I have never in any way really cared for Michael Jackson's music, so the news of his death does not move me too much. I tried to gather an interest in him from a media studies perspective – he is after all perhaps one of the last big actualisations of the Disney era of sorts; a half-imaginated, half-real zombie of sorts that seemed to live most of his last years in a weird haze world. What was incidental of some of the reports / review articles of him after his death (reading some newspapers in Berlin), was the reference to his status as a victim of sorts. He was written in some articles as the not-completely-grown-up that was continuously struggling with relationships and his status as a public character. Of course, such ideas hit the mark all too well – and this is the status he wanted to give himself as well. All the fantasies of the boy who did not grow up, the Peter Pan, the infantile work now in his favor to create a polished picture that is not ready to discuss his possible pedophilia.
Indeed, describing him in terms of infantility is I believe the point and ranges from his music (all the high pitched screams, or his so soft talking voice, almost beyond language, infantile) and his public persona. It goes as far as hinting towards a legal status as well, which is interesting. Jackson is one of the first and last great Baudrillard-kind of characters of simulacra that do not seem completely real but governed by the logic of simulacra – a logic of signs floating around in a world of media cultural capitalism of sorts. In Jackson, this reached certain corporeality through his on-going metamorphosis and the years long media discussion concerning his nose and skin. What do we remember of him but those two things? The mutilated nose and the oh-too-white skin? Its emblematic of the Disney world as well, the urge for whiteness present in so many implicitly racist Disney narratives. Jackson the media persona at least shows the political contexts of any simulacra that in this case territorialized very concretely on issues of race and gender. Yet, such issues are accessible through a sans langue of the infantile with the intensities of the skin color, the voice, the fragility rather than a clear language-orientated grid of representation. No signifiers and signifieds, but intensities and bodies. In this sense Jackson shares something with Marilyn Monroe, as Milla reminded me; Marilyn also as a Hollywood-infantility according to some critics, her babylike face, infantile sexuality present in her soft voice that as if struggled to be heard at all, almost child-like
The Finnish media theorist Jukka Sihvonen pointed towards such a culture of infantility in his book on media education that I alas do not have at hand. I am sure it would inspire some really good points about our media culture as one of infantility more widely. Have to pick up the book when I get back to Cambridge just to remind myself of his arguments, which place the whole idea of “media education” in the important context of contemporary media in a post-enlightenment condition.