My earliest memory involving Michael Jackson was when I was seven years old. It was Christmas in the early 90's. I don't remember what else my brother and I received as presents that year, but one of them was the album Dangerous on cassette. I can still remember the intricately illustrated--and now iconic--cassette tape cover of Michael Jackson's eyes peering out behind a fantastical prism of animals, jewels and doorways.

My older brother and I were ecstatic--and I was probably just ecstatic because my brother was. I was too clueless and young to understand the idea of a musical legend, but I did immediately understand that whoever this Michael Jackson person was, he made some pretty catchy tunes but was also really freaking cool in a way that surpassed the laws of reality--like a famous cartoon character come to life.

Admittedly, I became more cynical about Michael Jackson as I became older. I was too young to become a lovelorn groupie at the peak of his career and by the time I was old enough to have interest to become a lovelorn groupie for anything, MJ was already entangled in a series of scandals that made him a cartoon character but in a completely different way--the kind that you mocked and scorned. The tabloids were effective at making him into a Wacko Jacko--the mad genius and disfigured creature you looked at with pity from the other side of the cage.

Last night, I was over at my boyfriend's house. He happened to have a VHS tape of Michael Jackson music videos sitting around. It seemed appropriate, in light of his recent death, that we play them in the living room and revisit his classics.

We watched through "Billy Jean," "Beat It," "Black or White," "Thriller," "Remember the Time." I haven't sat through a full Michael Jackson video in at least a decade, so I may as well have been watching them for the first time ever.

I thought my pupils were going to dilate past my irises and swallow my eyeballs whole. If Rip Van Winkle went to sleep in 1980 and woke up at 2009 to watch Michael Jackson music videos completely deprived of cultural context, he may have been completely flabbergasted why this extremely feminine man with long hair, pale skin and a high-pitched voice would be looked up to by tough guys, adored by women and idolized by pretty much everyone in the world from age eight to eighty.

"Holy shit," I exclaimed outloud. "This shit is fucking WEIRD."

And yet... so brilliant. I couldn't tear my eyes away, and even after death, Michael Jackson is still the best in the world at provoking that reaction.


What are your memories of Michael Jackson? Feel free to share them with the rest of the Intent community in the comments below.

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