Sunday, February 28, 2016

The King of Pop

            Despite the controversy over his personal life, Michael Jackson was a legend. According to Vanity Fair’s article by Nancy Griffin, as of 2010 Thriller was still the most popular music video ever. And who can honestly say they’ve never attempted to copy Michael Jackson’s iconic dance from that 14-minute video? Although Michael Jackson’s music career is often overshadowed by allegations against him of sexual abuse against children, it is undeniable that his music and style were spectacular. He managed to overcome racial prejudice in order to become one of the most famous artists to ever live.

             While it is unfortunate that the eccentricity of Michael Jackson’s personality has overshadowed his amazing career, one has to wonder: is it right to ignore his idiosyncrasies either? The controversial and conflicting character of Michael Jackson has many parallels to both Sternberg (1984) and Csikzsentmihalyi’s (1997) theories of creative personalities. Michael Jackson was a magnetic character. He was good-looking, and a life-long entertainer. He had an imaginative dance style, and killer vocals. On top of all this talent, Michael Jackson was extremely ambitious. From the start of his career, he compared his own successes to those of major stars like Madonna. With this desire for accomplishment came his pride from his success. Rather than being embarrassed about his royal title, “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson accepted and encouraged it. At the same time, Michael Jackson was humble—even timid. He recognized his own flaws, and even spoke about them with those who worked closely with him.
            Perhaps the most haunting dichotomy of his personality was the split between wisdom and naivety. Michael Jackson was a prodigy. From a very young age, Michael Jackson was touring with his brothers as the Jackson 5. He was the star almost from the start, and his father worked him very hard. Michael Jackson frequently reflected how he never had a childhood; instead, almost from birth he had joined the work force under his father’s management. Perhaps this contributed to his retained childishness, his naivety especially about relationships with people. His best friends were children; he said he felt more comfortable with them. As reported by Griffin, one of the children Michael Jackson was friends with, Ryan Folsey, remembered Jackson as being at a mental age of 13 when he was actually 25. One of the men who helped choreograph Thriller claims that Michael Jackson would ask him very simple questions about sex, questions that a man of 25 years would be expected to know, and even accuses Michael Jackson of being “’socially retarded’” (Vanity Fair).

 At the same time, however, Michael Jackson was a creative genius. In the fields of business and entertainment, Michael Jackson excelled. It appears that his early devotion to his career—which was, to a large extent, forced on him—compromised his emotional development. He only knew how to be an amazing artist, he didn’t know how to socialize with anyone besides the three mannequins in his bedroom that he called friends. Michael Jackson stands as a tragic prodigy, a man who exemplifies many of the dichotomies characteristic of creative personalities. Early preeminence and a strict father-manager led to a King who was emotionally too young to rule.  

Griffin, Nancy. "Michael Jackson's Thriller." Vanity Fair. July 2010. Web. 28 Feb. 2016. 


  1. I enjoyed that your investigation of Michael Jackson recognizes the complexity of his personality - the multi-faceted ways in which his mental state tied into his creative process. I think what's interesting is that Jackson seems to straddle the line on the 5 Big Factors of personality, making him an enigma... I wonder of this is what has led to his success?

    1. Thank you. Although I am no expert, I think it definitely did contribute to his success.

  2. Great post! Even though I was raised in India, my world as a child was still surrounded by Jackson and his songs. Reading this post made me realize just how much of an international star he was to begin with at the time. However, it did not conquer to me that he was having such mental struggles even as an adult. It is hard to imagine the King of Pop as an adult with a child stuck inside. I also loved that you connected to dialect traits of the creative. As I read this post, I was wondering how Jackson might have turned out if he actually had a better childhood. My blog was about Kailash Satyarthi, who is an activist in India focusing on saving children from child labor. I wonder if what Michael went through in his childhood would be considered as another form of child labor. I remember an interview of Michael, in which he explained how physically and mentally abusive his father was and how he was forced to do a lot of the programs as a child. I, personally, believe that Michael was an unfortunate victim of child labor but he did develop into a dedicated and inspirational individual. It also made me realize that even though one might be broken inside, they are still capable of creating a new paradigm and culture. Overall, I loved the post, and it brought back a lot of my own childhood memories where I sat around with my classmates and friends around a slow computer watching Michael's music videos.

    1. Thank you for your comment, you provided interesting insight into child labor and how it might have affected Michael Jackson. I agree that he was a victim of his childhood, in many ways.


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