be found. Michael is dressed in a suit that impresses anyone. He has respect for ladies, whom are surprised when he pulls out a handgun and shoots the man sneaking up him not giving any indication of be aware of a smooth criminal.
From Michaels Motown days with the Jackson five, to the current, his fashion image and style set trends and society advanced and progressed in many non-traditional, creative and artistic ways. His openness and publicity about his plastic surgery procedures encouraged people to take chances and undergo cosmetic procedures. His unique style and dress changed the choice of limited styles of clothing, consisting of primarily business office styles or clothing catering to only ordinary average everyday people, and made elaborate fashions much more widely available. Society realizes that bikers and street gang members often hold professional jobs, and not to be feared. The workout trend was progressed and developed through Michaels athletic dancers in his videos, and his upbeat hi-energy tunes.
When people think of progression, they usually narrow mindedly consider in the advancements only in a business sense. The business world generally is stuck in the mud so concerned with being in a politically correct mode of thinking. Michael’s style, fashion, image and personal created the way for creative and artistic talent to be socially acceptable. Michael’s identity contributed to development probably influencing people psychologically and personal satisfaction. It is perfectly fine to get plastic surgery, spend money on clothes and do other things primarily for vanity. Michael teaches all of us that as long you are satisfied with your individuality, the entire world can be against you. It will not matter at all.