From King David (Bowie) to the King of Pop, Michael (Jackson)
Since this morning, I've been listening to the radios paying tribute to Bowie. The critics, the journalists, the musicians... and always the same speech, unanimous, eulogistic, in fact quite obviously!
"David Bowie has pushed back the musical and aesthetic frontiers and the human categories". As they can't, or even don't know, talk too technically about music, they confine themselves, as often and always, to appearance.
It's great, they say! His eccentricities were magical, his improbable, post-modern look, his transgender, androgynous image, helped push reflection, tolerance, acceptance...
Ok, ok, ok... I completely agree. You can't say better in this field.
We say (almost) the same thing, rightly, about Michael Jackson. They are co-revolutionaries, pacifist comrades-in-arms, and they are not the only ones in this army of artists and this immense century in freedom and innovation.
But then, precisely, this "(almost)"...
Since this morning, I've been waiting for the "but..." about Bowie, the same "but..." that punctuated every compliment to Michael Jackson... I'm waiting to know where he stumbled, where he went too far... When will these brave journalists and critics who are redesigning the world and its unique and consumerist thought in the Orwellian sauce, nail him to the same tree and lynch him?
Well, no. That's not going to happen. And for good reason. (I'm playing devil's advocate, don't worry, if you don't know me well enough and are tempted to take this statement at face value)
David Bowie is the man of many faces. The one who has constantly recreated himself. A work open to the body. And everyone thinks it's great. It is.
So why wasn't it the same, simply, for Michael? Didn't he do the same thing? Well, yes. But no.
Since this morning, I've been thinking... I've been thinking... what's the big deal?
1st option... David Bowie has shaken up and transcended the human cleavages... Man-woman-cyborg, certainly, but there is one that he could not overcome: that of race. Is this the problem? What we reproach to Michael ? To have dared (as if he had had the choice... but closed minds remain, to this day, convinced) to change his color... To make an affront to his racial origins, to "deny" them, they say... (You know as well as I do how false this is, but his detractors continue to cling firmly to these shameful and misleading arguments).
Could it be, then, that the racial question is what earns Michael the right to have gone "too far" in his image, to have pushed the limits of what is acceptable? (Racial reproaches emitted contradictorily by the same people who say that they reject any idea of race and that there is only one human species...)
This is plausible. No. More than that. I believe it. I firmly believe it. But the one thing I don't believe in is the idea that this is just basic racism, a childish rejection of difference, based here on skin color.
No. I believe (know) that beyond this surface racism there are conflicts of interest, linked to American communitarianism, of course. But what disturbs the most about Michael Jackson is not so much his skin color (modified or not) as the financial power he represented and which prevented the machine from turning round.
It was therefore necessary to stop him. So we have to continue to smear him. To make an example of him. A scapegoat. To vomit the slavery and lynchings of the past, yes, but to stone him, today, in full view of the world. This is our world. That of our teachers.
Option 2... What is the difference between Bowie's and Jackson's physical transformations? Are they comparable?
Well, I think they can be distinguished in the sense that for Bowie it's more about cross-dressing, make-up, eclectic costumes and the outward "look", and for Jackson it's more about physical transformation, right on the body, whether it's his face or his skin (not to mention his hair, whose straightening or crimping plays a fundamental role in the "message" it delivers socially among African-Americans).
Bowie can take off his makeup and put on his clothes "normally" to appear "conventional" in the city and in private, but Michael Jackson, even if he takes off his makeup and puts on pajamas, remains Michael Jackson with his nose, his chin, his tattooed eyes, his reconstructed scalp and his transparent skin.
So we would have the right to exceed the limits, but only to a certain extent. On the condition that you can back off, a sort of moonwalk of appearance that reassures the other person as if to say "no, I was just kidding! I was joking! I was exaggerating! Look, it's me, I'm still the same, don't be afraid. I was just pretending..."? So we would just be allowed to take on roles, to "dress up", to transcend gender and racial categories, but only... only... in appearance.
Yes... But Michael Jackson went far. Very far. And nothing is binary. His appearance is linked to his psyche, his childhood, his complexes, his vision of the world, his vision of himself especially. Not only to the scene, to the example, to the message, to the role. With him, private and public constitute an indissociable imbroglio, indecryptable. Which anguishes the standard. It is true. He is one while being several. He is a Whole.
A pure idealist therefore, who embodies, in some way, and lives, his ideals. But in this world, we venerate the idealists. From the past. Those of whom we have nothing to fear anymore. We worship the great ideas. But one should not carry them too high... One worships the difference... But when that does not go too far...
We talk... From there to live, to do...
Bowie has fully accomplished his work. Jackson has fully accomplished his.
Without taking an ounce away from Bowie and his work, which I admire, respect and love unconditionally, I would dare to say that Michael - by his condition, his identity, and without this being either a goal or an end in itself - has gone a little further on complementary paths. And we know what that cost him.
I demand equal treatment, the same as Bowie demanded for Michael when he intervened with the head of MTV in 1982... I demand equal openness, especially from people who pride themselves on having a great deal of openness (except when.... except if....)