June 26th, 2009

The Burden of Between

While it may seem redundant to add to the massive tide of remembrance at this point, there was something in this particular clip, which won't get seen as much because of its length and comedy format, that struck me as especially poignant:

The moment when Michael first sings, his voice caught between the fluid highs of his pre-teenage years and the confident falsetto that compensated for their loss in his adult career, is one that captures not only his personal dilemma, about which so much has been said, but also that of mainstream American culture more generally, with its promotion of an "adamant immaturity," as my friend Ron Alcalay so aptly put it, that would deny even grown-ups the feeling of being grown up. I don't think it's any accident that the liminal state that Michael Jackson sought to occupy in the temporal register had its corollary in his fixation on the color line. I have to give another shout out to Ron, here, who did a wonderful job of pondering the deeper implications of Jackson's famous video on the subject in an essay he wrote for Bad Subjects: Political Education For Everyday Life.