Monday, March 28, 2016


Black masculinity can range from a plethora of human identities depending on the time and the person. Perhaps one of the greatest and most notable identities of black masculinity can be observed in Michael Jackson's star persona. Early on in his career, Jackson and his siblings performed in The Jackson Five, inventing "the genre of ‘teeny-bopper’ pop cashed in upon by white pop idols" (Mercer 305). Like many cases throughout American history, black accomplishments and conventions trickle into the mainstream only to be usurped and credited to white people. 

Moreover, Jackson's appeal was rooted in his "racial and sexual ambiguity (306). He became an icon for his fashion choices which began to penetrate youth culture, both black and white. The classic song Thriller, especially its accompanying music video serve as a reminder of the outcast status black masculinity used to hold in Hollywood: "MTV maintained an unspoken policy of excluding black artists" (307). Perhaps, it is because of Jackson's "ambiguity" that he was one of the "first to penetrate the racial boundary" (307). 

Still, Jackson's strides elevated not just black masculinity but black identity as a whole into the mainstream: "his success has popularised black music in white rock and pop markets" (308). According to Mercer, Jackson did this through staying within the glitzy aesthetic parameters that market pop music. His fashion, dance moves, and of course vocals had all the makings of a pop star, and was enough for audiences and studios at the time to look past his skin and accept his music. 

"In ‘Thriller’ it is the ‘grain’ of Jackson’s voice that expresses and plays with this sexual sub-text" (310). As aforementioned, one of the cornerstones of Jackson's appeal was his sexual element. This edged sexuality into the identity of black masculinity in Hollywood, using Jackson's "ambiguity" as the mold for years to come. This trailblazer the way for future black artists like Prince and more recently Bruno Mars, who exemplify the same conventions Jackson did decades earlier. His masculinity has trickled down to our era, influencing artists of today to tap into the same form of masculinity to promote their music. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.