If asked what song by Michael Jackson I like best, I would have to say “Man in the Mirror.” But if the question was which song was the most influential or had the most impact in the context of history, it would be “Black or White.”
Michael Jackson was a civil rights activist and freedom fighter who knew he had a kind of bully pulpit and who strategized how to use it deliberately to change the world. Through music, movement and imagery, Michael set out to change the world– and did. Black or White is an example.
A master of double entendre`and irony, and subliminal suggestion, Michael’s sense of humor bleeds through everything he does. He is bold in what he says but moreso in what he doesn’t say. Black or White comes to us in the album Dangerous and Michael had to consciously know what he was doing in choosing ironic names and encoding messages; I’ve learned that this perfectionist did nothing by chance. He had a reason for everything he did and was meticulous in how his message was carried out and communicated.
Black or White is fascinating for a number of reasons. It’s not so subtle as the messages in Ghost but it is powerful in the statements it makes and it would have been seen by some as well… dangerous. The world was not ready for what Michael did in the short film for Black or White. It was still trussed up in conservative and even puritanical beliefs and Michael’s actions in the film were not just controversial but outrageous. He was overtly erotic and even autoerotic and “violent” and that made people nervous; they were afraid of his influence on youth. But that is precisely the audience he was going after and the film was calculated to get their attention so that the message could be delivered. Youth is rebellious because one of the hallmarks of development toward emancipation is to find a way to push against in order to push off from the generation from which they are emancipating. It’s an essential radicalism and Michael fully capitalized on it in a “teachable moment” in history.
The coda, the symbolism, the sequence, the message are all deliberate– whether subliminal or overt. Michael had something important to say. He already had an audience. He had a message. The times were not ready, so he made them ready and that was… Dangerous.
Beginning later this week, Inner Michael will feature Black or White in 3 parts. A history lesson is necessary to place Black or White in its historical context and is essential background information in order to understand the historical significance of Michael’s work in the Dangerous album and in Black or White in particular and how it influenced the world. It was the most anticipated video in history. It was released around the world at the same time and it changed the course of that world. It was deliberate, it was genius, it was bold and very, very Dangerous.
We will then look through the shaman’s eye at the metaphysics, archetypes and symbols.
Part I will be a review of the history lesson. Part II will look closely at the film and its symbolism and in Part III — the Panther Dance. So stay tuned.
For anyone who has not read the Ghost series at Inner Michael, or who would like to review it go here…
And there is a little comfort station at the end of the journey at Ghost lite: