MediaCoverage of Michael Jackson
Themedia plays a significant role in the lives of people, in particularin the lives of celebrities and public figures at large.Representation refers to the way media presents individuals, ideas,places, or events. This stipulates that, the media can pick a givenstory and through text, images, videos and audio effectively decidehow the public will perceive this particular story. Institutions areknown to create representation and stereotypes of musicians, andbands in magazines, music videos as well as TV or radio interviews inthat they are perceived in a given way and due to this gain morefollowing, resulting to increased sell in records. Similarly themedia uses similar tactics in increasing popularity of theirtabloids, TV shows, and boost their profits through stories ofcelebrities that keep the audience entangled in controversy andyearning for more (Anderson 174). The effects of media representationcan be damaging or can escalate a person’s status to greaterlevels. More often, media seeks to represent the negative aspects ina celebrity in order to make news and sell more copies or make theirshow popular. One such case is the case of “The King ofPop”-Michael Jackson.
MichaelJackson or MJ as he was popularly referred came from a humbleAfrican-American family, living in Gray, Indiana. Despite his origin,he became one of the most redoubtable forces in the music industry.He started with ‘The Jackson 5’ a band that comprised of hisclose family members, recording with Motown and later joined CBSRecords. Later, he went solo and created his own recording label ‘MJJProductions’ which saw his career in music rise to unimaginablelevels in throughout the years. He later posthumously signed withSony Records in a contract that was to run to 2017 (Fisher 102).
MichaelJackson revolutionized both music and dance, he set trends, heshattered records, and he permanently touched the hearts of many. Theworld could only stare as this phenomenon changed lives, and definedthe meaning of entertainment. His success in the 80’s opened upwhite Americans to black music in a manner never experienced before.Without Michael Jackson, there would be no great people like WhitneyHouston, Chris Brown or Justin Bieber. Yet he all went down in death,in a manner that left the world astonished. This paper explores howthe media presented Michael Jackson, in what some have attributed tohis demise (Smit 76).
Often,the media represented Michael very well as a music icon of all time.He became very popular releasing album after album and sellingmillions of copies. His influence was felt world over earning him thetitle “The King of Pop”. Generally, the media seemed to have hisback in the beginning but later things changed as his life continuedto have some controversial issues. Nevertheless just like mostartists or anyone else he had his own problems. In 1986 thescandalous ran a story that declared that Michael Jackson spent hisnights in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to alter his aging process. Hecame out clearly in defense of these rumors. The stories went roundthe world and gave him much popularity (Boyd 39). Some authors arguethat, it was in fact the making of his publicists of this rumor toput him on the spotlight and help increase his ratings. One thing forsure though is that, it was the beginning of a series of negativemedia representation of Michael Jackson as the media seemed not tolet go of him.
Inthe 1980’s Michael Jackson’s skin started lightening in whatwould later be confirmed to be a rare conditions known as Vitiligoand Lupus both of which mad his skin become very sensitive tosunlight. This prompted him to carry an umbrella whenever outdoors.The media as did not take this any light. Even before getting thefacts, the media spread news that Michael Jackson was bleachinghimself. At the time this was damaging as Michael had been seen bymany as an icon African America who was proud of whom he was (Boyd67). As his skin condition worsened, the paler he became and the morethe media gave him attention.
Thesestories made the tabloids a lot of profits and they realized thatthey could take more on his stories. The story of Michael Jackson andhis Chimpanzee was taken to extreme with the media nick-naming him“Wacko Jacko” a name that they would use extensively to an extentthat Michael decided to stay away from the glare of the media (Fisher78). He also in fighting back to this negative representation sangvarious songs rebuking the media. Michael would later appear in themedia in 1993 in a one and a half hours television interview withOprah Winfrey. In the interview, which was his first since 1979,Michael openly talked about his childhood. He talked about how hemissed his childhood as his dad was very strict and would physicallyassault them. He also had to work at a very tender age and did nothave time to play with children. Here, he expressed his unrelentinglove for children. His expression of lack of a real childhood waswhat drove him to be passionate about children.
Themedia took this point as an opening to trail Michael Jackson, who hadbeen away from the limelight for quite some times- his love forchildren. In particular, they publicized an incident where Michaelcame in holding hands with Brook Shields, but did not have much tosay about him carrying Emanuel Lewis on his hip (Anderson 192). Thisincident set the stage for a series of accusations about him being apedophile. As part of his love for children that made him want to beclose to children, Michael could regularly invite young boys,particularly the poor and those that were disabled to his ranch inNeverland. In 1993, in what the media found grounds to accuse him onsexual abuse, a 13 year old boy Jordan Chandler who once lived withMichael in his ranch together with his father accused him of sexuallyabusing the boy (Smit 173). The media ran the story extensively whichtook a toll on Michael and his family. Along with his family andfriends, Michael came out to refute the allegations arguing that hewas only interested in helping the children and he did not have anyintensions to exploit them sexually. The charges against him wouldlater be settled out of court.
Despitebeing cleared of the charges, throughout the 90’s the mediacontinued to fuel that Michael was a pedophile who just maneuveredthe law. His wife Lisa Marie Presley was his pillar at the time.However, most people continued to hold to this ideology. The case ofchild molestation had taken a toll on him to a greater extent that hehad to live on pain killers and sleeping pills to deal with stress.He at one time collapsed during rehearsals to panic attacks relatedto stress (Fisher 42).
Michaeldivorced Lisa and got married to Deborah Jeanne Rowe who gave birthto his two children, although they later divorced in 1999. Thebalcony incident where he was seen “daggling his son at the bacon”led to more media attention towards him being a child molester. Hehowever explained that he was just playing with his son, and he couldnever hold him carelessly as people and the media were putting it.Later on in 2003, a documentary “Living with Michael Jackson” wasreleased which featured Michael holding hands and speaking about hishands-holding incidence with Gavin Arvizo who later came out toaccuse him of sexual abuse. The documentary raised more questionsthan answers putting Jackson in the spotlight once again (Smit 109).
Inthe people v. Jackson which began two years after he was originallycharged was held in Santa Maria. The case appeared to overwhelmJackson’s health to a point that he became dependent on Demerol andmorphine. As a result, he suffered from stress and stress relatedillness which led to severe loss of weight which affected hisphysique. These changes in his health became eye grabbing headlinesin the media. The trial was over in 2005 where he was again acquittedof all counts of child molestation (Boyd 73).
Thelawsuits and his inability to perform in major events due to hisdeteriorating health led Michael Jackson to financial crises. He losthis main house on Neverland Ranch after it was shut down. Hisfinancial woes became top news with the media making all kinds ofclaim regarding his problems. From this time until his demise, themedia wrote all kinds of negative stories about Michael somethingthat continued to hurt him even if he opted to remain out of theglare of the media. On June 25, 2009, he made news one last time hewas dead (Fisher 53).
BeforeMichael Jackson’s unfortunate incidents that changed his life, themedia portrayed Michael the King of Pop, a man who had revolutionizedthe music industry. In addition, he was seen as a bridge to theacceptance of black American music into the white dominated society.
Inaddition, Michael participated in a number of charities including the1985 “We are the world” campaign alongside Lionel Richie that wasmeant to help children suffering from hunger in Africa. The mediapublicized this event considerably and world over, Michael wasrecognized as a philanthropist, with passion for children (Look tothe Stars N.P). His engagement in support of hospital towardschildren’s health was another area that earned Michael positivemedia representation. While doing a commercial for Pepsi, he sufferedserious burns. He later donated all the money that he was paid byPepsi amounting to $1.5 million to the Michael Jackson Burn Centerfor Children (Kaufman N.P). His “Heal the World Foundation” was apopular piece in the media and made news a big deal during the days.He also donated the sales of “The Man in The Mirror” album toCamp Ronald McDonald for Good, which is a camp for children battlingcancer.
Anotherform of representation in the media that Michael received is from hisproducers. His album covers were very unique, which was meant todifferentiate him from the rest and show his uniqueness, hence boostsales of his records. The 1991 Album “Dangerous” was uniquelypresented. Normally a typical album cover entails the image of theartists, album title and his name. For Michael’s albums, the mediaprintings were totally different (Anderson 194). The images that wereprinted on the cover of his albums portrayed creativity anduniqueness which had not been experienced. For instance, in an ad forhis planned concert 2009/2010 titled “This Is It”, the coverdepicts Michael hiding away from his fans, with only his eyes beingvisible and one trademark lock of perfected black hair. He isrepresented as a legendry in this ad which attracted more fans agedbetween ages 30 to 40 years in the UK to purchase more tickets(Anderson 196).
Ultimately,the media presented Michael Jackson both in the positive and in thenegative way. However, they gave more emphasize on the negative news.In what is often seen as guerilla decontextualizing, there has beencontroversy on whether the media or Michael Jackson was involved inthis phenomenon (Aberjhani N.P). One thing is clear though, when thenews was negative, the media gave it quite significant airtime onradio and TV and printed it quite broadly on the newspapers. The samecannot be said for positive news though. The child molestation caseof 1991 is arguably the point where the Media started to deflate hisimage. The coining of the nick name “Wacko Jacko” by the media isa clear example of the extent the media represented Michael Jackson.Nevertheless, MJ’s image is undoubtedly one of the main reasons whyhe became so formidable in the music world. The fact that the mediapresented him as unique and different was reflected in his music,being unique, a factor which boosted his sale of records.
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