Read On Michael Jackson by Margo Jefferson Online


Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson is a lucid and elegant cultural analysis of the rise and fall of the King of Pop.An award-winning cultural critic, Jefferson brings an unexpected compassion as well as her sharp intellect and incomparable insight to Jackson’s 2005 trial for child molestation, startling us with her erudite illumination of a media-drenched circus that weMargo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson is a lucid and elegant cultural analysis of the rise and fall of the King of Pop.An award-winning cultural critic, Jefferson brings an unexpected compassion as well as her sharp intellect and incomparable insight to Jackson’s 2005 trial for child molestation, startling us with her erudite illumination of a media-drenched circus that we only thought we understood. As only she can, Jefferson reads between the lines of Jackson’s 1998 autobiography as well as published accounts of his childhood, his family, and Motown—where Michael and his brothers first made the Jackson 5 a household name—leaving us with provocative and perhaps unanswerable questions about Jackson, child stardom, and fame itself....

Title : On Michael Jackson
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307277657
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

On Michael Jackson Reviews

  • Meg
    2019-04-18 13:31

    Yes, my longest and most thoughtful Goodreads review is for a book about Michael Jackson. Since he died, I've been upset - more upset than I expected. Michael Jackson was for me what he was to many: always there in the background, whether it was his inspired music, dance, and presence in the early 80s, the speculation over his increasingly bizarre behavior starting in the mid to late 80s, or the more sinister role he took on as charges of sexual molestation were brought against him. Always there; someone you raised your eyebrows at; someone you never doubted would be there forever, whether because that's how it had always been or because of the freakish, lineless mask his face had become. His sudden death was surprising - as in, I didn't know that could happen - and extremely upsetting because he runs through my childhood memories and because his life seemed incredibly sad. I gave into this weird intense mourning, read a lot of news stories that all said pretty much the same thing, watched a lot of his videos, especially his older stuff, cried a few times, and finally came across this book.Margo Jefferson's tone is academic as she explores Jackson. She of course depends heavily on biographical details for many of the conclusions she comes to, but she also analyzes the trainwreck of his existence (covering until he is acquitted on the molestation charges in 2005) through culture, race, gender, and sexuality. She briefly tells us about Motown (by the late 60s it was beginning to decline, but had the same goals it always had of captivating black and white audiences without allowing for musical "emotional outbursts or improvisation" but rather "pure pleasure, addictive pleasure.") She dedicates an entire chapter to the stress put on the Jackson children and child stars in general. Shirley Temple is quoted from her own autobiography: "It is not easy to be a Hollywood starlet. Starlets have to kiss a lot of people, including some unattractive ones. Often starlets are knocked down to the floor or pricked by diaper pins. The hours are long...." Whoosh. That statement knocks the air right out of you. Jefferson discusses the sexualization of child performers, particularly Michael Jackson. Asked to move, sing, and act like an adult while talking about things children don't really understand - romantic and sexual love, and the loss of it. He did it uncannily well. She discusses the "freaks" of PT Barnum and places Jackson within that context, not only for his ever-changing face but also because of his fascination with Barnum; she discusses Peter Pan, JM Barrie, his mother as a Jehovah's Witness, and the historical rejection of typically black features both within and without black communities, particularly skin color, nose width, lip size, and hair texture. You can see why the latter point is relevant to a discussion of Jackson. She discusses his parents and siblings, his upbringing, his solo rise to global fame. Note, too, that she covers all of these topics, and the book is a brisk 146-page read.So did Jefferson answer my questions about Jackson? - What was wrong with him? Why did he drastically change his appearance? Why did he surround himself with mostly sick, needy children (mind you, I do not believe he sexually abused any of those children)? And - seriously, this is something I've always wondered and am really looking for an answer to - why did he always grab his crotch? Well, first, Jefferson did kind of answer my questions with interesting, creative suggestions, though it's mostly speculation. Now back to the crotch-grabbing. She focuses on the video for Black or White, in which Jackson is pretty heavy with the crotch grabs and shots. She says, "And he dances - a violent tap dance without real tap sounds. Which makes it oddly ominous - we see and feel the percussion but we don't hear it. It creates a strange tension. Partly because it's sinuous and elegant - the way soft-shoe tap is. And very much because every few beats he strokes, snatches at, caresses his...phallus....In retrospect, the crotch clutch seems at once desperate and abstract. It is as if he were telling us, 'Fine, you need to know I'm a man, a black man? Here's my dick: I'll thrust my dick at you! Isn't that what a black man's supposed to do? But I'm Michael Jackson, so just look but you can't touch.' It wasn't real, it was symbolic. Not a penis but a phallus." This interpretation - not so sure that I buy it (though I would love to, how awesome if Jackson was really thinking that). It does put Jackson firmly in control of himself, his image, his actions, his behavior. My own impression of him was that of a vulnerable, broken, mentally ill and psychologically damaged man. This is probably part of why I (and many) reacted so strongly to his death. As my friend put it, "You just want to give him a hug and tell him you're on his side. But you can't. He's dead."I can't quite believe that the crotch clutch goes as deep as all that. Is it not just a childish dance move from a man who was somewhat stunted psychologically? (And I am serious when I say that I want to know what's behind the crotch clutch - and I'm equally curious to know how America and the world accepted something so blatantly sexual into their lives - this is not swaying your hips suggestively, this is grabbing your dick). But I do buy Jefferson's premise that Jackson's career and some of his physical transformation that called his gender, race, and entire identity into question was somewhat purposeful. Perhaps psychological damage combined with narcissism and a need for "perfection," and the fact that he "has been a sexual impersonator since age five" gives us this: "He imitates no kind of life known to us. He passes in plain sight. Each appearance through the years has been a rehearsal, a restaging. Our doubts are never soothed, our questions never answered. Passers are supposed to hide their past, shed their racial or sexual history. Michael's past is everywhere. It exists in thousands of photographs and film images." And perhaps this is why we get Michael Jackson, forty years after his rise to stardom, holding his baby over the edge of a balcony: "a child star's act of vengeance. Holding a baby over a balcony is furious, infantile acting-out - doing something outrageous when people are interfering with you." Hmmm. Not sure I buy that either, but the theories this author has are interesting as hell.A few things worth noting, personally: I see this deliberateness in Jackson's questionable gender identity. The video Scream is beautifully danced between him and his sister Janet. There is a two-second shot of him walking towards the camera in a very masculine way - some sort of incredibly sexy macho swagger. I had to replay it the first time, after his death, that I saw it. The scene changes, and a second or two later he's walking towards the camera again, same flashy gold costume, same backdrop. But this time it's a very feminine walk: narrow, with each foot in line, making his hips sway while his arms propel him forward. Is he fucking with us? I thought, or can he just not keep that effeminate runway walk from bursting out of him? (Either way, he has exceptional control over his body. Watch the video.) And the second note regarding Jackson's deliberateness in some things, at least, comes from Jefferson, who says regarding his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, "Kings are supposed to compete with their predecessors and kings are supposed to marry other royals. Elvis's widow, Priscilla Presley, makes clear that she saw Michael Jackson as a scheming pretender, building Neverland to top Graceland, then courting Elvis's daughter to secure his lineage...." Same with the other towers of the music world, the Beatles. "Michael learned to be as big as The Beatles. He learned to be bigger when he outbid Paul McCartney and purchased the Beatles' catalog (a clever twist on the old money, power, and race equation that had white performers outselling black ones with cover versions of black hits)."Finally, Jefferson analyzes the criminal charges and trial and gets a nice, fat jab in at that moron Nancy Grace and the celebrity-crazed media and public who ate it all up. She validates much of what I already thought about Jackson, but she does it with a surprisingly thorough historical, cultural, and biographical analysis. It's sad - I'm still so sad. He was a messed up person, whether his actions were deliberate or not. As Jefferson says, "At this point, Michael Jackson's damage is equal to what his talent was, and that means it is extraordinary indeed. This is deeply upsetting to witness. Who wants to try and map that kind of compulsion and regression? Who wants to watch mental illness in panoramic close-up? What language is available to us when talking about it?"

  • René
    2019-04-13 14:30

    Fine writing, great critical analysis. Interesting to compare the reviews of this book from before MJ died with those written immediately after his death and those written in the years since. (The book was published in 2006, 3 years before Michael died.) I have to wonder if my own reaction to some of the perspectives and tone in this book would have been different if I had read this back when it first came out. His death unleashed a lot of unexpected emotions in people, especially Generation X fans (who grew up or came of age in the midst of the monster successes of Off the Wall and Thriller) and maybe late-Boomer fans (who may have more immediate Jackson 5-era memories), and I think made it even harder to view the man and his work objectively. I was a huge fan of his in my pre-teen and teen years and was still intrigued by him in my adulthood. Though I found much of Jefferson's analysis truly insightful and thought-provoking, I also detected a sour tone in her perspective of Michael. Perhaps that's my former fandom getting in the way, or maybe it's the fact that Michael is gone and there's been a general softening in the media's approach to the man since his death, so the more cynical perspectives on Michael that were so prevalent while he was still alive now seem a little harsh and unfair. I do think Jefferson definitely gives Michael's adult career short shrift. There's not enough analysis of his post-Thriller work, despite how much he kept producing and the changes his work and music (not just his face and lifestyle) underwent until the end of his life. I think another reviewer on here complained about Jefferson's description of Janet Jackson as basically just a "sex toy"--and I agree, Jefferson is strangely disrespectful and dismissive of Janet. She makes no mention of the fact that Janet has sold millions of albums, is a multiple Grammy, Billboard Music, and American Music award winner, has acted in numerous movies and TV shows--and it's not like any of this is uncommon knowledge. Instead Janet is "the hardest working sex toy in show business." Why not give credit where credit is due? What's even weirder about Jefferson's treatment of Janet is that it contrasts so much with her discussions of certain other women in MJ's life: his other sisters La Toya and Rebbie and his wives Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe. She's much more fair when discussing these women, and considering how maligned they've all been in the press (especially La Toya and Rowe) or ignored (in the case of Rebbie), it's really refreshing. But it also just makes the "sex toy" summary of Janet even more ungenerous and bizarre and undermines the depth of the rest of her analysis.Still, I think this is a necessary book for any Michael Jackson fan, as well as readers interested in American music and culture and the intersections of race and gender in American art and entertainment.

  • Kat Sommers
    2019-04-05 07:26

    "Michael Jackson speaks to and for the monstrous child in us all."Easily the best thing I've read that tries to figure out Michael Jackson. The right mix of sympathy and query, that doesn't come up with an answer (you can't), turning the question back on us instead. There are some factual slips (hey, I'm a fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of MJ - I can't help it) but overall the conclusion she comes to, with the available evidence, minus my tendency to get upset and defend him, is the closest one to my own. In short: poor Michael, but he was his own worst enemy. I don't agree with all of Jefferson's conclusions (she doesn't explore Michael's adult and apparently quite lucid side, for instance, and evidence that's arisen since his death), but I appreciate her methods and open, questioning approach to the subject. Don't bother with the longer more exhaustive accounts of his life (or of the stories other people tell of it, anyway), that are rich in detail but poor in explanation and seek only to confirm the author's own bias. This and John Jeremiah Sullivan's article on the same subject are true essays: open-minded thought exercises that question our every assumption. Excellent. Recommended.

  • Jill
    2019-03-22 07:19

    I read this book when it first came out, and ordered a copy when Jackson died. I appreciated, and appreciate even more so now, Jefferson's ability to discuss both sides of Jackson: his unquestionable talent and the irreparable harm caused to him in the name of that talent... and the possibility that he may have caused harm to others as a result. Jefferson's book is an example of how to talk/think about Jackson and his role in our culture without lapsing into the disturbing romanticization of him going on now, or falling into labeling him a child molester and dismissing him. I wish we could just let him go and hope he's in a better place.

  • ElizabethFuller
    2019-04-02 06:42

    Terrific premise; disappointing execution. I think it's a great idea to examine Michael Jackson - as a persona, performer and phenomenon - from a multifaceted cultural perspective (including the histories of entertainment, race, family culture, legal precedent and more), which is exactly what this book does. The problem here is that although the perspective is broad and far-reaching, the author just doesn't delve very deeply into any of her subjects, and the result feels more like a brief outline of possible topics than a true examination of any of them.

  • Ed
    2019-04-11 06:31

    I was never a fan of MJ, although he was the biggest thing since sliced bread in pop culture during my formative years. I do like several of this songs, his dancing is phenomenal...but the evolution of his character, career, and physical being--the stuff of endless articles--is tackled in this short book, written with a more academic pen than a tabloid one. As other reviewers have noted, there is a lack of depth that leaves one unsatisfied.

  • Lauren
    2019-03-21 13:42

    Turn off all the TV and internet coverage of Michael Jackson's death and pick up this slim book by Margo Jefferson. Love him or hate him, her observations are to the point and thought provoking. A riveting look at an icon and what became of him.

  • Bookmarks Magazine
    2019-03-31 10:34

    It's a high-wire act to admire and defend someone as genuinely bizarre and embattled as Michael Jackson. Most of the public has long come to a conclusion about him, so much so that his name rarely grabs tabloid headlines anymore. That Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize_

  • Martin
    2019-04-04 09:14

    This sometimes feels like an overlong grad student paper. Although the author is quite intelligent, I often felt like she was more in love with her own writing than anyone else could ever be. She can be quite clever and occasionally tickled me with assertions such as, “Knowing Michael had not one, but two sons named Prince Michael, Jermaine would trump him, upping the ante on black nomenclature, by christening his son Jermajesty.” She is best when writing about the Jackson family, at which point she combines pop psychology with wry wit. The sections on fame, commodity, race and gender tend to become dry with academic vernacular and occasionally overreaching. However, interesting parallels are drawn between young Michael and Shirley Temple, and old Michael and faded stars like Doris Day and Brigitte Bardot “who cope with the passage of time by retreating to a protective haven that excludes most other adults. There they devote themselves to loving creatures that need protection, usually dogs.” The author then points to Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor as providing this form of mothering, and then takes it a step further by saying that Michael too became like these divas when he started sheltering child stars such as Emmanuel Lewis and Macaulay Culkin. Overall, there are some interesting ideas and some pleasing zingers, but I’m not sure it was worth my time in the end. Glad I finally got around to reading it, though.

  • Harker US Library
    2019-03-28 13:31

    Margo Jefferson's On Michael Jackson is a cultural analysis of the King of Pop, ultimately providing readers with the reason behind his bizarre actions that eventually acquire the pop star the infamous nickname of "Wacko Jacko." While the first half primarily explores his childhood, the latter focuses on the notorious 2005 trial and his transformation from a reigning pop star to an erratic recluse. Additionally, Jefferson cleverly scatters a few of her unique interpretations of the pop star's visually arresting performances and unforgettable music videos throughout. In the beginning, Jefferson makes known the cruelty and pain of Jackson's hollow childhood despite the glamour of singing lead in the Jackson 5. Interestingly enough, the gem of the book lies in the transformation and trial, as it suggests the King of Pop's methods. Although the book is well written, in the end, I found it incredibly disturbing. Jefferson's last few pages leave us utterly startled, speechless, and disillusioned. Frankly, after being exposed to this monstrosity, I genuinely wish I would have watched Jackson's lighthearted American Bandstand performance of "Abc" with his brothers and not gone beyond that. – Eddie S. ‘17

  • Betsy
    2019-04-03 11:43

    This is the book I would have dreamed of writing had I decided to go to grad school. It's like listening to your cool professor in a seminar called "Constructing Identities in (fill in the blank)". I read it because Michael Jackson represented such a big part of my childhood, and I was expecting a regular biography that would give me a walk down memory lane. Instead the book made me appreciate MJ in a way I never thought possible. He truly defied any categorization which I think is one of the reasons people felt so uncomfortable about him. People need to be able to pigeonhole everything and even in Hollywood, all the enhancements people do typically emphasize that category in an exaggerated way (women get breast implants to look more feminine for example). MJ's enhancements caused him to transcend categories. Man or woman, black or white, man or child? Selfless or self-absorbed? I don't think anyone thought he was trying to become Asian but he most reminded me of a Japanese manga character, especially near the end.

  • SunnyD
    2019-03-27 07:22

    so, i got through it. it took a little over an hour and i'm irritated that i will never get that time back. there's no reason to even review this piece of crap, so i'll just repeat what i said @ the book club meeting when asked, "what'd you think?":it was like a really long magazing article. an article you'd only read b/c you were in the hair salon and the chatter of the other patrons and/or the stylist was somehow more annoying than the article. and you forgot your book. and there were no other magazines there. and you'd read the rest of the magazine backwards and forwards already, twice. and amazingly, even though you'd stayed up late the night prior and then got up early to get into the salon and get the good/hottest dryer that morning, you still couldn't get to sleep under the hot dryer!can you tell i hated it?! *eyeroll*----------------------------------------------------i can't believe i have to read this for book club. *barf*

  • James
    2019-03-20 11:14

    Consider this a 3.5 star review rounded up to four, because there are no half-stars, apparently. I got this yesterday for (literally) a song--it was on the dollar rack at my Brookline Booksmith (I confess I go there far too often for someone like myself who has way too many books already and not nearly enough money).I wanted to like this book more than I did. It's certainly the start of something important and worthwhile (it was published in 2006, not long before his death), and it contains many salient points and cogent analyses. But in the end, it sort of falls back on a kind of shorthand, lacking the due diligence to really pursue some of the implications of her arguments through to the end.It's really quite short, though, and can be read in one sitting. That's always a plus.

  • Janne Paananen
    2019-04-17 12:39

    Jaahas. Tämä kirja tuntuu lähinnä siltä, että jollakulla gradun tekijällä on päässyt proggis lapasesta ja tuloksena on syntynyt tutkielma hahmosta nimeltä Michael Jackson. Kirja ei juurikaan keskity hänen musiikkiinsa vaan pikemminkin hänen tanssimiseensa, videoihinsa, oikeudenkäyntiinsä ja ylipäänsä hänen ristiriitaiseen persoonaansa. Hieman samanlaisella otteella kuin vähän aikaa sitten lukemani kirja Leonard Cohenista. Cohenin kirjasta paistoi läpi se, että kirjoittaja oli lukenut ja kuunnellut Coheninsa ja pyrki tekemään aukikirjoitettua ja perusteltua synteesiä kaikesta omaksumastaan. Jefferson ei pysty edes tähän. Hän velloo juuri siinä keltaisen lehdistön luupissa, joka on pyörinyt Jacksonin kuolemasta lähtien. Jefferson kompastuu samaan kiveen kuin Cohenin elämäkerran kirjoittaja Nadelkin: ylianalysointiin ja tappavaan tylsyyteen.

  • Eleanore
    2019-03-31 09:18

    Though it includes a variety of factual errors in regard to Michael's career and life, it's worth noting that many of these essays were written while he was still alive (and even today there is very little legitimate research on hand for authors to consult). For the position Jefferson was in as a writer, she does an admirable job of being relatively accurate, but that's not really the main point — her goal with this collection is more creative interpretation of the man's work. Some passages — her read of Michael's often overlooked role in 1978's "The Wiz" jumped out at me immediately — contain some rather stunning insight. She may be looking at the man from an angle askance, but that doesn't prevent her from making some valid and interesting points.

  • Arpita
    2019-03-31 11:32

    Beautiful, lyrical prose offers the reader a different way to think about Michael Jackson by addressing the idea of a "monster child." Sometimes, the writer meanders and the voice is extremely present, which makes the book a bit disconcerting at first (and hard to get through). But once you start reading it on its own terms rather than your own, you start to wonder more and more about the voice telling the story. The voice implicates us, the reader, the audience, in a clever way so by the end of it, we are not sure who Michael Jackson is, but even more confused, not just about him, but our relationship to him as well.

  • Crystal Belle
    2019-04-13 08:37

    One would think that a book titled "On Michael Jackson" would attempt some kind of objectivity in writing about such a controversial mega-star. Unfortunately, the author says everything we have already heard: he is a freak, he is odd, he is asexual, etc. What disturbed me most was the voice, which was very "matter-of-fact" when it is clear that nobody really knows all of the facts of Jackson's life. I wanted more, so much more, and it just wasn't there. There were a few strong points regarding Jackson's apparent desire to transcend race, while defying masculinity "norms."

  • Nicole ( Colie )
    2019-04-13 13:26

    --not in German when I read it, which was four days after his death on my fire escape in the sun. It was the absolute best way to combat or correspond with the radio and television marathons, the general conversational obsession (two people running by me in the park [who I heard for maybe 7 seconds:] were talking about whether or not Quincy Jones was a paternal stand-in), and the unexpected sadness of the world sans this strange little enormous man.

  • Jo
    2019-03-28 12:14

    This is a pretty shallow book. Jefferson opens promisingly, tracing Jackson's life against some of his lesser-known heroes; P.T. Barnum, Edgar Allan Poe and J.M. Barrie. But soon enough she takes the tone of preachy first-year psychology lecturer and the insight quickly becomes minimal. "I Want You Back" gains nothing from her sterile deconstruction, and her flat dismissal of Janet as "the hardest-working sex toy in show business" is frankly just offensive.

  • Mike
    2019-03-31 11:33

    Brain candy or junk food for the brain - quick to read, hard to put down (Lay's - you can't just have one!), and about as substantial as fast food. But it was a page-turner. The book was written three years before Jackson's death, but it pretty much summarizes what anyone with half a brain was already thinking - that Michael Jackson ceased to exist as a human after Thriller. Highly recommended for those stuck in a traffic jam/standing in a line.

  • Glen Goodman
    2019-04-04 06:21

    Seriously one of the most horribly written books I have ever read! If this were not required reading for a class I'm taking, I would have put it back down after the first page! Margo Jefferson sets the stage right from the start for just how awful this book will be. She doesn't write anything based on interviews she conducted, or personal interactions of any kind. This entire book is her negatively biased opinion of tabloids and other heresay. I would NOT recommend this book to anyone

  • Seán
    2019-04-01 14:37

    Found on the Salvation Army shelf in the wake of this past summer's morbid Jackson frenzy, took it over to one of Woodside's few cafes, and read the thing. Jefferson provides a useful biographical sketch and poses a few interesting questions, that's all, and that's all that really can be done on MJ beyond a more complete appreciation of his music. Everything else is just voyeurism that isn't even fun.

  • Laura
    2019-04-18 09:39

    Like so many, I have gotten sucked into the post mortem Michael Jackson craze. Jefferson provides an interesting assessment and critique of Michael Jackson from young African American boy to androgynous, white-skinned adult. If nothing else, this book will make you think about how our society has changed in terms of what we desire and what we will tolerate.

  • Sherri
    2019-03-24 11:31

    As a huge Michael Jackson fan, it was difficult for me to accept the author's critical tone. However, she made me see him more as a cultural representative and demonstrated how we sexualize and abuse child actors and performers. She is also a very intellectual writer, so I had to respect that. And I still love Michael Jackson, plastic surgery and all.

  • Tuomas Hiltunen
    2019-04-06 12:17

    I just reread this excellent book. If you were impressed by Joan Acocella's piece on M.J. in 27 July 2009 New Yorker (for 3 days she watched and analysed his music videos), you are going to be blown away by Margo Jefferson's marvelous book. 5 stars.

  • Taylor
    2019-04-04 14:27

    Really great book! I'm a huge fan of Michael Jackson but I believe this book really explained who and what he was as a person. It was veryu insightful and it was definitely worth reading for those of you who are King of Pop fans.

  • Philip
    2019-04-13 08:29

    A fascinating portrait of a child star transformed into a monster. It doesn't read like a typical biography, but more like a psychological investigation of Jackson, his fans, and American popular culture.

  • Jamey
    2019-04-09 13:30

    Pretty good.

  • Greta
    2019-04-03 13:39

    This book is more on the psychology and transformation of Michael Jackson than his life story. It's a brilliant read.

  • Jayla Fuller
    2019-04-16 10:28

    haven't read it