Michael Jackson: Man? Person?

It’s a common trait of the scientific community for researchers to commune to pool their brains while investigating perplexing phenomena that no one quite yet has been able to get a handle on understanding. AIDS. The possibility of extra-terrestrial life. And, yes, the mystery that is Michael Jackson: Josef Engels brings us word today in Die Welt of the conference that took place over this past weekend in New Haven, CT, whose subject was none other than the King of Pop. (He is a Person.)

“Not a subject worthy of a scientific conference’s consideration,” you might say? Oh, but you would be wrong. The eighteen professors and other academics had enough Jackson-grist for their mill to last over this past Saturday and Sunday. For instance, did you know that the “Beat It” video was really a well-crafted protest against racial division? They also had the pleasure of a presentation from former Jackson photographer Todd Gray – including on the topic of the pop star’s preferences when it came to coming back and retouching his photos, namely so that he could appear whiter in them.

Actually, it was precisely this conference’s supposed “subject” or focus that was itself of particular interest. The participants deliberately steered clear of any consideration of the star’s current legal troubles stemming from allegations of pedophilic misdeeds. Engels also rather cattily notes that they neither devoted any attention to considering Jackson from the plastic surgery perspective; that could have kept them occupied for weeks on end, he suggests.

No, it was just supposed to be about “the presentation of Jackson’s Personality.” That’s very fine, but Engels makes it clear that rather more fundamental questions could have used some discussion, especially from the point-of-view of the star’s German fans. Why, he inquires, did the participants not take as their debating proposition the assertion made recently in his memoirs by Joseph Jackson, the star’s father, that Michael “is 100 percent a man”? After all, no less than Will Smith asserted in the 1997 film “Men in Black” that the guy acts so strangely, he’s got to be extra-terrestrial. So will the real “man” (or at least “person”) please stand up – and moon-dance!

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