Analyzing The 1995 Diane Sawyer Interview: What We Can Learn From It

For Once, It Was A Dance He Wouldn't Have To Do Alone
For Once, It Was A Dance He Wouldn’t Have To Do Alone

Back in October and November, a very interesting multi-part discussion of Michael’s HIStory teaser film on the Dancing With the Elephant blog led to an equally interesting discussion of Michael’s 1995 Diane Sawyer interview in the comments section.

The relevance of the Sawyer interview to that discussion was because Sawyer had played the clip of the HIStory teaser film during the interview, referencing the current controversy of the teaser as a pro-Nazi film modeled after Triumph Of The Will.  Of course, Michael denied that accusation, but the resulting debate might have been a fascinating discussion of how Michael viewed his art-had there been more time in the interview,perhaps, but also, if he had he not been so snidely cut off by Sawyer before getting a word in about his art edgewise.

The discussion led me to go back and re-watch the interview in its entirety.  A few things have always interested me about this interview, and I decided this was a good time to go back and review it again. Sure, Diane Sawyer was needlessly smug and condescending through the whole thing, but what’s interesting to me are Michael’s responses-not just the content of what he says here, but how he says it. In analyzing both the responses Michael and Lisa Marie gave, as well as their combined body language, a lot is revealed and/or can be reasonably surmised-about their relationship, their responses to the questions about the allegations, about Michael’s appearance, and how he operated as an artist. Whether directly spoken or insinuated through their body language and reactions, much can be read between the lines in this interview. In recent weeks, I have gone back to this interview time and again. Amazingly, this one interview could satisfactorily answer most of the world’s burning questions about Michael Jackson-if they would but watch and listen. And that has nothing-zero, nada, nilch-to do with Diane Sawyer’s skills as an interviewer, but everything to do with simply how her subjects responded.

One Can Almost Hear Them Say, "Let's Do This Thing!"
One Can Almost Hear Them Say, “Let’s Do This Thing!”

One reason I think this interview is possibly a little more candid than many that Michael gave solo is, perhaps, because of the fact that Lisa Marie was with him. Michael had done interviews with others before, of course. Throughout much of his youth, he had given interviews with his siblings. And he had given interviews alongside friends, such as when Elizabeth Taylor sat in briefly during his Oprah interview, but such interviews had become rare during the period of his adult superstardom-in fact, any interviews at all had become a rarity by the mid 90’s, and the few he did grant were always greeted with much pomp and circumstance, in which it was expected he would be the sole center of the event.  This occasion, therefore, was historic in that it marked the first time he had conducted a full interview sitting alongside someone whose acquaintance with him went beyond either blood relation or mere friendship-in other words, the first time he had ever sat down for an interview alomgside someone with whom he would also be going home with once the cameras stopped rolling. Yes, I’m talking about sitting down to talk about himself along with a partner; someone who knows whether or not he puts the seat back down on the toilet. In other words, a wife. Thus, there is a much more intimate vibe to this conversation than in many of Michael’s past interviews. It is only natural that we tend to lower our guard and our defenses a bit when in the company of someone who knows us intimately. And we can also observe how Michael and Lisa tend to bounce and, at times, deflect off each other. In cases where Michael might have normally dodged the question a bit, or given his stock answers, Lisa comes swooping in with answers that, at times, knocks the interview slightly off center. In fact, there are times in the interview when she seems more determined than Michael to set certain things straight (perhaps stemming from a desire to mitigate some of the harsh criticism that had been directed at her since the marriage) but we also see here a very animated Michael who, for the first time, seems to really want to speak out, even if often held in check by Sawyer who obviously is attempting to maintain control of the interview , to manipulate it and to steer it where she wants it to go. Many times throughout the interview, it’s obvious that Michael is chomping at the bit. He doesn’t want to be directed; he is wanting to have his say-and, frankly, there are times when a very obviously frustrated Sawyer has her hands full keeping him in check.

From the get-go, of course, this is the kind of dynamic that is intended to put Michael at an instant disadvantage-place him between two women who are going to be talking about him. It was the same discomfiting triangle that Oprah Winfrey created in her ’93 interview when she had Liz Taylor come out. Craig Baxter, a noted body language expert, did a very fascinating video analyzing Michael’s body language during that segment of the interview. Even though everything Liz had to say was very positive, of course, it wasn’t necessarily about the words spoken. It was the intentionally discomfiting situation of someone having to stand (literally, as he gave up his seat for Elizabeth) in a room while he’s being talked about by others. What’s more, he knows he is on national TV at this moment. What does one do? Where does one put their hands? What kind of facial expression to maintain? Craig Baxter is right. When you watch the video, you can see what a very awkward, uncomfortable moment it is for him. Imagine how uncomfortable most guys would feel if they had to sit stuck in a room with their wife and their mother-in-law, listening while they talked about him! Well, just imagine that scenario and you can pretty well surmise what Michael was feeling. Even if the comments are well intended, it doesn’t alleviate the awkward embarrassment of the moment. As Baxter noted, it seemed almost like an intentional setup to purposely put him at that disadvantage. He was supposed to be the subject of the interview, after all, not Taylor. Perhaps it was just poor planning (Oprah apparently wanted to surprise Michael with Taylor’s appearance) but you don’t ask a big star like Michael Jackson to sit for an interview and then force him to stand on the sidelines while  everyone around him gabs about him.


Now fast forward to 1995, and again, Michael has agreed to a situation that is going to place him squarely at somewhat of a disadvantage, as a man sitting between two women-his wife and a very aggressive interviewer. He has to know going in that he is going to be the subject of most of the questions. Diane Sawyer’s interest isn’t in Lisa Marie, other than indirectly as the partner in this marriage. Every question is going to be centered on aspects of his life-Did he or didn’t he molest a child? Does he or doesn’t he bleach his skin? Has he or hasn’t he slept with his own wife? He has to know already that very little of this is actually going to focus on what he really wants to discuss-his art and his new album. But with every interview is a fresh opportunity; a chance to say his piece; a chance to set some things straight. So he goes willingly into that lion’s den. Again.

The interview begins innocuously enough with Sawyer asking Michael and Lisa about the beginnings of the relationship. I would say that was a fair question because, for many of us, the relationship did seem to come suddenly, from out of nowhere (hence, much of the suspicion that also surrounded it). As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. In this segment, Michael is very animated and open, gushing about an attraction that, for him, had been ongoing for twenty years.

Lisa At Age 7, When She Made A Lasting Impression On A Then 17-Year-Old Michael
Lisa At Age 7, When She Made A Lasting Impression On A Then 17-Year-Old Michael

Lisa had made a lasting impression on him at the tender age of seven. He was seventeen when they first met, backstage in Las Vegas. His body language throughout this segment of the interview is open and direct, indicating that the feelings he is expressing are indeed genuine. His demeanor is every bit that of a man still on his honeymoon high. He is still thinking of himself as the luckiest guy in the world to have finally “won” her. The spontaneity of his gestures; his smiles as he recalls their beginnings are the earmark of honest emotion. In fact, he is so caught up and bubbling about his twenty-year-long attraction to her that he almost forgets, just for a moment, that it might seem a bit creepy to some that he was seventeen and she only seven when they first met, so he’s quick to add that he didn’t start asking Branca to contact her until she was eighteen. It’s actually a very cute moment in the interview when he realizes he had best clarify that there was no romantic interest until then. It is cute in the sense that he simply can’t hide his adoration of her, and for him, it’s hard to go back in time and imagine a time when he didn’t feel this way about her.

During this segment of the interview, he is much more open than Lisa, who remains fairly quiet and closed off, allowing him to take the lead here. I don’t think too much needs to be read into this. She is allowing him to take the lead because, after all, he was seventeen then; at seven, her memories of those times aren’t going to be nearly as sharp as his. Also, she is recognizing the importance of letting him have his opportunity to express his feelings for her on a world platform. At this stage, it was something the world needed to hear-how did Michael truly feel about Lisa Marie Presley? Thank goodness, he didn’t do anything so foolish as jumping up and down on a couch! He doesn’t even say “I love this woman” but he doesn’t have to. Again, his body language here has all the earmarks of genuine honesty, especially for anyone familiar with his base line expressions and gestures. When he says he was “torn up” seeing the announcement of her marriage to someone else on a magazine cover, it seems very much an honest statement.

There are times when both of their memories seem strangely fuzzy about details of their courtship. But these are the normal lapses that can come from such a whirlwind courtship as theirs. The relationship had not been an overnight one,but things had indeed moved at a tizzying pace when they became reacquainted as adults in late 1992.  Some of the little lapses, such as one having to refresh the other’s memory about the details of their proposal, are perfectly normal and natural under the circumstances of which they became engaged. And being in an interview situation creates added pressure. The increased adrenalin levels that come with doing an interview are the same that propel the “fight or flee” instincts. You feel cornered; acutely aware that every word and gesture is going to be scrutinized. The fear of giving the “wrong” answer, even when there is nothing to hide, can create anxiety levels that will cause lapses in memory. The fact that Michael and Lisa have to occasionally jog each other’s recall is typical of many married couples, and it is amusing to watch the interplay between them. They sometimes become a bit like bickering kids-another surefire sign of real chemistry.

At this stage of the interview, they are both very much at ease. The questions aren’t producing tension. It’s an atmosphere that changes abruptly as soon as Sawyer begins to grill them about the allegations. Watch Michael’s and Lisa’s faces from about 3:18 when she steers the conversation to the idea of their marriage as being “too convenient.” You can visibly see them both steeling themselves for what’s about to come.

However, one should note here that they certainly didn’t go blindly into this interview expecting that these questions wouldn’t arise. It’s easy to sometimes bash the reporter in these situations, but Michael and Lisa had apparently signed an agreement in advance that no questions would be off limits, so it’s not exactly as if they were being ambushed out of the blue. The best interpretation of their expressions at this point is that they are both gathering their mental guns for what they know is going to be the most unpleasant segment of the interview. They know already the questions are going to be invasive, personal, and emotionally difficult to navigate-and that, in Michael’s case, an answer not well thought out could result in more problems with the Chandlers due to the legalities of the settlement (which inevitably did happen as a direct result of this interview).

Interestingly, both Michael and Lisa Marie had been public figures long enough that their base line gestures for almost any emotion or circumstance have become quite well known. They both react to the coming questions in each of their typical styles of dealing with difficult interview questions. Lisa’s baseline gesture, for example, is the tendency to duck her head and glance upward at the interviewer, the drooped eyelids (that physical trait so reminiscent of her father) becoming more pronounced. Her blinking increases dramatically. The gesture looks a bit shifty, but can actually be read as an unconscious defense mechanism. Michael’s gaze is steely and straightforward, almost non blinking, and he visibly swallows hard. The typical reaction of people who are not very well versed in body language would interpret that as a sign of nervousness or fear, equated to guilt. In reality, swallowing hard is a natural reflective reaction to a stressful situation, but not necessarily equated to guilt. It means, simply enough, that the subject is feeling stress. He clearly doesn’t welcome the prospect of having to address these issues publicly because the very subject is stressful and distasteful to him, and puts him beneath a glare of scrutiny that he would prefer not to be under. He knew the question was going to come up; he just didn’t necessarily like “going there.” But note that his gaze remains straightforward, open, steady, and firm. He isn’t dodging the question, but rather, steeling himself for it. In their own way, each of them are digesting the questions carefully and formulating their strategies for response. It is also interesting that they both adopt similar defensive poses here. If you pause the clip at 4:33, you can see that Lisa is sitting with her legs tightly crossed. Both she and Michael have clasped their hands in front of them.  As any body language expert will tell you, this is a gesture intended (unconsciously, of course) to create a barrier between themselves and the other person.

Even though Sawyer tries hard to steer the interview, both Michael and Lisa Marie turn out to be difficult subjects to “steer.” I’ve rarely seen an interview where the reporter is interrupted as often as Sawyer becomes during this segment! But we have to remember the underlying motivation of both of these people. They have obviously been led to believe this is an attempt to go on record to set some misconceptions straight-about the charges; about the status of their marriage. For both Michael and Lisa, there seems to be a lot of frustration with being cut-off in mid thought or manipulated to go in a direction other than the course they are upon.

The first such interruption occurs when Sawyer asks Lisa whether she ever asked him if the charges were true. Lisa emphatically says no; she didn’t. With that being said, the unspoken assumption is that she has taken his innocence purely on faith. Remember, this was the very thing for which she was roundly criticized in her later Oprah interview where she said as far as she knew, she never saw any wrongdoing but that she couldn’t vouch for “what went on behind closed doors.” For that remark, she got a lot of heat from fans who felt that she should have unequivocally defended him, rather than leaving a small chink open for doubters. But here it is the opposite: She leaves the impression of a woman who never doubted him, even enough to question him. It is only after Sawyer starts to speak again that she must have had some second thoughts about that answer, and interrupts to say, “I didn’t have to.” Apparently, she didn’t have to ask because Michael was being very open in supplying all the information she needed to make a judgement. That’s what she means when she says on the phone it was all, “Ahhhhhh!” Michael was using her to vent about every aspect of the case, so there was no need to ever raise the question. She had heard every detail of it.

Sawyer next turns the spotlight back on Michael. His demeanor hasn’t changed. He remains as stoic as stone during this segment, yet we can see him inwardly steeling himself for what is about to feel like being grilled on a witness stand. Even if it had been agreed in advance that they would not be afraid to answer any questions, I have to say I think it was the height of absurdity for Diane Sawyer to ask him if he had ever sexually fondled a child. Likewise, I think it is an absurd question that interviewers even to this day continue to put to Michael’s family and closest friends when they agree to do these interviews (Oprah is notorious for it). I mean, really, what are the friends and relatives supposed to say in response to such a question? What was Michael supposed to say here? Even if Michael was guilty as sin, it’s not like he’s going to sit there on national TV and admit to it. So why do they do it? What is the MO behind the strategy of such questions? From the interviewer’s perspective, the question serves a number of functions. One, of course, is that they can justify that they are giving the subject an opportunity to “set the record straight.” But more often, what they’re really hoping for is, perhaps, to trip them up in some way-not so much with an outright confession (which they know they won’t get) but by forcing them into some kind of unintentional blunder, or in some cases, simply seeing if they squirm.  This, in turn, plays into the sensationalism aspect of it; the “hook” that is guaranteed to draw ratings. The truth is that most journalists could really care less whether the crime took place or not. But in feigning interest, they can ask the questions that they know will wet viewer appetites by putting the subject in a vulnerable position. People will not only be judging their response, but how they respond. Do they seem forthright and honest, or shifty and dodgy? Viewers look not so much at what is said, but how it is said and, in some cases, what is not said. These questions are posed as an attempt to read “between the lines” of their responses. They may not be as intense as police interrogations, but they are somewhat designed with the same purpose in mind-that an innocent subject should have nothing to hide; however, a guilty one just might crumble under pressure. If a reporter can succeed in scoring such a blunder, they consider it a major coup. We can rest assured that Martin Bashir’s wet dream was when he got Michael to talk about bed sharing with children.  But it was a response that Michael was very craftily coerced into, and this becomes obvious on repeated viewings of the footage. I’m not trying to argue that Bashir put words in Michael’s mouth, but it was the overall combatant and manipulative nature of the questioning, which was designed to put Michael on the defensive. A subject who is being made to feel on the defensive is a subject under duress-a situation that is sure to work out to the reporter’s advantage, and not to the subject’s.  The more cornered and under duress a subject feels, the more the guard comes down. But this can be true regardless of the subject’s guilt or innocence. Just as most anyone will eventually break under an intense interrogation, regardless of whether they committed any crime, so, too, can a subject break and lash out if too many buttons are pushed during an interview. The sheer sensory overload of being put on the defense can drive one to become irritable and testy. Michael was often pushed to this brink in many interviews (we see it hear; we saw it in the Oprah interview, and we saw it in the Martin Bashir interview). I think his irritation arose from being asked what he perceived as invasive and irrelevant questions. Even when he agreed to these sort of “no holds barred” interviews (because he recognized their necessity and because people who had his ear were always telling him they were a good idea) he didn’t like doing them. As Lisa Marie would later say, the rebel in him often lashed out in surprising ways. And if he felt strongly about something, he wasn’t going to back down from it even if others perceived those beliefs as “odd” or “eccentric” at best.  Again, if we look at the Bashir doc, it isn’t the line of questioning of whether he sexually abused children that puts him on edge; rather, it is when Bashir badgers him on how he feels about adults sharing their bed with children. In this sense, Bashir has adverted direct accusation by, instead, focusing on what might be construed as a philosophical question directly related to Michael’s personal values. Is this a practice that is morally right or wrong? The problem with this tactic is that it is adverting from the person’s actions to the much grayer and more subjective area of personal opinion, which can be rooted quite deeply in the individual’s belief system and the values of their culture or how they were raised For Michael, who had grown up in a tiny house sharing his bed with his brothers and many cousins, it was normal for people to share beds. It is an intimacy that has nothing to do with sex; thus, his genuine belief that the practice itself constituted no moral wrongdoing. In Michael’s eyes, it only became morally wrong if a certain line was crossed-i.e., if it became sexual. This might go far in explaining what seemed to many an apparent disconnect on Michael’s part between the idea of bed sharing and actual, sexual abuse of a child. In America today, and in many cultures around the world, the bed is automatically equated as a place where sex occurs, due to the assumed intimacy of two people sharing such a small space.  The bedroom has become synonymous with sex; when we say a couple has problems “in the bedroom” it is automatically assumed we are talking about their sex life; we use the phrase “sleeping together” as a cultural euphemism for having sex. In Michael’s personal schema, however, he didn’t automatically equate the bed with sex, and didn’t particularly seem to care if society wished to scapegoat him for holding an eccentric view on the subject. In this respect, some might view him as incredibly foolish or incredibly brave. But however we feel about his responses, the oft-held belief that Michael was his own worst PR enemy in interviews is slowly beginning to give way to a new school of thought, as more and more body language experts like Craig Baxter have begun to analyze Michael’s interviews and to publicly acknowledge that, far from being the lying manipulator that detractors love to portray him as, he is actually an interview subject that is, more often than not, quite candid and brutal in his honesty. Perhaps, sometimes, too brutally honest for his own good. And this makes perfect sense when we consider his stubborn insistence on defending even behavior that he knows most would consider questionable, at best. Michael, in fact, is so honest that he can’t help being honest even when he knows his honesty is bound to be misconstrued; even detrimental. Indeed, this is not the hallmark of someone with something to hide, but rather, a metaphorical equivalent of someone bleeding his heart onto his sleeve. Instead of playing it safe with all the “safe” and “correct” answers, he literally lays it all out on the table for us, as if to say, “This is Michael Jackson. Take him or leave him.”

One really, then, must ponder the question: Would a guilty person do this? Or would they, in fact, be more apt to play safe and give all the “correct” answers, as if reading from a script? That Michael was all too “real” is, perhaps, one of the most endearing traits of his interviews.

But I realize this has been a rather long digression from the interview itself, so let’s rewind to where I left off. Anyway, Diane Sawyer had just listened to Lisa Marie’s response, and now had turned on Michael to get his take on the allegations. Despite what I said above, there is something positive to be said for Sawyer’s very specific and direct line of questioning here. Michael often said in interviews that he would never “harm a child” just as he does here. A problem with that response, however, and one that his detractors have always been quick to pounce on, is that pedophiles very seldom do believe they are “hurting” or “harming” a child when they commit sexual acts with them. The typical pedophile generally has a disconnect in which they genuinely believe that they are performing loving acts that are in no way harmful to the child. They equate the idea of “hurting” a child to physical abuse such as hitting and beating, or neglecting them. Both haters and doubters have raised this question in regard to Michael’s responses. Was this, in fact, just more of the typical pedophile disconnect? I can somewhat understand these concerns. But here, the line of questioning is very, very direct and specific, and perhaps there was, after all, a justifiable reason for it even though the questions may seem ludicrous on first listen. Sawyer asks him directly and specifically, “Did you EVER sexually engage, fondle, have sexual contact with this child or any other child?” Thus, there was absolutely no ambiguity in what was meant by “harming” the child, and no ambiguity as to whether Michael understood exactly what he was being asked. In the face of such specific and direct questioning, he still maintains, forthrightly and bluntly, that he has never committed such acts. Both his words and his gestures are forceful and emphatic here-the strong emphasis on the word “Not” when he says, ‘It’s NOT who I am,” the shaking of the head (which Baxter has noted as one of his base lines of honesty). His phrasing and gestures here are very similar to his 1993 telecast in which he first spoke out against the allegations-the same emphatic gestures; the same forceful emphasis on negating words such as “not” and “never.” As any body language expert will tell you, this is not how a person who is lying reacts. Rather, they are the words and actions of someone who is feeling a lot of outrage and frustration-exactly the kind of emotions that an unjustly accused person would be expected to have. People who are lying will unconsciously attempt to draw back as a way of deflection; there is usually very little animation or emphasis because their unconscious desire is to shift the subject and to draw as little attention to themselves and their responses as possible. Thus, instead of being very forceful and animated in their responses, as Michael was during his ’93 telecast and is here during the Diane Sawyer interview, they tend to be very flatlined in their responses. Notice, for example, the marked difference between Michael’s responses and those of Jerry Sandusky here, especially around 2:18. Sandusky’s voice is a monotone; he tends to glance away a lot, and he avoids any emphatic gestures. Compare that again to how Michael responds here.

Another interesting question was when Sawyer asks him what he thinks should be done with “someone who does that.” Since the line of questioning has been so specific, there is no doubt what is meant by “someone who does that.” You can tell the question takes Michael somewhat aback, simply because no one had ever put that question to him before. It seemed to come from out of left field and he wasn’t prepared in how to respond to it. His response here thus seems genuinely off the cuff, and we can see the wheels spinning here because he’s trying to think how to best respond to such an unexpected question. It’s obvious he hasn’t really given the matter much thought before, but his answer is very telling: “I think they need help, in some kind of way, you know.” It isn’t the stereotypical, over the top “they should be strung up” kind of remark, but rather, one that reveals some compassionate insight into the fact that a pedophile is a sick person who needs help. This is a small but important piece of commentary from Michael, and should eradicate any belief that he suffered from some delusional disconnect about the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, or of what differentiates “normal” from “abnormal.” He doesn’t say here that child molestors are monsters, necessarily, but he does make it very clear where he stands on the issue of people who perform sexual acts upon children. This, in his estimation, is not normal and certainly not condonable behavior. It is the actions of a sick person who needs psychiatric help. With all ambiguity removed, there is no doubt here exactly where he stands on the issue.

The line of questioning next turns to the police photographs. There is another emotion that crosses his face, briefly ( all easy to see since the camera maintained a tight close up on his face and reactions throughout much of the interview). That expression is pure, intense sadness and humiliation-and anger, too. It had been almost two years since the day he had stood naked with detectives and police photographers surrounding him, examining and photographing his genitalia, but all of those emotions wrought by the incident were still raw and fresh in his mind. This is a painful moment for him; Sawyer has tapped into a trigger. Compare this line of questioning to asking a rape victim to go back and recount what happened. It can’t be done without causing those PTS triggers to be ignited, and this is what we are seeing during this segment of the interview. There is a sense of underlying rage as Michael addresses this particular line of questioning. I don’t think it is rage directed at Sawyer personally, but with the overall frustration of the entire situation; of being forced to “go there” and relive that moment again. It is an anger that has no true, specific target other than the injustice of the entire situation, and at this point he is getting visibly shaken and really wants the matter to be dropped. He is being earnest when he keeps insisting there was “nothing” to connect him with those charges, but his repeated, “That’s why I’m sitting here talking to you now” can be read two ways: On the one hand, it’s true, of course. If there had been an identifiable smoking gun; a piece of evidence that actually linked him to the sexual molestation of Jordan Chandler, the criminal investigation would have proceeded (settlement or no settlement); he would have been convicted and thrown in jail. This was Michael’s way of saying, “Look, if there had been any evidence-if those photos had matched his description-I wouldn’t be a free man today and I wouldn’t be sitting here doing TV interviews.” Yet his repeated insistence on this response is also a way of deflecting; an unconscious (perhaps) way of saying, “That’s all that needs to be said about it, can we move on please?’ I don’t think it is fear of the line of questioning. I think it has more to do with the distress and distaste in general of the whole subject. The line of questioning has put him mentally and emotionally back to December of 1993 and all that transpired at that time, and now he just wants out of it. But again, this is very telling of how Michael dealt with stressful situations generally in his life (the settlement, for example, is a topic that is going to come up very shortly). At this point in the interview, he’s feeling very cornered and has become somewhat passive-aggressive in his responses. The fact that Michael did indeed suffer post traumatic stress from these events is very important and I, think, too often is something overlooked when people attempt to read into his interview responses. The natural human reaction to pain is to avoid it; the natural human reaction to trauma is to not wish to “go there” (precisely why therapy sessions are often so painful and can sometimes actually make a person feel worse rather than better, at least in the beginning). As Michael is responding to this particular line of questioning, it seems he is fighting two battles within himself: He wants to fight and he wants to flee. He has never dealt well with allowing himself to become too publicly vulnerable, and that is what he senses is happening here. Although his answers remain emphatic, forthright, and earnest, he seems to be emotionally drawing back. It is not avoidance. For example, his aggressive repetition of the word “Never” (to the point that he interrupts Sawyer with it several times) is an emphatic reinforcer. He wants very forcefully to get his point across. But also, the response is akin to the erecting of a wall, one intended to block all further questioning on the matter.

We also have to consider that Michael was legally gagged insofar as how much he was allowed to discuss. Both Michael and Lisa Marie have to remind Sawyer (who surely knew!) that the conditions of the settlement stipulated that details of the case could not be discussed. It was unfair, of course, because these were the very questions that every interviewer from this point forward, from Sawyer to Bashir, were going to ask. Imagine the frustration of being accused; of knowing that many people think you’re guilty, and yet being able to say nothing publicly in your own defense without risk of a lawsuit (and indeed, just based on the little information Michael gave here, he was slapped with a $60 million lawsuit from Evan Chandler!).

At the 5:55 mark Lisa interjects some much needed comic relief into the interview when she giggles and says, “You’re not going to ask me that, are you? About the markings?” The question seemed very naughtily spontaneous.  Michael wasn’t the only one who could be a “rebel” in these interviews! Her playful remark both eases the tensions and also allows an opening for her to interject a vitally important piece of information-how the media downplayed the news that the photos did not match the description. This is a classic example of why two heads can often be better than one in interviews. Michael probably would not have thought on his own to interject that important piece of information, but thank goodness Lisa did! This was probably the first, official word that many viewers had that the photos had been officially declared a non-match, and if anyone was wondering why they hadn’t heard that until then, Lisa gave a very specific answer that detailed exactly why. Score one in her corner on this one!

From there, the conversation turns to the settlement and the big question so many wanted to know: If Michael didn’t do it, why did he pay out? I think Michael’s response here is very interesting, and is also corroborated by what he would say, again, eight years later in his Martin Bashir interview. I think it is interesting because there remains, to this day, so much confusion as to whether Michael willingly agreed to this settlement or if he was “forced” into it by his insurance company.  Both here and in the later Bashir interview, Michael never denied his own part in this decision. He does state here that he was acting on what his advisors had told him, but is very, very emphatic when he states it was a hands on, “unanimous” decision because he could not be guaranteed that “justice would prevail” and that this was something that could drag on “for seven years.” This has also been somewhat confirmed by Thomas Mesereau who has said many times that Michael “regretted” his decision to settle the case-“decision” being the key word here. In other words, Michael never wavered on his stance that he made the decision to settle; it was all up front and nothing was done without his consent, nor was he forced into anything (though there could have definitely been a fine line between “forced” and “pressured” and I do think Michael was intensely pressured to settle, so perhaps in the end the terminology is really just splitting hairs). However, this interview really should have laid to rest the myth that poor, naive Michael was somehow hoodwinked into the settlement. From what I know, he was willing to go to court and fight it initially, but after hearing repeatedly how many years it could drag on; how much money could be lost; how much bad publicity would be generated (and the constant threat of the psychotic Evan Chandler ever on his back) and on and on, he finally agreed that settling seemed the best option. It was, in hindsight, a short-term solution to end the nightmare, but a short-term solution that would end up casting a very long shadow-one that his legacy is still struggling to come out from under. Perhaps the drawn out fight would have been the better alternative, but it seemed everyone in the game was thinking only of the short term. The settlement was essentially Michael’s way of saying, as he did with most of the major conflicts of his life, I don’t want to deal with this. “Let’s get it behind us,” he says, with an emphatic thumb gesture pointing over his shoulder.

It’s the same tactic that drives Michael at this point in the interview to fall back on the reminder that nothing was found to connect him to this crime, repeating aggressively, “Nothing was found…nothing, nothing, nothing.” If it comes across as if Michael is being a little irritating here, or intentionally trying to nettle Sawyer, I don’t think they would be too far off the mark. Michael wants to get his point across, and doesn’t seem to care if he has to be outright rude or annoying to do so. He cuts Sawyer off here in the same way that she often cuts both him and Lisa off, and his intent is very purposeful (we can sense Sawyer’s feathers ruffling; it’s a moment where she visibly fears losing control of the interview).

Sawyer goes on to grill him about alleged “evidence” found. Of course, there was no hardcore “smoking gun” evidence. All that had ever been found were a few photos and art books that prosecutors tried hard to enter as “evidence.” I have heard the argument from the hater camp over and over of how these art books are often the very kind of material kept by pedophiles, in order to somehow circumvent the legality issue of possessing actual child porn. However, while there no doubt may be some truth to those claims, the possession of legal art books can only at best be deemed the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence.  Those who wish to spread the propaganda of Michael’s guilt often highlight these books while downplaying and ignoring the much more telling fact that the raids of his home yielded thousands of pornographic images of women (one source has credited as many as 1,800 images found of nude women). Common sense would tell us that if we wish to judge someone’s sexual preference based on the bulwark of explicit material found in their home, that over a thousand images of nude women should outweigh the content of a few art books.

Michael’s explanation here-of how he is often bombarded with all kinds of gifts from fans-seems plausible enough, but it is nevertheless an explanation that doubters have tried to shoot down. Their best line of defense is that Michael obviously had people who screened his mail-gatekeepers who would have opened packages, read letters, and screened all content before he ever saw them. And that, obviously, only special “gifts” that they knew Michael would have an interest in would go beyond to the next level.

That, too, seems a plausible argument-until you consider we are talking about Michael Jackson here, who, let’s just say, never exactly did things in the typical celebrity way. An excerpt from Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard’s book Remember The Time confirms that Michael was always hands-on with both his fan mail-and his gifts:

Mr. Jackson would sit in the back, classical music playing, the curtain drawn. You could hear him opening envelopes, going letter by letter. Sometimes he’d say, ‘Hey, listen to this, guys. This is so sweet.’ And he’d read us something somebody had written. People would write about their children dying of illnesses and how much his music had meant to them. Some of it made him very emotional. You could hear him getting choked up. He’d say, ‘You guys may not understand, but this is where I get a lot of my inspiration to write my songs.’

By the time we got back to the house, he’d have two separate piles of letters. He’d keep one, hand us the other and say, ‘These you can get rid of.’

Bill: People would send gifts, too-teddy bears, balloons, flowers, photos, personal keepsakes. A lot of this stuff was handmade. He liked that. Sometimes he’d get a package and it seemed suspicious to him or he just didn’t feel right about it. He’d give it to us to check it first. There was never anything dangerous, no bombs or anything like that, but a lot of teddy bears and music boxes wound up drowning in the pool for us to find that out.

There was so much of it that one of the bedrooms had to be designated as the fan mail room. The walls in there were plastered with handmade cards and letters, and the floor was covered with big stacks. And that was just what accumulated in Las Vegas over a few months’ time.

Granted, one might argue that Michael’s staff had been considerably down sized by the time Whitfield and Beard entered the picture. Nevertheless, I know from many sources that this had always been Michael’s manner of dealing with fan mail and gifts. His policy, then, was directly opposite of most celebrities. Michael, it seemed, acted as his own gatekeeper, only resorting to handlers after the fact, to deal with mail he wished discarded or felt suspicious about. Gifts were never tossed out unless inadvertently due to suspicious packaging.

So…score another one for Michael in this department. He answers the question forthrightly with an honest answer that would make perfect sense to anyone who had spent time around him.

However, he follows this up by an immediate dodge. Nevertheless, it may be an understandable dodge-even a necessary one, as I am fairly certain that the other settlement Sawyer is alluding to here is the Francia settlement, in which Michael ended up paying 2.2 million to the Francia family over an alleged tickling incident. This was a case built on the flimsiest of circumstances-that Michael had supposedly (and most likely accidentally) brushed his hand against Jason Francia’s crotch during a roughhouse tickling game. This was a case that would never have happened had it not been for the Chandler settlement first, which had opened the doors for these kinds of trivial civil suits against Michael by practically everyone who came in contact with him.  As trivial as this case was, however, we can’t deny that the settlement was paid. So how does that reflect upon Michael’s honesty here when he flat out tells Diane Sawyer that “no, that’s not true” and “I’ve heard that everything is fine and there are no others”? Unlike the rest of the interview, where his body language and responses have been very honest and forthright, here he seems to visibly draw back.  His posture is not leaning toward Sawyer, as in his past responses; there is no emphatic gesturing. His tone and demeanor is one of deflection, an attempt to divert that particular line of questioning. However, there could be a number of very plausible reasons for this, all of which must be considered before jumping to conclusions. It is very possible, at the time, that what he was saying was true insofar as he knew (but judging by his body language here I don’t believe it). The more likely reason is that he was not in a position to discuss it, and any answer he gave-considering he would have had, at best, a few seconds in which to respond-would have only been to his detriment. To address the question in a way that would have made his position understandable would have involved going into far more detail, and far more history, than he knew he would have had either time or liberty to get into. It would have involved, for example, going into the entire history of Jason’s mother Blanca Francia; her history of stealing from him and subsequent firing. It was all more than he could have adequately explained in a five second sound bite, and thus, it was wisest to say nothing at all. Certainly it was a far preferable alternative to the risk of creating the wrong impression by not having time to adequately explain himself or the case.

The next part of the interview, conversely, is  one of the most truthful and revealing. Sawyer attempts a line of questioning that is intended to put Michael on the defensive about the so-called practice of having sleepovers. It is always interesting to me when I go back to both this interview and the Bashir interview and look at how Michael actually answered these questions, as opposed to how the interviewers were trying to slant them and how much of the media chose to interpret them. Sawyer, as Bashir would also do later, tries desperately to make the line of questioning all about boys; thus Michael’s slight irritation when he comes back and says, “I never invited just boys to come into my bedroom, that’s ridiculous.” Likewise, in the Bashir interview, he makes the case that it was never just boys.  And the “sleepovers” were not so much “sleepovers” as simply cases of large, mixed company (usually consisting of parents, siblings, cousins, etc) all crashing and falling asleep wherever sleep overtook them at Neverland.

Michael’s quick trigger defense against the accusations of “just boys” is also interesting because these are the hallmark protestations of someone who is not only angry about being unjustly accused, but also angry at the sheer ignorance and gullibility of the public in believing that this was where his attractions lay.

Interestingly, in both interviews Michael does not-contrary to the popular notion propagated by the media-“defend” the practice of sleeping with kids. He does state that, according to his values and beliefs, he does not equate the practice to something automatically perverted or evil. But in both interviews, he is not so much defending the practice as trying to explain how these misconceptions about him have arisen. Here, in fact, he states outright that he has never invited anyone into his bed-period.  Interestingly, he had always maintained that he never invited kids to sleep with him, and often, in fact, slept on the floor while kids took the bed-or vice versa. In Frank Cascio’s book, Frank spoke of how he and his brother Eddie shared a sleeping bag on the floor in front of the fireplace-obviously, then, they were in Michael’s bedroom, but not in the bed. Big difference.

And, just when it may seem improbable to the average viewer that Michael is such a Pied Piper figure that kids would willingly follow him wherever he goes, score another one for Lisa Marie, whose statement that “I’ve seen these children…they don’t let him go to the bathroom without running in there; they won’t let him out of their sight, so when he jumps in the bed I’m even out…” remains for me one of the highlights of the interview.

However, this invites a couple of tense seconds when Sawyer starts to grill Lisa as to whether she would allow her own son to behave this way when he’s twelve years old. Lisa’s response is that if she didn’t know Michael and who he is, the answer would be no way but “I know who he is.” There is a brief moment, however, when the camera cuts to Michael’s reaction and it is an interesting expression, to say the least. It’s hard to tell if what he is feeling is anger or hurt, or a mixture of both. To understand Michael’s reaction, one has to appreciate what Sawyer is basically insinuating here. that he is someone that should not be trusted with his own stepson!Regardless of the intention of the question, that seems to be how he is taking it. This is a direct throwback to the discomfiture of his Oprah interview, when he was forced to stand by as two women discussed him as if he weren’t in the room. Now he is being forced to sit back in silence while two women debate his “trustworthiness.” One can only guess that, for Michael, who had spent most of his adult career totally in control of all interview situations, such scenarios were never easy.

This irritation raises its head again in the next line of questioning, when Sawyer asks if this is going to put an end to these situations “where people have to wonder.” Notice here his posture has changed. He is now on full alert; sitting on the edge of his seat and leaning forward. “Watch out for what?” he asks (with obvious, underlying anger at the question; remember, he has just sat there while she attacked his trustworthiness as a stepfather). His body language during this line of question is interesting. It suggests direct openness and honesty, as well as genuine puzzlement over the line of questioning. Regardless of how one wishes to interpret his remarks, one thing is clear and obvious: Michael sincerely feels here that he has nothing to hide, and is laying his honest feelings-for better or worse-on the table, Again, what is always most interesting about Michael’s answers is his outright refusal to give the “correct” or “stock” answers that one might normally expect under these circumstances, Most accused persons would be quick to say, “Absolutely not, I will never allow myself to be put in such a vulnerable position again” and one can clearly see here that this was the kind of answer Sawyer was expecting, so his refusal to “buckle under” so to speak, with all the correct responses, is somewhat baffling to her (and frustrating because, again, it steers the interview beyond her control).

But the real question one has to ask is this: Is giving all the “right” answers a sign of innocence, or merely a way of deflecting guilt? Interestingly, Michael seemed to realize that his best line of defense was not to play it safe in the most obvious kind of way-by going along with the song and dance-but, rather, by challenging both the interviewer’s and audience’s biases, judgments, and perceptions. Lisa has said that the rebel in Michael could never quite be controlled, and we certainly see that here.  His rebel streak could, by turns, be both his greatest asset and his worst enemy. But here I think it works wonderfully to his advantage, giving him the last word over all Sawyer’s attempts to steer him into a corner.

Speaking of rebel behavior, the next segment of the interview shows the wedding footage. Isn’t it interesting that everyone, including the bride, dressed in black for this ceremony? And that Michael chewed gum throughout his wedding vows? (Interesting considering this was his first time at the altar, supposedly to the woman whom he’d had a crush on for over twenty years. Their body language, even here, seemed to be that of two people totally at ease in each other’s company, with no need for fancy pretenses).

Also, Michael’s moods during this interview seem to pass as fleetingly as clouds. He was angry and  frustrated during the grilling over the allegations, but is instantly at ease once the topic has switched to happier subjects. Note how his face light up like a furnace blast and he grins spontaneously, ear to ear, when Sawyer asks Lisa what she loves about him. It’s still a bit of an awkward moment, but most guys love hearing themselves bragged about and Michael was no exception.

However, the questions about their intimacy are invasive, even if, granted, they were no doubt expecting these questions going in. In most cases, when two attractive people marry (and granted there is no extraordinary age gap ala’ Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall) it is naturally assumed that they have sex. I cringe every time I hear Sawyer’s self-deprecating remark, “I didn’t spend my life as a serious journalist to ask these kinds of questions…” Oh brother. As if she hadn’t been chomping at the bit to ask that very question throughout the entire interview! Nor do I buy their random sampling of “fans” putting forth the question. None of those people strike me, particularly, as Michael Jackson fans. Nevertheless, their responses are used as a kind of justification-this is the question everybody wants to know; therefore, we are justified in asking it.  “Do we have sex?” Lisa asks, playfully beating Sawyer to the punch (I love how Michael and Lisa both, throughout the interview, keep Sawyer knocked just slightly left of center!).  “Yes, yes, yes!” she states at one point, almost giving Meg Ryan’s character from “When Harry Met Sally” a good run for her money. Hers and Michael’s reactions seem to be a genuine, honest mixture of astonishment and indignation, yet they also handle the invasive questions with an easy sense of humor that lets us know they are certainly not strangers to these allegations of their marriage as being fake. They had learned to develop a sense of humor about it because, after all, what else could they do? Obviously, no amount of protestations were going to change doubting minds, so I think they both handled the questions here as well as they could be.

It’s interesting that the very same media and public who labeled this as a marriage of convenience-who refused to believe they even slept together-were, by the same token, so quick to believe the pregnancy rumors (geez, did they ever hear that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?). The easy camaraderie of the “baby” questions ultimately leads, however, to another tense moment when Diane Sawyer asks a truly bonehead question: Was Michael planning to adopt Lisa’s kids?

Lisa finds the question totally absurd, and minces no words in saying so. “I never heard of that, someone adopting someone else’s children,” she says, meaning in a case like theirs where there was clearly a biological father who was still in the children’s lives. I have gone back over this particular segment of the interview several times. It is interesting that Lisa is far more irked over the question than Michael (perhaps for obvious reasons) but I also believe it may be because she has caught something here that Michael did not, or at least not right away: That Sawyer is intentionally trying to entrap him with a foolish question in order to make him look foolish, especially to Lisa Marie’s fans, many of whom already had formed their own opinions about Michael and about the marriage. There may be something to this. Note how Sawyer has strung him along with the subject of adopting children (a subject I’m sure she knew he was passionate about) and then, abruptly, brings up Lisa’s kids. Yet this was the same women who, just minutes before, was insinuating that Michael was someone Lisa should not trust with her son! My honest take here is that Lisa caught what she was doing right away, even if Michael didn’t.  And interestingly, when Lisa calls her out on it as an absurd question, Sawyer backs off instantly and does not pursue the question further; however, nor does she bother to defend her reasons for asking it. Instead, she very conveniently decides it’s time for a break.

When the interview resumes, attention is next turned to Michael’s new film, the teaser for the HIStory album. This interview served as a kind of official promotion for the film, but Michael was given very little opportunity to actually discuss it. Instead, Sawyer launched immediately into the controversial aspect of it. The film itself and this particular aspect of the interview has already been quite well dissected in the multiple-part discussion on Dancing With the Elephant, so rather than focusing on the film and its merits here (which would necessitate an entire post unto itself) I will keep the discussion focused on the line of questioning and Michael’s reactions to them. I can’t watch this particular segment of the interview without feeling both enraged and short-changed. Here, again, was a perfect opportunity-on a wold platform-to allow one of the greatest artists of our time to discuss his art, and the moment was purely reduced to a trivial footnote of the interview in which the artist is pitiably reduced to a defensive “It’s art” stance, like a child backed into a corner who can only feebly protest his good intentions.

What is doubly frustrating here is that one senses, perhaps for the first time, Michael was really eager and anticipating the opportunity to discuss his art. I am sure he would have very much enjoyed being asked a few sensible, intelligent questions about the meaning behind the film; about its militant themes and symbolism and what that was really all about. In all likelihood, he would have gladly answered them. I know these kinds of interviews are all about ratings, and are not intended as serious platforms to discuss art, but it was clear from the beginning that, once again, Sawyer was merely creating a setup-a setup in which Michael was going to come out as second bested. From the beginning, Sawyer harps on nothing but the film’s controversy, making it very clear where her own biases lie. Rather than being able to engage in an intelligent discourse about his art, Michael is reduced to appearing like a begging child who-in the pitiable few seconds he is allowed to speak on the film in his behalf-can only protest that “it’s art.” After the film plays, Sawyer says rather snidely (in a way that is clearly intended to end the discussion of the matter) “Well, as we said, we’re going to clearly agree to disagree on maybe what this means to some people watching it.” Freeze the frame on Michael’s face at 3:07 as Sawyer speaks those words. That expression reads as an unspoken but pure, unadulterated “How dare you?” which can be interpreted on several layers-frustration at having his art misunderstood and its purpose distorted, without even giving him the courtesy of the last word on it; frustration at being so blithely brushed off. In fact, it’s almost a look of stunned disbelief. He doesn’t even bother jumping in with another line of defense. He seems to be thinking, What would be the point?

The conversation then turns to the controversy over “They Don’t Care About Us” and the line “Jew me, sue me.” Again, these were all recent, hotbed topics at the time this interview took place. I’m not sure that most viewers would have entirely bought Michael’s defense that he was speaking of himself as the victim with that line because the natural comeback would be “But Michael, you’re not Jewish.” However, what Michael is trying to explain here (for which, we must remember, he is only being given a very inadequate and small amount of time to state his case) is that the song is touching upon the broader strokes of racism; that he, in fact, is attempting to encompass many historical examples of racism throughout the song, all from the victim’s perspective-and there are many victims portrayed in this song. I have already written quite extensively on the topic of “They Don’t Care About Us” and appropriation in past posts:

Also, the recent Sony hacks revealed even more unsettling details surrounding this supposed “controversy”:

Again, what is most sad and frustrating about this particular segment of the interview is that, instead of being allowed to discuss his art, Michael is instead backed into a defense position, one in which he is clearly at a disadvantage no matter what punches he gets in. He seems to realize, with mounting frustration, that he is in a situation where his artistic work is not respected, where there is little actual, serious interest in it, and where there is no “right” answer he can possibly give.

Sadly, looking back at the track record, this seemed to be the case with most high profile interviews he ever gave. Perhaps part of the problem came from poor advice and poor choices. Naturally, he gravitated towards the high profile journalists who could guarantee him the highest platforms, in both exposure and ratings. But the trade off was that this often resulted in one-way conversations with shallow journalists whose only interest was in sensationalism, not art.

True to form, Sawyer no sooner dispenses with all discussion of art then here comes the next question-inevitably, steering it to Michael’s appearance and the color of his skin.

Some Of The Close-Up Looks On Michael's Face During This Interview...Priceless!
Some Of The Close-Up Looks On Michael’s Face During This Interview…Priceless!

Again, the close-ups on Michael’s face in response to these questions are priceless. I’m not sure if he’s just trying really hard to maintain a poker face (and not succeeding very well) or what the deal is, exactly, but again, we are seeing the building of anger, frustration, and “why do we have to go there” all within a matter of seconds. As before, we can clearly see when those triggers are being pressed; when his eyes become like daggers.

Admittedly I have never really understood Michael’s reluctance to speak out publicly about his disease vitiligo. He had a unique position and platform in which to educate the public about this little understood disease and to help raise awareness of it. His evasiveness on the issue is largely, in part, what led to the public’s skepticism-or, at any rate, let’s just say that it definitely didn’t help.

But in analyzing his response here, let’s go back to the exact trigger moment at 4:28; it occurs exactly when Sawyer says the words “the way you look.” Michael’s face winces; he literally draws back as if he’s been physically struck. I invite-urge-you to replay that mark of the video at least a couple of times. It is literally the physical reaction of someone who has been slapped in the face and is drawing back to deflect the blow. Once again he goes into passive-aggressive mode, giving a deliberately ambiguous and frustrating answer:

“I think it creates itself-nature.” -Michael Jackson to Diane Sawyer

On the one hand, this is Michael’s way of saying that the way he looks is out of his hands; it has all been an act of nature. On the other hand, he has to know here that he is being purposely vague by not giving an adequate answer. Obviously, some things like his skin color were beyond his control, but that was only part of the question. He purposely avoids addressing the other part of the question, which involved those choices he had obviously made on his own. Watch the way, at 4:35, he purses his lips and shakes his jaw in response to the question. That verbal cue is a brush-off; a deliberate response that says “I can’t be bothered with this.”

At this juncture, Lisa intervenes with a very telling statement. It falls in line with debates we have had on this very site, and some of the more controversial issues that have been raised by Susan Fast and other writers. She says that Michael is an artist who is constantly changing perceived imperfections and things he doesn’t like about himself.

“He’s resculpted himself; he’s an artist.”-Lisa Marie Presley to Diane Sawyer.

That is an interesting statement because, again, it goes back to the oft-debated controversy of whether Michael altered his appearance via cosmetic surgery due to insecurity about his looks, or was it, in fact, due to more purely deliberate and aesthetic choices that had more to do with being an artist, and less to do with these perceived insecurities? Lisa’s answer seems to hint at both, but it is interesting that when she makes the statement about him being an artist, Michael does not contradict her. In fact, not only does he not contradict her, he even chimes into the discussion,backing her up by adding, “I’m a performer.”

The theory that Michael did, perhaps, make a lot of conscious and deliberate choices about his appearance for artistic and aesthetic reasons-rather than simply because he saw himself as ugly or inferior (the popular body dysmorphic disorder theory that has so much become the accepted public narrative of Michael Jackson) is one that has been gaining a lot more serious attention among academic writers and other serious analysts of Michael’s work. In some ways, the theories are interesting in that, at the very least, they remove Michael from the often overhyped stigma of “victimhood”  and recast him as someone who, to the contrary, was an artist very much in control of every aesthetic decision he made about himself, including the outer canvas that he presented to the world.

Michael tries to turn it into a joke by saying, “I might want to put a red dot right there one day” (points to his forehead), “put two eyes right here (touches both cheeks). But he’s not laughing inside. His words and expressions here are not particularly jovial because the tension elicited by the discussion is still quite palpable. It’s his way of communicating to Sawyer the ridiculous absurdity of this line of questioning. On the one hand, he’s trying to deflect the tensions with humor, but freeze the video at 4:55 and note the determined smirk on his face. It’s a look that dares; a look that challenges; a look that says “Try and follow up on that; I dare you.”

Well, she does. To further the boxing match analogy, it’s as if Michael has just delivered a left hook jab but now Sawyer is going to try to hone in for the knock out punch.

“Do you wish you were the color you were again?”

Again, this is the kind of question where Michael could have simply given the “scripted” and “correct” response and been done with it, but if we read Michael’s body language, he is very much perturbed by being asked such a ridiculous and invasive question. Think about it: The question is the equivalent of asking a cancer patient, “Do you wish you still had your hair?” or “Do you miss having your healthy cells?” Why not ask a leukemia patient if they miss their red blood cell count?

Note that the minute she asks the question, Michael sits up ramrod straight and crosses his arms. Crossed arms are, again, a barrier creating gesture. It’s only a fleeting moment, but the gesture speaks volumes about the feelings this question has evoked. He is subconsciously protecting himself from what he perceives as an invasive presence. “You’ll have to ask nature that,” he says, using “nature” again as a reference to indicate the situation is beyond his control. “I love black,” he says emphatically. “I envy her (points toward Lisa) because she can tan and I can’t.”

On a more subconscious level, if he could really say what he wanted to say here, he seems to be conveying an idea that would be worded thus: “I’m obviously white as a refrigerator, can you not see this? Do you think I prefer this? Do you think I wouldn’t prefer to be normal, like she is?”

Of course, this is followed by a photo of a very youthful, dark complexioned Michael with an Afro, a photo from almost twenty years previously. As always, the insinuation is that this was the “superior” version of Michael; the way we prefer to remember him, in his prime. Michael always hated those types of comparisons, resenting the inference that he was now somehow inferior; that he could not measure up to some nostalgic ideal of himself

Michael Hated These Kinds of Comaprisons, With Their Obvious Insinuations That He Had Somehow Become Someone Or Something "Less Than" Some Nostalgic Ideal Of Himself
Michael Hated These Kinds of Comaprisons, With Their Obvious Insinuations That He Had Somehow Become Someone Or Something “Less Than” Some Nostalgic Ideal Of Himself


But, in an interview that has seen more than its share of peaks and valleys, Sawyer tries to end things on an upbeat note by asking if they plan to sing together. Michael engages in a bit of cute but show-offey behavior (the kind that used to drive Lisa bananas), singing dramatically “I would love to sing with you/would you like to sing with me?” Ever alert to any excuse for a good publicity moment, Michael’s inner child and sense of spontaneous playfulness can’t resist the moment. Lisa is a little embarrassed, but can’t resist smiling. She seems genuine when she says, “That’s not why I married Michael.” Their body language here is very relaxed and casual; his right hand rests on her back shoulder; she grabs his left hand and holds it. Again, their gestures seem to be that of a couple who feels very much at ease in each other’s company. Michael, of course, can’t resist one more joke at Lisa’s expense, making “rabbit ears” over her head as she babbles on and on about how she doesn’t need a recording career. This was a playful, teasing gesture that Michael did a lot with some of his most intimate friends, but it was sometimes also Michael’s very playful way of calling out his friends when he thought they were full of BS. It could have also been an Illuminati joke. Michael was, after all, notorious for his infamous sense of humor. “He’s a nut,” Lisa jokes, as Michael “celebrates” having survived the interview with an emphatic “Yes!”

Whatever the case, it often did seem that Michael liked to steal the spotlight whenever they were together. Here, it was cute. Later, it would become a source of real contention between them. They were, when all was said and done, two celebrities with much in common, as Lisa said-perhaps a little too much in common for any kind of lasting union. Both stubborn, rebellious, strong-willed and determined; two show business kids spoiled on the one hand, yet damaged and victimized on the other, their union was passionate, volatile, and ultimately, doomed to burn out and fail.

This interview captured their union at an interesting halfway juncture. They had been married a little over a year at this point, when the passion was still hot but some of the problems that would eventually drive them apart had set in. Sawyer ends the interview by asking where they both hoped to be in five years. It is interesting that she puts the question to them separately, as individuals, rather than together as a couple. Within five years, of course, they would be divorced; Michael would have two children by another woman, and Lisa would be on a downward spiral of guilt and bitter anger that would drive her to lash out at Michael in unbelievably cruel ways. By 2000, I am sure this interview must have seemed like a distant and painful memory to both of them.

But, for all of Diane Sawyer’s smugness; her frustrating shallowness and the sometimes outright irrelevance of much of her questioning, it remains one of Michael’s most valuable interviews-again, perhaps as much for what is not said as what is said. Michael could be, by turns, a difficult interview subject, especially when he felt cornered or pinned down by invasive, personal, or just plain idiotic questions. On the flip side of that coin, he was also a very transparent interview subject whose emphatic honesty was too often brushed off as being…well, somehow, too honest to be true. People, it seemed, were always looking for ways to second guess his honesty; to twist it into something manipulative or insincere. Michael’s very human faults, such as his tendency to resort to passive-aggressive answers when he didn’t like the direction an interview was taking, have too often been used against him, rather than, perhaps, looking at the line of questioning that brought on those responses. Michael had too much class to ever walk out on an interview, or to give outright hostile responses, as I have seen many celebrities do in more recent times. Yet he had his ways of letting his displeasure be known.

First and foremost, however, we have to remember that Michael didn’t really hate giving interviews. He just hated giving dumb ones. Some of his most interesting interviews were very low profile ones such as this candid, off the cuff radio interview he gave to Steve Harvey, where there was no pressure to be “on” and where he could actually just relax and have fun.

But as I have discovered through the years, no interview he ever gave was totally without merit. Even the Bashir piece, for all its atrocities, had its moments. Each one presented an opportunity to learn something valuable about Michael even if, granted, it was not always the thing he most wanted us to take from it-that being, usually, his views on art or humanity (the two things closest to his heart, but which so seldom became the focal pieces of any of them). Nevertheless, they do provide interesting glimpses into the heart and soul of a man who had learned, early on, that few people were to be trusted and that no journalist was ever simply looking out for his best interests.

Journalists Sucked Up To Him, But Rarely Had His Best Interests At Heart.
Journalists Sucked Up To Him, But Rarely Had His Best Interests At Heart.

We can observe how he is almost always thinking 2-3 steps ahead of the interviewer (because he had learned he had to) and how he used the art of the interview as a means of challenging us to look beyond our preconceived notions, our biases, and our judgments. He did so, by turns both consciously and subconsciously, by challenging journalists, and us, both directly and indirectly. Like a flawless dance with a ballroom partner, he knew when to hold back and follow, and when to take the lead.

lisa marie 3

And here, for once, it was a dance he didn’t have to do alone.

140 thoughts on “Analyzing The 1995 Diane Sawyer Interview: What We Can Learn From It”

  1. Hi Raven!

    Re. settlement: I agree with you on this subject. I find it unforutnate that fans still use that insurance company argument that is neither confirmed by Michael or Mesereau. Mesereau was recently asked about it in a King Jordan radio podcast and he flat out said that it’s not true, the insurance company did not force Michael to settle. Where does this myth come from then? It comes from a defense motion in 2005 which made this claim about the insurance company forcing MJ to settle. But when you look at that motion it was not written by Mesereau or by Mesereau’s team but by Brian Oxman. There were some conflicts during the trial within MJ’s defense team about some of Oxman’s actions, trying to make himself important and sometimes going against the defense’s strategy (I think it were some of his public comments that gave a big headache to Mesereau, because those comments almost scared Janet Arvizo off from testifying and Mez was eager to cross-examine her). I will only say this: thank god Oxman wasn’t Michael’s lead defense attorney.

    The suggestion behind the whole insurance company debate is that if Michael settled himself that would make him look guilty, but if he was forced then he would look not guilty. But I think this whole argument on both haters’ and fans’ side such a fallacious argument. I cannot see why settling without an insurance company would prove Michael’s guilt, likewise I cannot see how it would prove his innocence if an insurance company was involved.

    The legal circumstances preceeding the settlement have to be viewed in their totality. And when you know all those circumstances re. civil proceedings preceeding the criminal proceedings etc. it becomes understandable why it was a legally very difficult situation for Michael’s team and why a settlement was favoured – regardless of guilt or innocence.

    “Michael’s explanation here-of how he is often bombarded with all kinds of gifts from fans-seems plausible enough”

    There is actual evidence in one of those two art books haters so love to harp on that it WAS a gift from a fan. It is inscribed by a fan. So that it was gift is not just a theory, something that might have happened, but a fact.

    “This was a case built on the flimsiest of circumstances-that Michael had supposedly (and most likely accidentally) brushed his hand against Jason Francia’s crotch during a roughhouse tickling game.”

    “As trivial as this case was, however, we can’t deny that it happened, or that the settlement was paid.”


    I don’t think we should give any credit to Francia’s allegations. That guy did not remember any crotch touching (whether accidentally or otherwise) until cops coerced him into “remembering” such a thing. So I don’t think any such thing actually happened. The only thing Francia remembered initially was being tickled. It was after cops lead him to say what they wanted him to say that he started to make claims about MJ touching his crotch. Remember that before that cops gave him very leading questions and actually told him what they expected him to say!

    “Det. Neglia: Okay, but what I am getting at is that maybe I am not being obvious enough. What I am saying is maybe he put his hands someplace on you where he shouldn’t have. Maybe he put his hands on you someplace that made you feel uncomfortable. And that’s why you are not remembering. It’s like there is a little bit of “Oh, I can’t remember that guy’s name and I don’t remember his last name, and I just don’t remember that. No I don’t want to remember that, no I can’t remember.” It’s a little of bit of a different kind of not remembering, one is because you are choosing not to, and one is that you just can’t call back the uh, the event. And I think of what you doing is tickling and all this stuff, is trying forcing yourself not to remember.”

    1. I may need to rephrase that part of the post for clarity. I was referring to the fact that the Francia settlement did take place (in other words, it’s not some kind of folklore, even though a lot of fans like to brush it under the rug). I was referring to the fact that the settlement happened; I did not mean to imply that the accusations had merit. If the tickling incident happened at all (which in itself is debatable) it was most likely an accidental incident that was blown way, way out of proportion because Blanca Francia wanted money; also, any child can be lead to believe such a thing happened or was “improper” if they are coached enough, as Jason surely was. However, I have written pretty extensively on the Francia case in past posts. I didn’t want to get too derailed here with an off-topic subject, except suffice to say that it was a trivial case that should never have happened.

      ETA: After going back and rereading what I wrote, I saw that it was kind of ambiguous as originally stated. I have edited it to make it more clear that I meant the settlement did happen, not the action he was accused of.

  2. I too saw what you mentioned here about haters trying to say that by saying he would not hurt a child Michael does not directly deny the allegations (and I have seen a similar claim in one of the recent articles that rehashed Stacy Brown’s latest crazy lies about MJ supposedly paying off 20 boys), but it’s not true that’s all he ever said about the allegations. He did say for example during his statement from Neverland in 1993: “I am not guilty of these allegations”. Referring to the Chandler allegations, of course. I don’t know how that could be construed as ambiguity. Should he have gone into detail about the acts alleged and deny them one by one, citing all the graphic details alleged against him or what?
    No matter how hard haters are trying to turn his statements into some kind of ambiguity similar to Sandusky’s statements, it will never work because when you watch those videos the difference in what they are saying and how they are saying is like the difference between night and day – indeed like the difference between a guilty and an innocent person.
    Also when he was pressed about the sharing bed issue in interviews he did say it was not sexual.

    And actually, Robson’s court papers offer us even more ammunition on that. He claims that in 2005 MJ allegedly “coached” him by telling him things like: “They are making up all these lies about you and I, saying we did all this disgusting sexual stuff.” It never made sense to me why someone who allegedly molested you would tell you that the claims about him molesting you were lies when in that situation (in case he really molested you) you both would know what’s the deal so in that context this sentence does not make any sense. It only makes sense for MJ to say this to you if he did not molest you. So to me it is actually exculpatory to Michael not incriminating and I wonder why Robson felt the need to include it. Perhaps there is a tape of it or there were witnesses to Michael saying this and this is a preemtive strike by Robson to try to explain away such exculpatory evidence as “coaching”.

    But from the POV of our discussion here: MJ is quoted as referring to these claims as “disgusting sexual stuff”. So I guess that leaves no doubt about how Michael viewed these things. (And another point regarding this related to the Robson case: if he told you it “disgusting sexual stuff” how would that coach you into believing it was “loving”?)

    And then of course there are songs Michael wrote: Do You Know Where Your Children Are and Hollywood Tonight are two songs which clearly condemn the sexualization and sexual exploitation of children.

    “She wrote that she is tired of step daddy using her
    Saying that he’ll buy her things, while sexually abusing her
    Just think that she’s all alone somewhere out on the street
    How will this girl survive?
    She ain’t got nothing to eat”

    This is not a misguided person with flawed values who does not consider it wrong if an adult engages in sexual acts with a child and then tries to silence him or her by buying him/her gifts. DYKWYCA was written before the Chandler allegations and was never released during or after the allegations so no one can accuse Michael of posing. Then there is the note he wrote to DeeDee about an article he had read about child molesters. So I don’t think there is any ambiguity in Michael’s stance against child molestation and the sexualization of children. It is very clear what he thought about that.

    1. Seeing your comment here reminded me I was supposed to embed the Sandusky video in this piece and had forgotten to do it! It is really interesting to compare how he responded to a similar line of questioning as compared to Michael here. What I’ve always noted is that there never seemed to be any anger with Sandusky when the subject was brought up. He wouldn’t get angry; he would just try to dodge the subject. No emotion, no nothing. When Michael talks about it, you can feel all these emotions-outrage, hurt, disbelief, etc. These are all the hallmark reactions and responses of someone unjustly accused.

  3. The main thing you learn from this interview is what a smarmy bitch Diane Sawyer is! The WASPY disdain she had for Michael and LMP is so evident, one wonders why they didn’t just pull those microphones off and stomp away.

    Anyone who wonders if LMP and Michael had s ‘real’ relationship, take a look at the body language at the 5:07 mark of part 5.

    Even today, with so many more options available, it’s hard for black people to find makeup that matches our dozens of skin tones. Back when Michael shot the video for Billie Jean, he was trying to conceal the effects of both vitiligo and lupus. The heavy makeup base he’s wearing is actually several shades too dark and red, but it was probably the best available at the time.

    Michael suffered so much over his skin ailments, I think it was asking a bit much for him to be a spokesman for vitiligo sufferers. Although its effects are devastating psychologically, vitiligo isn’t painful, and it won’t kill you. Talking about it would just have subjected Michael to more ridicule – look at all the people who refuse to believe he had it, despite the autopsy report.

    1. Michael was so dark in the Billie Jean and Thriller videos, due to the heavy makeup he was wearing, that for years I actually thought he was a dark skinned black man, when in reality he had a very medium brown complexion. I think a whole generation grew up falsely believing that he was really that dark, without realizing that what we were actually seeing was the effect of all the makeup he was having to wear even then.

      1. Michael to me looked dark skinned even compared to his brothers. You should look at footage and photos of his younger years , not videos in which he wore heavy make up.

  4. Im glad they have YOUTUBE , now so that we are able to rewind, and see how , not only MJ was being manipulated, but the viewers as well..
    Once again we see MJ trying to explain himself to essentially , an empty chair , because she really wasnt interested in what he or LMP were trying to express.
    Thank you for doing this article .

    At any rate when MJ is talking about the unanimous decision to settle the case , everything he is saying is true, it could go on for years ,, tied up in depositions,tying up tours , hurting people who livelihood depend on him ,his health, never mind endorsement deals , and legal fees and his lawyers said they can NOT guarantee justice will be served, words to that effect.
    It could all be for nothing .
    I know people who were in litigation for over a decade and after all that they still settled
    Even if he won, what would he get ? satisfaction of proving a 14 year old kid is lying for his father ? atty fees from Evan Chandler ? that is like blood from a rock.

    Look what happened, at a later date , with the Neverland 5? all kinds of sordid stories put out to fund their case, he wins nothing but a judgement , they never paid , has legal bills and all people remember are the sordid stories .
    And I think he was being advised that this DA was looking for a big show trial , which is true if you look at 2005.
    I think it was just an ugly scene he wanted to be done with ..
    The thing that strikes me, is that the Chandler father would not only be willing to settle for money , but an installment plan from someone who was incredibly rich…who could easily write a check for that amount
    He could show up at some promotion, and make hundreds of thousands of dollars , supposedly kept millions on hand around his house .And they accepted the payment plan, .no doubt realizing they spaced out the payments to make sure the Chandlers didnt put their book out, Of course they tried anyway to go around the settlement using the brother , I believe.
    But he is willing to wait and continue to have this linger over his son.
    I think it just shows it was all between MJ and Evan,

    As far as Jason Francia, he was definitely pushed into making an accusation and when I give thought to what Mesereau had said about Tom Sneddon sitting in on Jason first counseling session……how intimidating , must that have been for a young kid, to have the DA essentially sitting in , making sure he says what Sneddon wants to hear , .
    And how could a counselor allow the DA to be in the vicinity ??
    He may have told his counselor what was taking place if they were alone, but how likely would any child be to tell the truth to his counselor, that he was being pushed into making an accusation, just as he had said in police interviews , when the DA is sitting there.

    1. ^ Francia’s therapist, Mike Craft was paid by the sheriff’s office, so he was not an independent therapist to begin with and yes, Sneddon attended the first session. And it was the sheriff’s office, not Jason’s mother, who put him in therapy. I think that “therapy” was basically to convince the boy that what the sheriffs wanted him to say are really his “memories”. The whole thing is just incredibly shady and suspect. This boy does not remember any inappropriate touching until cops push and push and threaten and tell him what they expect him to say and convince him of “remembering” such things and then the same cops put him in therapy with a therapist getting his paycheque from them and with the DA with an agenda sitting in. And of course there is the mother who also had a vested interest in her son saying such things since she wanted to sue MJ for money. (Apparently she talked about wanting to sue MJ already early 1994 before the criminal investigation was even over.)

      As for the settlement being right or wrong. There are arguments for both sides, but I start to think due to the general unfair treatment of Michael by the law enforcement and the media, it could never turn out to be a complete victory for him, no matter what route he had taken. The downside of the settlement is, as we all know by now, that often people think it’s a sign of guilt, plus it was and still is an invitation for any fraudster to make similar allegations in the hope of some money being thrown at them.

      On the other hand you are also right about this:

      “Look what happened, at a later date , with the Neverland 5? all kinds of sordid stories put out to fund their case, he wins nothing but a judgement , they never paid , has legal bills and all people remember are the sordid stories.”

      Or look at what happened with the Victor Gutierrez lawsuit. Michael won and if you read the court docs from that lawsuit it’s very clearly proven what a con artist Gutierrez is and how he is a liar. Michael won and then what? VG never paid a cent of the $2.7 million awarded to him and despite of a ruling against VG as a liar the media still used VG as a credible source about MJ, he was invited to “expert” on him on TV programs, he was used as a consulent for MJ “documentaries” and the media still used his stories (and continue to use them until today) as if they are facts. No one cared that this was a man who was court ordered to pay MJ $2.7 million for lying about him.

      Same with the 2005 trial. Michael was aquitted and anyone who would take the effort to read the court docs could see the Arvizos for the swindlers they were, but people do not care about any actual court proceeding, just the salacious allegations and treat them as facts despite of them being proven lies in court.

      So what are you going to do when neither law enforcement nor the media (and as a result of media manipulation the public) is willing to treat you fairly? You have no chance of a vindication in the public eye under those circumstances no matter how you decide about a settlement or about going through with a lawsuit or whatever. Thing is most people remain largely ignorant about court proceedings when the meidia isn’t willing to report them in a fair and balanced manner.

      1. Tom Sneddon was absolutely bent on getting a conviction , since this thing began, and after MJ was stripped and photographed, and there was no match , yet he was STILL under suspicion, instead of the Father , who was on tape plotting this thing out , I just think his team began to realize, they were playing against the house .
        For me Tom Sneddon looked at MJ as a black guy who was way out of his idea of “normal” who didnt know how to behave in his conservative town.
        It disgusted him

        I do think Weitzman saw that early on .
        These people were NEVER going to be objective
        Th GHOSTS video is right on target , as far as I am concerned
        In hindsight, I wish they did “go to the mattresses” but I can see, particularly with the fragile state MJ was in, why they just just paid to get this greedy , bunch of wanna be’s… out of the picture .And Sneddon too.
        After all, the man was innocent , and there was no reason to believe he would ever be subjected to something like this again, because he would be more careful who he allowed in his life , .
        Other than people he already knew and trusted , no one really got close to him .
        Seems to me , that is why the only people who have come forward after his death , are 2 people that he knew before the Chandler accusations .
        They figure , thanks to tabloid insinuations and VG book, they may have a shot at rehashing these stories and getting a settlement
        Everything goes back to that period where VG was stalking MJ

        It was only Bashir , that gave the impression he was close to Arvizo, .and manufactured a scandal.
        In reality he went out of his way to avoid this family.
        Only trying to help from a distance.

        I still cant help but think it comes from a guy who was black , having the audacity ,to but the Beatles catalog,and to not cow tow to people who were expecting that was the natural order of our society
        Even in Diane Sawyers piece, she acts superior and judgmental of MJ , imo.

        My own personal feelings about Sneddon and his group was that they were enticed by the thought of a big show trial , where they would come out as heroes , exposing someone they all seem very jealous of, despised for being different , not knowing his place etc.
        And I think that is why Victor Guiterrez used Diane Dimond to more or less represent and vouch for his stories , because she is a white , conservative type who someone like Sneddon could particularly identify with.
        He was comfortable enough with her , to call MJ Jacko Wacko during an interview ,
        Obviously they had similar conversations over the years , off camera , ans DD has actually made remarks about MJ , not being ” a black man ” anymore, so I would guess , it is pretty obvious , Sneddon had the same mentality of a tabloid hack .
        I think Larry Feldman saw that clearly in Sneddon, back then and still in 2003 , when he called him about the Arvizo family.
        Everything from the 90s that these prosecutors believed stems from VG meetings with people that worked for MJ , had known who had visited Neverland .
        Then he took some info and twisted it into his own fantasies .
        I is hard for me to believe the prosecutors could look at his book , and not realize that it is VG who is writing creepy captions under JC picture , and that these are his fantasies .
        Even when Sneddon was examining June Chandler, and he asked a question about the seating arrangement in a limo, that VG had in his book, about someone supposedly sitting on MJ lap, she said they were all sitting beside one another .
        These supposed bombshells fell flat.
        You might think in hindsight , these educated people would have noticed that .

        1. “After all, the man was innocent , and there was no reason to believe he would ever be subjected to something like this again, because he would be more careful who he allowed in his life , .
          Other than people he already knew and trusted , no one really got close to him .
          Seems to me , that is why the only people who have come forward after his death , are 2 people that he knew before the Chandler accusations .
          They figure , thanks to tabloid insinuations and VG book, they may have a shot at rehashing these stories and getting a settlement
          Everything goes back to that period where VG was stalking MJ…”

          I just wanted to say that is a very, VERY astute observation, Nan, and I think you are on to something. While I have often said that it was the Chandler settlement that encouraged all of the bogus claims that came later, including most recently Robeson and Safechuck, it is interesting that with the obvious, glaring exception of Gavin Arvizo-the oddity out of the bunch who was totally decimated at trial-we have no cases of any boys suddenly coming out of the woodwork from, say, the mid to late 90’s, or during the 2000’s. They all stem from that same period of around ’91 to ’93 when Guiterrez was conducting his meetings with these families.

          1. ‘Seems to me , that is why the only people who have come forward after his death , are 2 people that he knew before the Chandler accusations .’

            To be honest when no accusers emerged in the 4 years after Michael died, fans were saying : see, no new accusers. Wade Robson was praised as one of Michaels loyal friends, especially after his contribution to the opus. And still today fans are acting as if tey know all these people , who is right or wrong and who would never do such a thing etc. etc. I would not be surprised if there are others eagerly waiting for the outcome of this case. Michael is not here to defend himself and if one case is won, it will be the blueprint for others . Money is a huge motivator for betrayal and unethical conduct as we’ve seen while Michael was alive and after he died . If the price is right- but not neccessarily money- people are capable of anything , so I do not put anything past anyone.

  5. Diane Sawyer was extremely rude and unprofessional in this interview. She didn’t take them seriously at all. Michael was promoting his first record after the false allegations, the public had a lot of questions regarding his behavior with children and his new marriage. So Michael and Lisa Marie went to this interview with the goal of set the record straight. Lisa Marie was very nervous, she took the interview very seriously. You could see that all the scrutiny that Michael was already very familiar, deeply disturbed her. She wasn’t used to be treated with such disdain. Michael did good, he defended himself like a innocent man that he was. Haters like to say that Diane was too “soft” with him, but she questioned him and tried to make him look suspicious, but he defended his convictions and make It clear that he was innocent.

    On a positive note, Michael was gorgeous during this interview. Lisa looked good too. I laugh because she was eager to make sure that people knew that Michael and her had sex, i think It was pretty offensive put that video of “fans” to ask that question, and Michael’s face was priceless.

    1. I don’t think those were fans at all. Most likely, just random people they interviewed on the street (or actors). I just don’t buy that any real Michael Jackson fan would have asked that question, then or now. Michael’s real fans wouldn’t have considered it an issue of whether he had sex or not.

  6. That “interview” is one of the most damning indictments not only of Sawyer but the whole media industry around MJ and how they/she essentially, under the guise of objective reporting, constantly sought to place MJ in the role of a deviant and criminal, one accused of the shocking and salacious crime of a child molester. Their sole focus was rating and using MJ to titillate the public with sex scandals–scandals they constantly created and promoted. Sawyer was one of the most hostile interviewers I think MJ ever had to deal with. Not content with focusing on all the sex issues, she went on to bash his HIStory teaser, quoting the most horrible comments from so-called music critics. I thought MJ did a wonderful job when he stopped trying to defend himself (‘It’s art’) and just turned the tables on her by saying, “Good! That’s what I wanted. They fell into my trap.” This as a good way to establish his agency, get him out of the defensive stance, and shut her up on that topic. I lost all respect for her from what she did on this interview.

  7. I guess I will never understand how the judge in 1993 issued the warrant to SS and photo MJ’s bodyparts. I see MJ’s acquiescence to this abhorrent circumvention of the law as evidence of his innocence, otherwise his attorneys at his direction would have fought the warrant tooth and nail, even with the threat that he would be immediately arrested if he refused to be so violated. That said, those photos would most likely have been used by Sneddon as “evidence” in later criminal proceedings even though there was no match, if a settlement had not been reached in the civil case. I don’t think anyone doubts that. There was no criminal case once Chandler had his money. Michael was between a rock and a hard place on that issue alone. To this day, I believe those photos remain (supposedly) under lock and key in the SBDA’s office, despite repeated attempts by MJ’s various attorneys to have the photos returned to him (his estate).

    1. “I guess I will never understand how the judge in 1993 issued the warrant to SS and photo MJ’s bodyparts. ”

      I wonder too. I think even for a normal house search you need a probable cause and actually the word of one accuser usually does not constitute as probable cause. Yet, here for some reason it did.

      Also in the Arvizo case when you look at that “probable cause” document on which the house searches were based, it’s a joke. It’s full of even inner contradictions – big ones. Not to mention that everything on that the search warrant was based on turned out to be a lie!

      Its argument for the warrant was:

      “The mere fact of forty-five-year-old Jackson’s three-year-long interest in the adolescent Gavin is corroborating in itself; it would strike a reasonable person as grossly abnormal. So is the way that interest manifested itself: endless telephone conversations with the youngster, inappropriate and relatively public touching, kissing, licking and cuddling of him; expensive gifts, cross-country flights, the relocation of the family from their modest quarters in Los Angeles, his efforts to have them take up residence in Brazil.”

      In reality MJ did not have a “three-year-long interest in the adolescent Gavin” and “endless telephone conversations with the youngster”. In actuality, Gavin himself complained on the stand that MJ was actively avoiding him during those three years and did not take and return his phone calls. The so called “inappropriate, public touching, kissing, licking and cuddling” was conveniently always only observed by other members of the Arvizo family and there were no independent witnesses to confirm them. As for expensive gifts, MJ was generous with everyone – children and adults alike. The only cross-country flight (there were no cross-country flights in plural) took place on February 5-6 where the Arvizo family, including the mother, was invited to Miami for a press conference which eventually was called off and the claim about an attempt to relocate the family, to have them “take up residence in Brazil” is also a gross misrepresentation of what really happened. So there is not one true allegation in it. Yet, all of Michael’s premises, bank accounts, his employees and associates’ homes etc etc. were searched based on these lies.

      It seems to me that when it came to MJ even authorities went out their way to bend the rules as unfavourably to him as possible.

    2. I am sure Sneddon held onto them, convinced that they would one day “come in handy” for him again.

      Now that both parties-Michael and Sneddon-are deceased, they really do need to be turned back over to the estate. There is no justification for the SBDA to continue to hold onto them.

  8. Robert Downey, Jr. is known for being a gracious interviewee, always willing to promote his films, unlike some other big stars. He was in London supporting the opening of his latest Avengers movie, when the interviewer veered from the subject at hand and started asking Downey about his relationship with his father, his past substance abuse, and his time in prison. RD tried to steer him back to the movie, but the guy persisted.

    RD took off his microphone and walked away, saying, “I’m sorry, but it’s getting a little too Diane Sawyer-y”! The stars are on to her.

    1. LOL, that’s funny.

      For the life of me I do not understand why Michael chose some of the interviewers he did to interview him. I think his interview policy was better in the 80s: rare interviews and those too focused mainly on the music. I think it started to go downhill when he let in all these tabloid journalists (sorry, but the likes of Sawyer are nothing more to me) to interview him who were not one bit interested in him as an artist, just the gossip side. That’s also one of the reasons why his music slipped out of focus – when all he was interviewed about were the allegations, plastic surgery, supposed “eccentricities”. I think a “no boundaries” interview is not necessarily a good thing. Especially for someone about whom journalists are so obsessed with the gossip side.

      I get it that after the allegations it was a special circumstance and he needed to address that. But it could have been done with a more professional interviewer.

      1. The sad fact is that Sawyer was not a tabloid reporter. She was a highly-regarded national and international correspondent who became the anchor of the ABC evening news. Notice that she assigned the ridiculous question about Mr. and Mrs. Jackson’s sex life to ‘fans’ in the street, because it was beneath her as a journalist. As network interviewers go, MJ and LMP got the top of the heap – he’d already had Oprah.

        The last few years, Sawyer has been a bit of an embarrassment to the network, but she’s one of their own so they protect her. On The View on ABC this morning, they covered RDJ’s walkout, but they cut the “Diane Sawyer-y” remark.

        Sawyer ‘ s interview with Bruce Jenner has been touted for weeks, with incredibly unjournalistic promos of the two of them “walking and talking”, and chatting in a cozy fireside setting instead of in a cold news studio. Jenner is obviously getting sympathetic, softball treatment, despite his bizarre appearance and supposed life choices. (His accidental killing of a motorist happened after the interview was finished.) But for the crime of getting married, MJ and LMP got the hatchet job.

    2. It is interesting, though, that some celebs can do this and people will still respect them, even view them as a kind of hero for making a stand. If Michael had ever stormed off of an interview, I’m sure he would have been roundly condemned and never allowed to live it down.

      1. We already know that Michael—for whatever reason—was held to a different set of standards than other celebrities; and that the bar for “strangeness” was set differently for him. We know this.

  9. Thank you for this in depth analysis!!! Just great!

    Can I aks something? You doubt that Michael was forced into the settlement by his insurance company.
    And then there is this memorandum from March 22. 2005, that states that he was forced indeet. It is set up by Thomas Mesereau and Brian Oxman but is signed by Oxman alone. That makes it a little suspicious, but that alone is no proof that TM didn’t agree, right? Here is a link – the statement about the insurance company is in section C.

    To Suzy: I’d really love to see a link to that podcast where Thomas Mesereau says it is not true that the insurance company forced him. I couldn’t find it yet …
    That would be a great help, because I’m writing something about that question in german right now and I really don’t want to spread any inaccuracies.

    Thank you very much again! 🙂

    1. Like you said this document was only signed by Oxman, so I have doubts this was actually an official defense position. Oxman did things which Meserau did not agree with. Thankfully Oxman wasn’t Michael’s lead attorney.

      As to your question. Mesereau appeared on a lot of King Jordan Radio interviews and I do not have time now to dig up which was that interview, but I did hear it and he did say that. Here is the exact quote from the VMJ blog:

      QUESTION: “Was there any evidence that it was settled by an insurance company or paid by them?”

      Mesereau: “My understanding was that the insurance company did not pay. Now the settlement agreement was written, and again, I was not involved in that settlement – you should ask Howard Weizman about that settlement, I was not involved, I didn’t even know Michael at the time, I got to know him eleven years later but my understanding was that the settlement agreement was written to permit the possibility that the insurance company would pay but I was also told that the insurance company did not pay. That’s my understanding. There are some people running around saying that an insurance company paid it and that’s why it was settled and my understanding is that it is not correct.”

      I have a hard time understanding why this whole insurance thing is made such a crux of the matter by both fans and haters though. Like I said to me the whole thing is a fallacy. It doesn’t prove Michael was guilty if he paid it himself and not an insurance company and vica versa it would not prove he was innocent if an insurance company had paid instead of him. To me the whole thing is much ado about nothing, because it really doesn’t matter who paid it in terms of guilt or innocence.

      1. Thank you for that quote, Suzy!

        I’ve read through a few more things over the last days and start to agree that Michael most probably wasn’t forced in a juristic way.
        And of course it is a fallacy that beeing forced meens he was innocent and vice versa!
        I believe the question for many fans was why he settled seemingly overnight when he was so adamant that he would fight before. To think that he just had to makes it easier to comprehend.
        I start to believe that the sudden decision to settle could have something to do with the strip search pictures and the possiblity that they would go public if it came to trial. Would that be possible?

    2. The surfacing of this memorandum has, of course, been responsible for spreading that idea. I think it took hold in the fan community largely because it was something fans wanted to believe. It made it so much easier to “explain away” the ongoing, nagging issue of the Chandler settlement. As Suzy pointed out, Mesereau himself has debunked this myth in several interviews, and Michael himself always maintained that it was a decision he was fully aware of. The idea of an insurance company settling the case against his will would have certainly seemed like a great defense strategy for him, so I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t have mentioned this in his interviews if there was truth to it. I don’t think there would have necessarily been any legalities that would have prevented him from saying so (but then there IS the very cryptic line in “Money” that says, “Insurance? Where do your loyalties lie/ Is that your alibi?”).

      Is it possible that the insurance company extended a lot of pressure to settle? I think that could very well be a possibility, and may have in turn influenced Cochran and Weitzman to extend more pressure to Michael to sign on that dotted line. Just because Michael did agree to it doesn’t necessarily mean he went into it willingly. But being pressured from so many sides, I think he started to genuinely feel that the best way to put the nightmare behind him was just to sign that damn piece of paper and be done with.

      My honest take is that Oxman probably latched onto the insurance company’s involvement and the fact that they had the “right” to negotiate a settlement as a kind of convenient loophole; perhaps in a desperate ploy to try to prevent the subpeona to Larry Feldman and to prevent the possibility of the settlement being entered as prior evidence. As pointed out, Mesereau’s signature isn’t on the document. However, it could be possible that he went along with the idea at the time because, as he has stated, he wasn’t around during the ’93 case and may have operated under the assumption that Oxman knew what he was doing. Or maybe simply felt at the time that it was the best strategy to take in order to give Michael every advantage for a fair trial.

      I am not saying 100% that I know whether this was or wasn’t the case because I really don’t know. But the idea of an insurance company settling the case without anyone’s consent, least of all Michael’s, has not been borne out by any of the parties actively involved in the ’93 case-not even Michael himself. It seems to be an urban myth that is rooted squarely in Brian Oxman as the perpetrator. I would want to get past Oxman and see what documents upon which he actually based those claims. Oxman has never really been trustworthy as a credible source, as most in the MJ community are well aware.

      1. The story that the insurance company forced Michael to settle is a fabrication. In newspaper articles of that time it was said that Michael (s lawyers) asked the insurance company to pay, which they first refused but eventually did for the greater part. Anyway they would not have paid if a crime was comitted .

        Blaming the settlement on Michael and bashing him while he was in the middle of the trial fighting for his life as was low on Weizmans part. Michael clearly said in the DS interview that he was ADVISED to settle . Was Weizman paid just to sign off the settlement papers ? If Michael had had confidence in his lawyers to win the case as he had in Mesereau , he would have fought back. But they were all litigators without criminal expertise. There was a pepsi deal at stake and too many mistakes were already made for the case to be saved , which Fields was mostly to blame for, But Weizman and later Cochran were brought in to settle . If you read articles of that time it looked like a slapstick. And the Chandlers took advantage of it . We dont know what would have happened if there had been no settlement but we do know what happened WITH the settlement. I have zero trust in Branca or Weizman considering their track record . I only hope this time they do not settle They owe it to Michael.

        On another note , I just saw Kurt Cobains documentary Montage of heck in the cinema. Its beautiful and ugly , sad and raw with alot of personal footage . Also brilliant is that they use animation for some scenes and to bring his art to life . You can see that despite the painfull footage it is honest ,made with care and respect for the artist and person. And his daughter was involved in the production. I wish some day someone with the skills and a real interest in Michael will make his documentary . But it takes guts and maybe 20 years as with Cobain to be as candid about Michaels life as Kurts .

        1. No doubt mistakes were made by Michael’s legal team. However, I think due to various CA laws, he was in a catch-22 situation given that he was facing 2 separate trials on essentially the same charges–in the civil and criminal courts. Now I know there was no criminal case at the time of the settlement, but a criminal investigation was ongoing and certainly a very real possibility. A criminal case would have had more severe consequences, as Michael discovered in 2005, than a civil suit. Given the involvment of the tabloids swarmingthe world with smears and lies (not to mention Maureen Orth, Diane Dimond et al), the way Feldman worked the tabloids and CA laws to his advantage, the bias in the law that favored the accuser, and the eagerness of Sneddon to put him on trial in 1993, I think the decision to settle was really the only viable option he had. Although it had major drawbacks, it was the “lesser of 2 evils.” In any case, we can see with hindsight the damage that settling had, but on the other hand, we can’t see the damage that might have happened with a drawn out civil suit, possibly followed by criminal charges. I think MJ and his team made a risk assessment and at the time they made what seemed the best choice. Remember that everything they asked for, the judge denied (3 major motions). Re the insurance, I think they all hoped (Michael and his legal team) that the insurance company would pay for the settlement, but they did not.

          1. “I THINK MJ and his team made a risk assessment and at the time they made what seemed the best choice”

            Lets hear it from the horse’s mouth. This is an interview Weizman gave in 2004 while Michael was fighting for his life. It was already a faux pas for a former lawyer to comment on a pending criminal case, saying that it was the result of bad advise and poor planning. But its downright disgusting to have represented someone, sign off an agreement , paid lavishly for it and when the grapes go sour blame it on the client. At the time of this interview Cochrane had passed away and Michael was too vulnerable to respond. But Mesereau hit back and I am happy he keeps reminding that the settlement was a MISTAKE as Weizman himself said in the interview – 10 years hindsight. He is either lying and/or never expected to be in a position to have to defend Michael ( and himself) again.

            GR :Do you believe he is a cildmolester
            HW :no I do not, but I wasnt there in 1993 and not in 2003, I do not know what happened , but I CHOOSE to believe he is not, and I CHOOSE to believe that he has not molested children and I HOPE I am right.
            GR: Why did he pay the money to evade the charges last time around.
            HW : You are talking to someone who did not agree with what ultimately happened. You have a team, THE CLIENT MAKES THE DECISION FOR WHATEVER REASON sometimes to avoid the risk of having to go through the trial cause its always a risk when you go through the criminal justice system. I wish it hadnt happened, I said it back then and I say it today , but thats history and now he has to deal with 2004. As I SAID BEFORE IT WAS A CASE THAT COULD BE TRIED AND WON.

            Food for thought:
            If going by Weizman words he really ‘thought back then that it was a case that could be tried and won.’ ask yourself why Cochran on his deathbed advised Randy Jackson to take Mesereau and not Weizman as leading attorney for the Arvizo case, while he knew Weizman well, had worked with him on the Chandler case , which he was supposed to know in and out and that Sneddon would use it against Michael. And he knew that Weizman had a long history with Michael . That he is not a criminal lawyer is no excuse, he could have hired one and still be in charge of the defense team.
            Settling was a mistake. Mesereau said it from scratch and Weizman said it -hindsight . Hope he sticks by his own words and forever shuts up the Robsons , Safechucks and whoever is behind the curtains waiting for their turn to cash in.
            My guts tell me that they probably hired Susan Yu ,which may be the reason why she and Mesereau split at this particular time. But this is just speculation.

          2. Just looking at the motions that were denied by the judge in the civil suit, I think that if Michael had gone forward with the suit, he would have done so at extreme disadvantage. He petitioned the court to let the criminal trial precede the civil one: denied. He asked for more time to prepare his defense: denied (due to Jordan’s age that gave him rights to an expedited trial under CA law, meaning a trial in 3 months, not enough time to prepare for a defense). They asked that discovery info from the civil suit not be given to the criminal investigation: denied. These rulings constituted an enormous disadvantage, and in fact, I think it was an inherent denial of the Constitutional right to “due process,” maybe meaning the whole thing might have eventually (if he took it that far) gone to the US Supreme Court. Geraldine Hughes goes into detail on this legal situation and the injustice of it.

            These are facts and regardless of whether or not people now think he should have gone to court anyway, and they constituted a huge disadvantage and a basic denial of due process. When you add, as Raven says, the emotional stress, which can lead to severe consequences in terms of one’s health, both mental and physical, not to mention the cost of potentially going to jail if a criminal charge had been filed, and the tabloid feeding-frenzy churning up more and more salacious headlines and paid informants coming out of the woodwork, I still think he made the right decision given the situation he faced and his need to get out from under. His world was literally collapsing around him. LMP talked about what he was going through and you can see it in his face in the video statement he released after going through the degrading warrant to examine his naked body. His rights were trampled beyond belief and I think he was shocked and appalled that this could happen to him and there was seemingly no way out except settling to stop it. Feldman hinting at another body search or having the photos of Michael’s body revealed in court was just more pressure to settle.

            Feldman’s role in all this, the way he played the tabloids and the way he applied pressure need more examination IMO, including to what extent VG was involved in Feldman’s civil suit.

          3. These are facts and regardless of whether or not PEOPLE now think he should have gone to court anyway, and they constituted a huge disadvantage and a basic denial of due process.

            IUTD , you and I are ‘people’ ,Weizman is a lawyer who worked on the case as is Mesereau So excuse me if I give more weight to what they say than to your opinion,

          4. No problem. You’re excused. T. Mez. did not work on the 1993 case, as he said many times. There is also the issue of PR, and it is much easier to say, “he should not have settled” than to explain the details of the complex legal situation in 1993. It is not something that can be explained in a few sentences so that “people” (general public) can quickly get it. Also, to say he should not have settled is in line with Mez’s position in 2005 as a defense lawyer in a criminal case and W.’s in defending the Estate, i.e. it’s a position that goes along with the position that MJ was not guilty of a crime and that he would have been vindicated had he gone to trial, whether in 2005, 1993, or whenever; in other words, it is optimistic, positive . The opinions of lawyers, especially after the fact, are not infallible, and NO ONE can do anything more than speculate about what WOULDA COULDA SHOULDA been done in the past. As Kahlil Gibran wrote: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on, nor all your piety nor wit , nor all your tears wash out a single line.” What’s done is done, to put it prosaically. Maybe, from a legal position, the 1993 civil case COULD in theory have been won, but at what cost emotionally to Michael and those who loved him? No one, not even Mez and W., can guarantee what would gave happened had MJ not settled, which is exactly what MJ told Sawyer–that he asked his lawyers can you guarantee a fair and just outcome and they said no one can tell you what a judge and jury will do– no one can guarantee that justice will be done. That’s why he decided not to take the risk. As I said, the legal odds were heavily stacked against him, and I think that is indisputable.

          5. P.S. Weizman says, ” its always a risk when you go through the criminal justice system.” MJ did not want to take the risk as he told Sawyer. I also think by that time (post body search warrant) he had lost faith in the justice system and maybe in the ability of his lawyers to defend him.

            Correction: it was not Kahlil Gibran who wrote the lines I quoted. They are from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
            “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
            Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
            Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
            Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

          6. Plus, anyone who has ever had the unfortunate experience of having a psychotic like Evan Chandler breathing down their backs knows that you just want to do whatever it takes to have this person off your back and out of your life for good. Without going into too much detail, I’ve had to deal with just such an individual and it was an absolute nightmare-phone calls all hours of the day and night; on the job harassment; threats to yourself and family members, etc. After awhile, you will do whatever it takes just to get your life back and your peace of mind.

          7. I am sorry that you experienced that, Raven. As Michael once said, we need to walk 3 moons in someone’s moccasins to know what they are going through. We have no idea of what MJ was suffering–he cancelled his tour, went into rehab, and when he came back, he was hit with the search warrant on his body. Elizabeth Taylor also talked about what he went through and, like LMP, she advised him to settle.

            The other point is that with VG’s help (direct or indirect?) Feldman had located Blanca Francia and taken her deposition, so she would have not gone away whether they settled or not.

          8. lutd, thank you – you said Michael and his legal team HOPED the insurance would pay but they didn’t. That is interesting. Do you know a source for this that I could quote?

          9. Karla, I base this on the fact that the settlement mentions the insurance company and also refers to “negligence,” something that the insurance company COULD have covered under Michael’s policy (for which he paid in the multiple million dollar range). So the settlement was constructed in such a way that the insurance company COULD have paid for the settlement, but they did not. (I read that Michael paid the last installment on the settlement not too long before he died.)

            The lyric in ‘Money,” on the HIStory album, “Insurance, where do your loyalties lie? Is that your alibi? I don’t think so” is an explicit reference to Michael’s disgust that in spite of all the $ he paid out for insurance coverage, they declined to pay the settlement and instead left him to handle it on his own.

            “Money” really lays it all out in devastating detail: “You’ll do anything for money, lie for it, die for it, even sell your soul to the devil.” The fact that “insurance” comes into the song at all is very significant IMO. Why else would he single out “insurance” in the same song as the “idle jabbers and back stabbers” who play the “devil’s game”?

        2. It sounds like a great documentary, and I love Kurt Cobain so I hope I get to see it.

          I don’t think there need be any real rush on the definitive Michael Jackson documentary or biopic. Some of the best documentaries out there have been made years after the subject’s death. In the case of Kurt Cobain, his fame was still relatively recent when he died. They had only just released their second studio album. Although there was a sense that his music had had a lasting impact, it was still a little soon to know for sure. Two decades have proven that the music still holds up and new fans are discovering him every day.

          Michael’s legacy is cemented but his death is still recent as far as celebrity deaths go. Emotions are still raw, and there has not yet been enough distancing from all the tabloid scandals and junk (as evidenced by all the trash that continues to be perpetrated by the tabloid press) to put it all in true perspective. I think we are slowly getting there, but it may take a few more decades-when all of the flamethrowers and gossip mongers like Dimond, Orth, Brown, etc have died, retired, or crawled under their rocks-before we are really at a place where his life and work can be viewed objectively.

          The “honesty” issue will always be problematic with MJ projects because there is always risk of offending factions of the fanbase who won’t agree (no matter how respectful the project is otherwise) and will then cry “boycott” and attempt to sabotage the project’s success. We don’t see that sort of reaction nearly as much with rock icons like Kurt Cobain or John Lennon, for example and I think it is because those fan bases accept that their idols weren’t perfect and, also, perhaps because rock stars in general are not held to the same standards as artists like Michael. Interestingly, I have yet to see a brilliant documentary or biopic that portrayed their subjects as perfect people, but rather, with the sensitive understanding that great art can only come from beautifully flawed human beings.

          Hopefully one day all the right elements will come together, at the right time, and we will have that definitive MJ documetary or film. And I hope it is something I live to see in my lifetime.

          1. You should definately see it Raven.
            I will not spoil it for you, but despite the fact that they come from opposite sides of the spectrum as for their personal background, there are many similarities between Michael and Kurt . I am curious to know if you will see what I mean.

            “The “honesty” issue will always be problematic with MJ projects because there is always risk of offending factions of the fanbase who won’t agree”

            What helped to push the project forward was that Frances gave her blessing and was closely involved . Everyone was very cooperative , both his parents, friends , bandmembers ,exes and other familymembers. That is the accomplishment of the flmmaker and goes to show how carefull he went about the whole proces.
            That is what a docmentary about Michael needs.
            Like you I really hope it will be in my lifetime. But indeed we will have to wait for the dust to settle,

      2. Hi Raven, thank you for your explanation!

        You mention the “Money”-Lyrics: “but then there IS the very cryptic line in “Money” that says, “Insurance? Where do your loyalties lie/ Is that your alibi?”

        Do these lyrics contradict the assumption that he did decide for the settlement? When being under all that pressure and advisors telling you all the time, it’s the best for you Michael, then you can of course ask where do the loyalites lie: where they loyal to him as a person and thinking about what was best for him – or only what was best for the money, theirs and Michaels? Was “loyalty” their alibi to advise him to settle?
        But I am not a native speaker (obviously … 🙂 ), maybe I just don’t get why the lyrics are mysterious.

  10. Simba: “Jenner is obviously getting sympathetic, softball treatment, despite his bizarre appearance and supposed life choices.” And, some twenty years on, we find that Jenner has to face a few obstacles that bear some unfortunate similarities to the ones MJ faced.

    He—or whatever pronoun Jenner may choose to go by in future— has to endure the hostility of incredulous observers, who pronounce judgment upon his/her/hir “bizarre appearance” and “supposed life choices.”

    Bigotry is bigotry, whether directed at Michael Jackson (with his normative marriage to a woman), or at another individual whose physical manifestation threatens some spectators’ ideas about the stability of their own identity.

    1. What obstacles? Jenner is a very rich white guy today, and he will still be a very rich white guy after his interview airs. He’s living his life as he chooses, even after his carelessness caused a woman’s death – he was back out driving the next day. So really, what obstacles does he face? He has nothing in common with Michael.

      1. Well, Simba, Michael Jackson was also very rich; though of course he wasn’t white.

        What Michael and Jenner have in common, I think, is that both became the objects of ridicule by the media (and hence the public) on account of their perceived “bizarre appearance” and “supposed life choices.” Bruce Jenner received a drubbing because of his changing appearance, as did MJ. And when there’s a widely-held perception that a male celebrity’s face is starting to appear more feminine than it used to, many people become especially skittish and nervous. It seems to touch a raw nerve among those who are still committed to binaristic notions of gender.

        1. Michael Jackson became an “object of ridicule” to the media when he started eclipsing sales records of white artists backed by TPTB. It had nothing to do with his looks, which were still quite conventional at the time, or his life choices.

          It’s telling that it’s obligatory for those in the public eye to praise Bruce Jenner for his “bravery”, and for “standing in his truth” by revealing the worst kept secret in Hollywood. Even Jenner ‘ s ex-wife is taking a drubbing for not appearing sufficiently supportive of him (which definitely strikes me as bizarre – why would anyone expect a recently – divorced spouse to give a flying you know what about her ex-husband?).

          Nobody is prosecuting Jenner on trumped up charges. He didn’t even get ticketed for rear-ending a woman and killing her. He’s making his transition to female identity after a lifetime of adulation and white male privilege. It’s not like he’s some young trans kid struggling to keep a roof over his head. No state deputies are tearing apart his luxurious Malibu home. He’s being hailed as hero, who finally ‘escaped’ from the family whose reality show helped make him very rich. (He used the interview to tout his own upcoming reality show where he’ll be the undisputed star.) This is a guy who married three women under false pretenses, abandoned two sets of children, and doesn’t show much concern for his underage daughter, who is publicly involved in an inappropriate relationship. Bruce Jenner may have his struggles, but bigots aren’t using the power of the police and the government to destroy him. He has almost nothing in common with MJ.

          1. I agree Simba.

            All I saw for Bruce Jenner was praise after his interview, not ridicule. Diane Sawyer too was sympathetic to him (unlike she was to Michael) and apparently this time she is not being called out for being too soft on Bruce because she did not bring up things like his accident in February that killed a woman. Sorry, but rather than seeing a similarity in how MJ and Jenner were treated, I see a lot of double standards. And while there might have been some mean tabloid articles on Jenner in the past years, it’s nothing compared to what Michael went through. He wasn’t “just” mocked for his appearance or mocked for his real lifestyle. The tabloid media actively made up horrible lies about him being a criminal. The media actually paid big bucks to people to make up lies about him being a disgusting pervert and a criminal! That’s a proven fact. Jenner never had to face any such thing. Eventually Jenner is what he was suspected and portrayed (a transwoman). Michael was NOT what he was suspected and portrayed (a child molester). So there is a big difference there.

            Also, I think if you come out as gay or transgender you get a tremendous amount of support from the media. So much that everything else is being overlooked. (In this case Sawyer not asking him about his accident. Or not asking him about being a deadbeat dad to his children from earlier marriages etc.) That you can be held up as some kind of celebrity poster boy for a cause overshadows anything and everything and you are declared a “hero” and “brave” and some sort of “role model” just for coming out. I feel this is kind of flawed and also hypocritical in the light of how someone like Michael was treated. There is something not right with this picture to me.

          2. ‘Eventually Jenner is what he was suspected and portrayed (a transwoman). ”

            Being a transgender is not a crime, childmolesting is . So you cannot compare the two. Its unfair to Michael as well as to Bruce Jenner to put what he was falsely accused of in the same cathegory as Jenners coming out.
            Two wrongs dont make a right and personal flaws, gender identity , being accused of a crime, not proven , are no excuse to be treated the way DS treated Michael . I dont expect anything but a cordial and respectful approach towards all her guests, whether they are Michael Jackson or Bruce Jenner. And factchecking re her false Israel -Palestine report for which she rightfully apologized

            That said, I think a journalist can and should ask each and every question that is relevant , what is going on in a persons life and what the public will want to know. By doing an interview with LM they put their relationship and personal life at the center, not Michaels music . So it was to be expected that she would ask about the allegations as she should have asked BJ about the accident. ( maybe the interview was recorded before the accident?)
            Celebrities and even politicians or their spin doctors often make an agreement before an indepth interview what questions they will answer and what not and the right to refuse publication if they do not agree with the final product. Hardly ever an interview is 100% open even the O interview was edited and not live and direct. Michaels PR could have edited out answers if they did not agree.
            Imo LM and Michael were ill prepared for the DS interview and going by their answers were obviously still in the process of getting to know each other. Maybe their lawyers/PR people advised against the interview bt the love birds probably ignored it.
            With Bashir Michael didnt make a written agreement beforehand and trusted on a gentlemans agreement, which for a veteran and with his experience I still do not understand . Unless he was indeed ‘impaired’ as Schmuley and Geller often said in the media ,and they took adavantage of it.

          3. “Being a transgender is not a crime, childmolesting is . So you cannot compare the two. Its unfair to Michael as well as to Bruce Jenner to put what he was falsely accused of in the same cathegory as Jenners coming out.”

            I did not say being transgender was a crime. On the contrary. Jenner being called a transwoman is not offensive to him – in fact, now he openly embraces that identity. Accusing someone of a henious crime and paying people to make up lies to portray someone as a pervert and a criminal is a whole another level of wrongful media treatment. So my point was exactly that these are NOT comparable and it was not me in this thread who brought up Jenner and compared Michael’s treatment by the media to his as if they are similar. They are NOT at all similar and that was my point all along.

          4. ‘Eventually Jenner is what he was SUSPECTED and portrayed (a transwoman)” VS Michael was NOT what he was SUSPECTED and portrayed (a child molester). So there is a big difference there.” – Suzy

            I do not want to make it about semantics, but the devil may be in the wording and in the tone of your comment. Being ‘suspected and portrayed as something’ has a negative connotation as is obvious in the example of Michael being suspected and portrayed as a child molester. It implies being thought of as doing or being something wrong, inappropriate , criminal ,you name it. How can being of a certain gender be wrong, inappropriate , criminal etc. Its one thing not to be impressed by BJs coming out, rejection that he is given a platform by the media( which btw has its own agenda and it is not altruism) while the real underdogs are not , the fact that he is priviliged and treated with silk gloves re the deadly accident which he ALLEDGEDLY caused.
            But its another to attack his character or supposed flaws ( deadbeat father etc )to make your point.
            I agee that pitching of every supposed ‘victim ‘of media, public opinion or otherwise against Michael is tricky, there are always worse cases, even far worse than Michaels. But we never say ‘look he got it worse than Michael ? “ do we?
            We dont have to be interested in every deprived groups suffering, but at least we can refrain from attacking people s character who have nothing to do with what was done to Michael and attack the media instead for their double standards.

            That said, imo @ Nina went overboard with the condescending tone in which she adressed (confused)me /you only for not being on the same page. I also do not get why she says time after time that she only wants to discuss Michaels art , yet voluntarily joins a discussion about -off all subjects -an interview that bears in it each and every aspect that she so hates to discuss.

          5. It is a strange time in which we are living. On the one hand, as Nina pointed out, we do have to consider that times and standards do change. Michael, unfortunately, was subjected to the media standards of 20-30 years ago, when it was a far less politically correct time and when ANY kind of perceived “difference” was much more subjected to ridicule and scorn.

            But what I mean by this “strange time” in which we are living is that, on the surface, it may seem we are much more PC and tolerant today than at any time in history. The media, of course, tries hard to be extremely PC today, so that, on the surface, at least, they cannot be accused of offending anyone. It is no longer fashionable to openly mock or deride anyone for their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender status in a public forum or on a public platform. Yet, as we know all too well, that doesn’t mean bigotry and hate have been eradicated; if anything, it has actually intensified the resentment of many who feel they are being forced to accept people and lifestyles they don’t agree with. That is why, for example, you may see a celebrity like Jenner being treated very sympathetically in an interview, and then read the absolute vilest, most despicable and hateful things in the anonymous comments that people leave. I was just reading a forum the other day-and I forget what the exact topic was; it might have been gay marriage-but apparently a lot of the posters were diehard Christians and some of them were just absolutely up in arms with comments like “Where is OUR right to freedom of speech?” and “Nowadays people like us aren’t allowed to have an opinion about anything.” It’s like the more tolerant and PC we become on the surface, the more all of that pent-up hatred and bigotry that is not being allowed an outlet is building like a pressure cooker, and it’s very scary. On the one hand, we see celebrities being openly accepted and applauded when they “come out” and yet the hate crimes being committed against LGBT people are increasing at an alarming rate every day.

        2. Not to mention, many people thought for years that Michael WAS transgender, or going in that direction. Hence, a lot of the hatred and bigotry that people heap upon gays and transgender people in general was being heaped on Michael before people even had the whole story. I still have far too vivid a memory of all the gay jokes and the “he’s turning himself into a white woman” jokes from back in the day to not realize exactly what was happening. It was, as you said, that raw nerve being struck by someone not conforming to “accepted” ideas of gender.

  11. I don’t know whether some here followed news of international events this past summer, or whether you may be are interested in keeping tabs on media malfeasance in matters that may not pertain to Michael Jackson.

    But Diane Sawyer committed a major gaffe on “ABC World News Tonight” in July. As two photographs were shown which depicted scenes of razed and ruined Gaza neighborhoods, Sawyer described the people in these photos as “Israeli families.” She said in the initial broadcast:

    “And we take you overseas now to the rockets raining down on Israel today, as Israel tried to shoot them out of the sky, all part of the tinderbox Israelis and Palestinians, and here is an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can, one woman standing speechless among the ruins….”

    Of course, the whole presentation implies that the Israelis bore the brunt of this this devastation, when in fact the opposite was true. Over 2200 Palestinians, most civilians (including 550 children) perished in this conflict in Gaza last Summer, while Israel sustained much lower casualties (66 soldiers and 6 civilians, according to some reports) and negligible damage to its infrastructure.

    Shortly after, Sawyer issued this apology (under what duress, I don’t know):

    “And now, a note. On Tuesday evening, we made a mistake. And I want to put up these pictures again, because during an introduction to a story on the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, I misidentified these powerful images. The people in these photos are Palestinians in Gaza in the aftermath of an airstrike by Israel, not Israelis as I mistakenly described them. And we want you to know that we are truly sorry for the error. And as always, we’ll keep you fully up to date on the ongoing conflict.”

    The nature of this error had some commenters wondering whether Sawyer and/or her organization were attempting to deliberately mislead the public in their ludicrously biased coverage of the conflict. And one independent journalist, Juan Cole, even wrote about her misidentification of the Palestinian family: “It is not a bug. It is a feature.”

    Similarly, the impertinent (and utterly banal) line of questioning we see Sawyer adopt in this twenty-year-old interview with Michael and Lisa, was a “feature” (not a bug) of what was then a corporate media system swiftly on its way to becoming the near-monopoly it is today.

    These news organizations are so intent on disinforming and infantilizing the public that we shouldn’t wonder when any celebrity, politician, or public figure—of ANY kind—is treated to the kind of interrogation that is calculated to produce further mystification, not clarity, and certainly not insight. This applies not only to Sawyer, of course, but the whole lot: Oprah, Bashir, and the rest.

    As always, I’m much more interested in the things Michael manages to say (despite the odds) than anything else in this interview. And I’m tremendously wary of any analysis of body language in these situations. As a method of understanding (much less “proving”) anything, it’s so impressionistic and so malleable according to the desires of any interpreter, that it allows two people who are equally invested in their preferred, vastly different outcomes to reach nearly opposite conclusions based on the same (unreliable) visual ‘evidence.’

    Raven, you write, “Imagine how uncomfortable most guys would feel if they had to sit stuck in a room with their wife and their mother-in-law, listening while they talked about him! Well, just imagine that scenario and you can pretty well surmise what Michael was feeling. ”

    Yet, as Michael told us, he wasn’t like other guys. And one of the most distinct ways that he wasn’t like other guys, is that he’d been accustomed to the media’s (and fans’) near-constant invasion of his privacy since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. So I find I can’t surmise *anything* Michael was feeling from this interview—and especially regarding someone whose very survival depended so heavily, for so long, on his ability to dissemble.

    What I can sense (and surmise) here, is the profound desire of so many fans to believe in the possibility of restoring of a “prior” time: the fantasy of a return to a pure and perfect state before the troubles began; and with this, a need to somehow make good on an incalculable loss. But the means to recoup this loss appears to lie in the restoration of an entire “lost kingdom”—-which resides in our imagination—to its former glory. This, at least, might serve as a close substitute for bringing the dead back to life.

    I’m only telling what I observe here, because in the end I find I’m less exercised about the need to rehabilitate the King’s reputation, than I am with the very real possibility that, in very short order, there may not be any human beings left to appreciate all that the world has been able to offer us: including Michael Jackson.

    1. I agree that body language is not an exact science (if indeed it could be classified as a science at all) and cannot be a basis for determining things as serious as guilt or innocence, no more than a polygraph can actually determine if someone is lying or telling the truth. The study of body language does fascinate me, but in the end, it is like those old qualifiers that we used to read in fine print, “For entertainment purposes only.” I do believe, however, that it can provide a lot of clues and insight about a person, at least in certain situations. Certainly we can interpret from it when an individual is feeling stress, anxiety, or some other strong emotion, even if the words they speak do not necessarily convey these things. Here, for example, we can most definitely see when Diane Sawyer is pressing those triggers. For me, it is interesting to try to interpret what those triggers are, and how he responds/reacts to them. It isn’t intended to be taken as exact science, of course, because body language is far too subjective to ever be an exact science. .

      It is true that Michael had been used to public scrutiny and invasiveness all of his life, or nearly all of it. But he did like to feel in control of his interviews. This grew, of course, out of the many years in which he did not have any control over anything. He was told what to do, when to do it, how to do it. As an adult star, he had worked very hard to take that control, and to create a bit of mystique about himself, only granting interviews rarely, and then only on his terms. I would agree he was used to being scrutinized but he never seemed comfortable in interview situations where he was either: A. Not the sole focus, or B: Where he had to give up some measure of control. One could never, for example, imagine Michael as one of those celebrities who could have gone on The Tonight Show where, after chatting for a few minutes, they then have to sit on the sideline as another celebrity comes on to chat (not saying it wouldn’t have been interesting to see him in that kind of environment, but it just wasn’t the sort of thing he was comfortable doing). He never really seems at ease in those situations where he kind of has to sit by while other people are talking about him. I think he found it a little embarrassing and awkward. Maybe that was an aspect of fame he never really got past, in the same way that even though I have been teaching for twenty years, I have never really gotten past the nervousness and apprehension of public speaking.

      You know, something like what happened with that major Diane Sawyer gaffe over the Palestinian images is really hard to pin down. Reporters and journalists are human and prone to human error, but the profession carries such a TREMENDOUS weight of responsibility that there is very little room for human error, especially when that error (and that is only assuming it WAS an error) impacts human lives and the perceptions of everyone viewing.

  12. Raven, I think it’s true that looking at body language can be a form of entertainment. And as you say, it’s hard to imagine Michael ever sitting on Jay Leno’s (or Dave Letterman’s or Conan O’Brien’s) couch, or hosting SNL, for that matter. He was probably too shy for those kinds of venues, and didn’t relish the idea of being “on” in the ways all those guests would have to. Not his thing at all.

    So maybe I despair of finding any “truth” in these episodes; or else I revel in the ineffable. While the process of legend-building seems to demand clear and unequivocal stories that answer to the name of “truth,” what I think happens in reality is that a proliferation of narratives—some seemingly in conflict with each other—manage to coexist for a long period of time.

    As for Sawyer’s Palestinian “error,” it may be said that these errors—slips of the tongue, or instances of misspeaking—are done “accidentally on purpose.” While Sawyer’s own fatigue or sleep-deprivation, or confusion, or something else, may be very hard to pin down, the consistently pro-Israeli interests of the government and the corporate lobbyists are not.

    We can trace patterns of media ownership easily enough (I’d do it now if I had more time.) ABC-TV is a subsidiary of some larger parent company. So are NBC, CBS, Fox. (I don’t have the details off the top of my head.) Many would probably be amazed to discover how deeply the tentacles of today’s megacorporations have penetrated to the core of our daily lives, and the extent to which the government is in the pocket of these gigantic entities.

    So under the circumstances, it’s no wonder Diane Sawyer speaks on Israel/Palestine as she does—-and, not incidentally, the interview methods she used with Michael and Lisa in 1995.

    But to learn more about Diane Sawyer’s culpability in mistreating Michael, we might compare this 1995 interview with the ones she conducted with other famous people around the same period.

  13. Simba, Suzy, I think there are many, many things that factor into the different treatment Bruce Jenner and Michael Jackson received when interviewed by Diane Sawyer.

    Race is certainly a big difference; there’s also wealth, degrees of fame, perception of different vulnerabilities, the relationship statuses (past and present) of both, and all other ways Sawyer and her colleagues perceive “normalcy.” The list of reasons goes on and on, and must include the fact that this is 2015, and not 1995. Sawyer’s interview style may have shifted over the years, or maybe ABC’s policies have. Whatever the case, the past two decades have undoubtedly brought many changes in communication of ALL kinds.

    And in fact, a lot of people have noted that Jenner’s white privilege, his renown, and his wealth shield him from the kind of violence that many blacks are continually exposed to. For example, Lourdes Ashley Hunter, National President of the Transwomen of Color Collective (TWOCC) remarks (facetiously):

    “Since cis folk watched ‪#‎BruceJenner‬ interview all of a sudden they have empathy for trans folk… they understand our journey… they will stop killing Black Trans Women… They will stop denying us access to housing, healthcare, education and employment. They will stop torturing our kids with conversion therapy. FOH…

    She further comments on the failure of the Jenner interview to address issues that are vastly more pressing to trans women who don’t enjoy his privileges:

    “Ms. Jenner just provided white folks a welcomed distraction from the lived realities of structural violence and oppression we face everyday. Bruce’s skin allowed them to relate. You see, the way white supremacy is set up, whiteness will always be positioned as acceptable and relatable and used as a placeholder for any real work.”

    And here’s an article by a disabled trans woman of color, Kay Ulanday Barrett, who writes on

    “The painful reality is that our gender identity is under speculation, suspicion, doubt, and policing. But the current curiosity surrounding Jenner’s interview in the non-trans community creates a magical fantasy based on a very wealthy, able-bodied, American, and white experience that isn’t the case for many of us who struggle for survival and justice as transgender people of color.

    “The emphasis on Jenner’s announcement focuses on a limited portrayal of transgender lives; there isn’t one exceptional experience, but a plethora of pathways to be trans. I wanted to celebrate these different paths by interviewing two trans women of color who are artists and activists [Katrina Goodlett and Alexa Vasquez].

    “Katrina Goodlett: Trans women of color are historically objectified by mainstream media with this basic narrative around genitalia and surgery. I believe this “exposure” could be better served towards issues that affect marginalized community; poor, disabled, incarcerated, undocumented trans people of color. We know eight trans women were brutally murdered within the first 60 days of 2015 with no media outrage or outcry, no Diane Sawyer interviews […..] We shift the focus by documenting and telling our own stories. We can’t wait for mainstream media to catch up.

    “I created The Kitty Bella Podcast out of a need to amplify the most marginalized voices and with a focus on issues outside the basic narrative. Too many of us are dying in the streets for us to beg and ask for nuanced discussions.”

    “Alexa Vasquez: Unfortunately, this media circus makes money off of us. The way Jenner is choosing to “come out” and make a circus announcement is so dishonest to our community. Many will tune in to watch and begin to believe they understand, accept, and value our community based on Jenner’s experience….

    “We can start by investing in our own lives. Opening our eyes and ears to the stories and lives around us, not by creating celebrities. By looking at the culture that surrounds us, we make sure that the resources are flowing in our community. We must remember what affects one affects us all.
    How do we talk about marriage if trans women can’t walk down the street safely?”

    Read more here:

  14. Sina says,
    “Also, I think if you come out as gay or transgender you get a tremendous amount of support from the media. …. ”

    Really, Sina? Is that why so many black trans women have been murdered in the past several years, and their cases have barely been covered?

    “That you can be held up as some kind of celebrity poster boy for a cause overshadows anything and everything and you are declared a “hero” and “brave” and some sort of “role model” just for coming out. I feel this is kind of flawed and also hypocritical in the light of how someone like Michael was treated. There is something not right with this picture to me. ”

    Yep. There certainly is “something not right” with this picture.

    A “cause,” as you call it, Sina. As if someone’s right to exist, and manifest as WHO THEY ARE, in their chosen identity (an ability that cisgender women like ourselves can take for granted, and nobody questions it) can be considered a mere “cause.” As if this “cause” were something abstract and not about “people”! To your way of thinking, apparently, a “cause” is distinct from the real, lived experience of marginalized people—-some of whom must take their life in their hands by just walking down the street?

    I take issue with a way of thinking that privileges the performance of respectable “normalcy” (its public presentation) over ways of living that depart from those well-known narratives. NONE of us are the arbiters of what constitutes a worthy life, a life that’s “normal” enough to be treated with respect and dignity.

    OF COURSE what happened to Michael sucks. And OF COURSE it was impertinent, and inappropriate, for Diane Sawyer to adopt the line of interrogation she did with him and Lisa.

    But the fact that Michael lived his truth in innumerable ways (including marrying Lisa Marie), and was punished for it, DOES NOT GIVE ANY OF US THE RIGHT to disrespect and punish others who are living their own, perhaps different, truths.

    1. Sina says,
      “Also, I think if you come out as gay or transgender you get a tremendous amount of support from the media. …. ”

      I would never say such a thing, I know 2 transgenders and a collegaue who is in the process of . I know they would love to be ‘normal’ for all that they are going through. the humiliation and scrutiny, not unlike gays 2 decades ago and even now.
      You are confusing me with someone else.

      1. Nina maybe you should read my response to Suzy’s ^^re
        “Eventually Jenner is what he was suspected and portrayed (a transwoman).

      2. Sorry, Sina. I meant Suzy, who said:
        “Also, I think if you come out as gay or transgender you get a tremendous amount of support from the media. “

    2. @Nina

      Where did I say or even imply that transgender people do not have the right to exist or to be themselves? I’d appreciate it Nina if you did not try to put words in my mouth that I never said or even implied. I have no problem with transgender people or their right to be themselves. But I cannot say I am mighty impressed by Bruce Jenner’s supposed “bravery” here. It was predictable that the media will praise him for it and congratulate him for it. That was not too much risk IMO. Yes, there was a time when it was risky for celebrities to come out as gay or transgender and it could cost a career but it is not so much now. In fact, come out and you will be called all kind of hero and role model and no one will demand Diane Sawyer that she should have been tougher on you regarding an accident you caused that killed a woman or regarding your treatment of your children.

      For non-celebrities, for everyday transgender or gay people, of course reality is different. They are still being mocked and discriminated against. No one said otherwise. Here I was talking about this specific case which I do not consider exceptionally “brave” as the media support was predictable. That’s all. Also he announced that he is going to build some new reality TV show around it. He is going to make money of it.

      1. Addition: I read those quotes by black transpeople that you posted above. It seems it’s not only me who is a bit sceptical about this interview and Jenner’s supposed “bravery” but transgender people are too.

        As for the “cause” thing. I did not minimize the cause and struggle of transgender people. Let me remind you that it was not me who brought up Jenner in this thread. It was not me who tried to draw parallels between his interview and Michael’s and it was not me who claimed they got similar treatment from the media. My position is exactly the opposite. That that these interviews were NOT similar and that they did NOT get the same treatment by either Dimond or the media generally. My position is that Jenner got a more favourable , more soft ball and more sympathetic treatment from Dimond and the media generally. Yes, in comment sections you will still see a lot of hateful comments about him. But I am talking about media treatment here, nothing else.

        And one another thing that I had in mind regarding this comment:

        “That you can be held up as some kind of celebrity poster boy for a cause overshadows anything and everything and you are declared a “hero” and “brave” and some sort of “role model” just for coming out. I feel this is kind of flawed and also hypocritical in the light of how someone like Michael was treated. There is something not right with this picture to me. ”

        I feel like Michael’s problem to get support from the media was partly because he could not be conveniently boxed into any familiar category by them and could not be held up as some celebrity poster boy for anything they thought was an important cause. I feel had Michael been gay he somehow would have got more support and protection from certain segments of the media. As Susan Fast put it he was “confusing all the codes” in many people’s minds and that was a big reason of the suspicion and negative treatment of him. For example, Michael was straight, but many people refused to accept that (and still refuse) because in many ways he was considered non-heteronormative. Eg. the way he looked, the way he talked, the way he dressed, the fact he did not have sex with any nice looking woman that came his way like supposedly “normal” heterosexual rock stars would or “should” do etc. So a lot in the media I think thought he was either lying or being in denial about his sexuality. Despite of the fact that there was never any evidence of him being gay. In fact, the evidence that came out during the trial (eg. his taste in adult magazines and movies) confirmed what he said about his sexuality all along: that he was interested in women. So the media, based on nothing but their own prejudices about how a heterosexual man is supposed to be, refused to accept Michael’s self-identification as a straight man. But Michael could not say “I am gay” just to satisfy what the media wanted to hear, just to be able to put him into one of their convenient boxes and just to be a celebrity poster boy for something, when he was indeed not gay. And not transgender.

        I personally have the most problem here with the hypocrisy in the liberal media. They are liberal as long as they can put you in convenient boxes. When they cannot then they can turn more vile than even the conservative media – as Michael’s example showed.

  15. Sina,
    You say that by inviting Lisa to join the interview, Sawyer made it clear that she wanted it to focus on anything but Michael’s music. True enough. But when was the last time any of us saw a celebrity interviewed by a major network, where the content really centered around that luminary’s art or any aspect of their professional life? It’s just not the nature of the beast. It wasn’t in in 1995, and it isn’t today.

    Here’s an excerpt from the Oprah interview, 1993:

    “Michael: It’s a problem for me that I can’t control, but what about all the millions of people who sits out in the sun, to become darker, to become other than what they are, no one says nothing about that.

    Oprah: So when did this start, when did your … when did the color of your skin start to change?

    Michael: Oh boy, I don’t … sometime after Thriller, around Off the Wall, Thriller, around sometime then.

    Oprah: But what did you think?

    Michael: It’s in my family, my father said it’s on his side. I can’t control it, I don’t understand, I mean, it makes me very sad. I don’t want to go into my medical history because that is private, but that’s the situation here.

    Oprah: So okay, I just want to get this straight, you are not taking anything to change the color of your skin…

    Michael: Oh, God no, we tried to control it and using make-up evens it out because it makes blotches on my skin, I have to even out my skin. But you know what’s funny, why is that so important? That’s not important to me. I’m a great fan of art, I love Michelangelo, if I had the chance to talk to him or read about him I would want to know what inspired him to become who he is, the anatomy of his craftsmanship, not about who he went out with last night … what’ wrong with … I mean that’s what is important to me.

    Oprah: How much plastic surgery have you had?”

    Jesus. Can there be NO escape from this kind of chatter? Even on the sites that are run by fans? (Sorry, Raven.)

    1. “You say that by inviting Lisa to join the interview, Sawyer made it clear that she wanted it to focus on anything but Michael’s music.”

      Thats not what I meant. I mean that by doing an interview together with LM , whoever invited who, it was to be expected that the focus would not be on his art but on his private life. And he could have set his terms for the interview.
      Celebrities also have something to gain from interviews as the O interview showed. It spiked the Dangerous sales tremendously. Many talk shows are promo’s for new releases in dsguise and probably sponsored.
      That does not mean that I agree with the ‘ dirt digging’ and I agree that they did a bad job at a great opportunity.

      1. Oh yes, absolutely they went into this video knowing full well what would be asked. It wasn’t as if they were ambushed with those questions. They knew they were going to have to answer a lot of trivial questions and even some difficult ones, but as you said, Michael had an album to promote and this was seen as an opportune platform for that purpose. It still doesn’t excuse Diane Sawyer’s smarminess or her complete, rude dismissal of any discussion of his art, but certainly he and LMP were media savvy enough to know exactly what they were going into.

  16. All right. I think I’ve about had it, Raven.

    Here’s what I think now. Any approach to these kinds of comparisons (e.g., Sawyer’s interview with Michael and Lisa vs. Jenner)—is, in and of itself, odious and wrong. And I don’t want to participate in it any longer.

    It’s wrong in all these ways. It’s an exercise in trivia-mongering (not much different than the tabloids themselves), it’s a distraction from substantive issues about Michael IN RELATION TO the larger world. I mean, it was the tabloidist discourse—with its extremely narrow set of concerns—that set the agenda in the first place, many years ago. *Must* we really cycle endlessly back into that agenda, caught in that swirling vortex, from now until doomsday?

    This practice of stacking up different forms of oppression, suffering, and marginalization IN COMPETITION, as if we are continually compelled to keep a tally of “who’s got it worse,” is a perversely unjust and disempowering way to go about exploring the realities of lived lives. When applied to longstanding historical injustices, it’s sometimes been called the “oppression Olympics,” or the “Olympics of suffering.” It presupposes that ALL these struggles are somehow not interconnected, when they are. On examination, it seems a frightening reflection of the kind of panic that sets in among a handful of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and are set up to fight over every scrap and crumb.

    There are vulnerable populations in our social world. There are many marginalized communities whose members suffer in various ways. It’s the job of ALL OF US to educate ourselves, and to develop a greater awareness of how these histories and lived realities overlap and intersect.

    In the state where I live, and where Adam Sandler is currently shooting his new movie, some Native American actors walked off the set because the script called for some dialogue (and characters’ names) that—by any standard of decency—are preposterously demeaning to Native peoples. What’s more, these actors can ill-afford to quit. They are not well-established, and they may not be able to find other work.

    Someone posts a YouTube video of the incident. Almost instantly, the vilest, stupidest, most ignorant, most hateful garbage is hurled at the post by several bigots who—I suppose—felt their “innate” white superiority (of which the central feature is, of course, their precious dick) threatened by the spectre of “uppity” Indians taking charge of their own lives and their own representation.

    Michael Jackson, at least, got to do the work that needed to be done. He got to SAY WHAT HE WANTED TO SAY, in the way he wanted to say it. And even later in his career, he received tremendous support to do that very thing.

    Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer declined to ask Michael nearly a damn thing about his art, preferring instead to drill down on the din and banter that—they insisted—the public wanted and even “needed” to hear.

    They made out as if they themselves had played NO role whatsoever in CREATING the very appetites that they would later (self-servingly) pretend their celebrity interviews were designed to satisfy.

    I want out of that cycle. I don’t want to be feeding that head anymore. I prefer to study the “anatomy of his craftsmanship,” as Michael himself said to Oprah over two decades ago.

    To that end, there’s a conversation between me and Willa Stillwater currently up on Dancing With the Elephant. We’re talking about the “Billie Jean” short film and its connection with the Film Noir genre in Part 1. Part 2 will be up shortly. You can find it here:

    1. Well, in all fairness to me, since you addressed the comment to me, I did not post this analysis as any kind of comparison to other celebrity interviews or to make this as another case of “look how much worse MJ had it with the media than anyone else.” It is stictly intended as an analysis of Michael’s and Lisa’s responses, the questions that were put to them, and what can be learned from it. The post doesn’t address these issues as they apply to others because this is an MJ blog. I can’t control how the discussion evolves or what topics are raised once readers begin commenting (well, I could but that would be censorship, right?) nor do I expect that everyone will always agree. Perhaps I need to post one of those disclaimers that says “The views and opinions expressed by commentors here do not necessarily represent the views of this blog or its writer.” I just don’t like to feel that I’m supposed to play mediator when people disagree, and yet sometimes I feel like that is what is expected of me. I enjoy that the conversations here often take on a life of their own beyond the original topic (and I often join in, as you know!); I try hard not to take sides or to give the impression that I feel one person’s opinion is more important or more “right” than another. I think everyone’s comments have value. If I have ever at any time given the impression otherwise, then I apologize as that is not my intent. I know it can get very frustrating sometimes when you feel like all of your views are “against the current,” so to speak. I know from my own experience, both here and on other forums, that having an opinion about Michael that occasionally goes against the grain of popular fan opinion can be an uphill battle. In the end, though, we just have to remain true to ourselves and whatever we feel is our particular mission. For many, that is focusing on his art and music. For some, it is dedicating themselves to clearing his name. For others, it is the quest to discover the truth about Sony, the will, his estate, etc. Everyone has to stay true to whatever they feel is their calling. I just happen to have many diverse areas of interest and passion when it comes to Michael, and will always maintain this as a site where many different topics about him can be discussed. Again, not every one of those will be everyone’s cup of tea and I realize that. And sometimes certain topics are necessitated by what’s going on in my personal life. For example, posts about the allegations require a tremendous amount of research. During times when my work load is very demanding (as it is right now) I realize I do not have the time to wade through many, many hours’ worth of dense documents, and I do not like to post those topics when I know I can’t really do justice to them, so I will usually post lighter topics that don’t require as much prep work. But, overall, I do try to keep it diverse and to have a little something for everyone.

      I know you have said many, many times that you prefer to stay focused on Michael’s art. I adore the Dancing With the Elephant blog and what Willa is doing there; obviously, I am a frequent participant there and I will definitely check out your post. But this blog is, and has always been, dedicated to focusing on many aspects of Michael’s life, art and career. In other words, I don’t “specialize” in any one area but try to cover a wide range of topics that interest me about him. That’s largely what has made this blog unique and why readers keep coming back. If they don’t particularly care for this week’s subject, they might come again in a few weeks and find something they love. I am the type of person who would get bored very quickly if I limited my discussions of Michael to one thing because I think it takes understanding all of it-the art, the humanitarian work, the media persecution, the societal perceptions of him, the allegations, etc-to really approach an understanding of who he was and his importance. For me, it’s like choosing to focus on only one or two pieces of the puzzle when it takes all pieces to put the picture together.

      But I do understand where you’re coming from. For example, when I teach my seminars and classes on Michael, the sole focus is on his art. Anything else is only discussed as it may have relevance to his art, but even there it is almost impossible (especially if we are discussing later works such as those from Dangerous or HIStory) to discuss the themes of his songs without also touching upon these other issues. However, I always feel truly invigorated after these sessions and can see for myself how focusing on Michael’s art-not tabloid scandals or necessarily even media persecution-is truly the key to keeping his legacy alive. It is what keeps him relevant to young people studying him today, who have no interest in what the tabloids said about him twenty or thirty years ago.

      1. Raven, obviously we don’t say it enough – thank you so much for building and maintaining this wonderful blog, where informed fans of Michael Jackson can discuss him, and all aspects of his life and experience. We are all well – aware that there are other sites for fans, so it strikes me as ungrateful, even rude, to tout those other spaces here on your site.

        This post is specifically about Michael and LMP’s interview with Diane Sawyer, so it’s appropriate, and instructive to compare and contrast it to Bruce Jenner’s Diane Sawyer interview. We are all too aware that there are “vulnerable populations in our social world”, but there are multitudes of blogs and websites devoted to their troubles. There is nothing wrong with centering MICHAEL JACKSON on this one particular site. There is no need for apology or explanation.

  17. Thanks, Raven, for your comments on the strange time we live in and the PC efforts not to offend anyone (or at least major social and political groups). That is impossible–IMO–as if you are really being honest and stating an opinion, someone, somewhere will end up being offended no matter what. We can’t control other people’s reactions. The PC situation existed back in the early 90’s, where it was gathering force, so I think it has been around for a long time and has gotten to the point–again, IMO–that it has become a lip-service, de rigeur homage to ‘perceived’ truths and people walk on eggshells in PUBLIC statements while under the surface, the real situations are often unchanged. Just as an example that may inflame some, the n-word is seem as horrific racism in some cases, but the real world situation for minorities, especially blacks, is greater levels of inequality in employment, education, income, as we know. But we find it easier to police language than to address these deeper, more problematic issues that take enormous efforts to correct on the part of the nation.

    Look at the situation for women–women of all colors are still paid less than males, and USA is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a constitutional guarantee that women receive equality under the law (Equal Rights Amendment was 3 states short of passing when it was shut down.) How does that help our nation? It doesn’t.

    To get back to Sawyer interview in this context, it’s interesting that for the most part Michael was treated by the media as if they had no fear that he would be seen as a victim of racism or that they could be accused of that. In fact, I was talking to a friend (not an MJ fan) about racism in connection with MJ, and she responded, “It’s hard for me to think of him as a black man.” IMO the media took the fact that he was indeed a black man ( BLACK. MAN) off the table while at the same time viciously being racist to him. Take the term “J—o” which they still use today. Even though many have pointed put it’s racist roots, they just pretend they don’t see it and that it’s an affectionate nickname–what a pathetic situation.

    Also, re the Sawyer interview, she did talk about MJ’s art–she showed the HIStory teaser, and there was a later segment with him in the studio.

  18. We may try to “center” Michael Jackson in a site like this, as Simba suggested; but when the topic is as volatile (and interesting) as Michael Jackson, the periphery will *invariably* travel along with the center, and will rear its (ugly?) head as the occasion demands. When the topic of conversation has anything to do with his treatment by the media, by the courts, the record companies, the music industry, the general public, etc., then what emerges is always already “political”—a word that many people, for some reason, find distasteful.

    So Raven posts about about an interview that was televised twenty years ago: with Diane Sawyer, Michael Jackson, and Lisa Marie Presley as the principal players. Already, that’s a *huuugeee* amount of issues and stuff to unpack.

    By happenstance, in the same week, Diane Sawyer reappears (in real time), interviewing another subject: Bruce Jenner, who is in some stage of a process of transitioning from male to woman. So now we have an even *HUGER* knot to unravel. (It was Simba who first mentioned Jenner in this connection, and I jumped in; but I suspect it would have come up sooner or later, since the interview was much in the news this week.)

    It seems to me that when people talk about Michael’s array of relationships with his intercultural, international, and his VAST public over the years —-filtered through the various media, of course—-they’ll inevitably be talking about power; and so, the conversation most likely include discourses about race, gender, sexuality, generation, age (child/adult), class, fame, nation, and much else that remains (potentially) controversial in the world. It arouses people’s passionate feelings.

    1. Yes, it was definitely by happenstance. I had wanted to do the analysis of the Diane Sawyer interview for a long time, ever since last fall when the discussion of it came up on DWTE. There was no intended correlation to the Bruce Jenner interview (in fact, I wasn’t even aware it was within the same week) but I suppose it’s inevitable that these kinds of comparisons will crop up. The subject of the double standard when it comes to certain aspects of Michael’s treatment by the media in relation to other celebs has already been well played out. The Diane Sawyer interview was twenty years ago and a lot of things HAVE changed, but then again, as the old adage goes, sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. How much would one want to wager that if Michael Jackson somehow miraculously came back to life today and sat down for an interview, the #1 questions would still be, “How many surgeries did you have? and “Did you bleach your skin?” I doubt that even a miraculous resurrection from the other side would usurp those worn out topics, lol!

  19. I totally understand your point, Raven; and I thank you for remaining steadfast in the way you run this blog. I agree that people must do what feels true to them.

    But when any mention that’s made of Michael’s perceived gender fluidity is *automatically* taken as an insult, or as evidence of “the pathological need to emasculate black men” then I, for one, can’t be silent. [Indeed, what about the “pathological need” to deny the play of gender in his appearance, and bind him to a model of conventional masculinity?]

    When one poster who currently participates remarks that prominent black trans women like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock are not women at all, but men who are delusional, then I can’t be silent.

    One poster (awhile back) said “… it affects me when someone goes as far as saying that he was A TRANSGENDER OR A DISGUSTING FREAK and I don’t get where they are coming from….” then I can’t button my lip.

    Surely I can’t be the only person who finds these kinds of locutions offensive, and I can’t hold my tongue simply to maintain the peace and “center” Michael. And all too often, here and elsewhere, the “defense” of Michael Jackson is framed as a vociferous denial of various “accusations” that aren’t even accusations. Then it becomes a space where terms like “gay,” “trans,” “queer,” and even “androgynous” designate everything that is insulting and degrading IN GENERAL.

    In this way, many MJ “defenders” have bought into, and followed, the very narrative his haters established in the first place, rather than seeking an alternative.

    As I’ve said many times: I don’t know what Michael’s personal sexuality was. He was a cis-gendered man, certainly. Were some aspects of his appearance, and his performances, perceived (by me and others) as *gender fluid* or *androgynous*? Yes, sometimes.

    Of course we need to be mindful of the histories of the emasculation of black men, at the hands of whites in power. Even so, I ask: IN WHAT WORLD—in 2015—is a description of Michael Jackson’s performance as “gender fluid” an insult? With so many other stars, and shows, who have made “queer” cool? With all the information that has now come to light about manifestations of gender and sexuality as a *continuum*, not a binary?

    Michael Jackson, as we well know, was ahead of his time in many ways. Stylistically, his oft-remarked “androgyny” might be seen as a continuation of a pop tradition set by David Bowie and others—and also as a harbinger of things yet to come. And as a role model, we know what a tremendous boon he was for the black community, from his childhood on.

    So why not try this narrative: it was Michael Jackson who, over several decades, *enabled* a number of young queer people to accept and esteem themselves, and to feel valued and supported through their difference. Though not trans himself, Michael was among those whose appearance of gender fluidity alongside his blackness encouraged a number of young trans people of color to *be themselves.*

    He was among several pop stars in the 1980s who gave hope and encouragement to a trans friend of mine, growing up at that time as a child in a rural area, with little support. And, as another friend (a mixed race black gay man) has testified, Michael saved his life, as he struggled to understand his identity and gain self-acceptance.

    Would anyone begrudge those who have looked to him as a role model in these ways?

    If we stand to gain some knowledge from the story of Michael’s persecution, it seems to me that these considerations—and not necessarily an emphasis on Michael’s “normalcy” (by the standards of a bigoted society)—-should be part of that knowledge.

    1. I don’t know who the other poster was, but I am the “poster who currently participates” who has the unmitigated gall to state that Janet Mock, born Charles, and Laverne Cox, born Larry, are not women. Oh, the humanities! (No need to be coy – “say my name, you know who I am”. Thanks, Bruno.) Both of them readily concede that they were born male, and because of those pesky XY chromosomes, they’ll be male until the day they die.

      Raven will correct me if I’m mistaken, but I believe I’m the only black poster here who indeed “currently participates”. I happen to think that’s important, because Michael Jackson – remember him? – was actually a black man living and working in the US. I believe I may have some insight into the struggles he had to face because of racism that others here might not possess.

      Understand that black people are very suspicious of white people who seem overly concerned with black sexuality, whether Michael’s the subject or not. We feel that there are nefarious reasons why there are television shows like Fashion Queens and Prancing Elites, featuring flamboyant, heavily made up gay black men. Take a gander:

      There is NO WAY IN HELL that Oxygen and Bravo would air shows like this with white men. Likewise it doesn’t seem accidental that until Bruce Jenner’s interview, Cox and Mock have been the most prominent exemplars of trans America. Cox is featured as one of People Magazine’s “most beautiful women”, and poses nude for Allure, where he says he’s doing it ‘for’ black women as well as trans people.

      One wonders, if trans and queen are so “cool” and wonderful, where are the TV shows with flamboyant white boys? Where are the beautiful white trans women? It may sound paranoid and conspiratorial to non-black people, but it sure looks like good old American black male emasculation to me.

      So when I see a Michael described as “gender fluid”, or androgynous, or even queer, an inspiration to struggling gay youth, it comes across as emasculating code to me. I guess I know too much about the ways of white folk. (Or, in black speak, you ain’t slick, Michael was not about that life.)

      Unlike Bruce Jenner, Michael never went on TV and declared himself gender fluid, androgynous, or gay. On the contrary, he declared himself not gay in a sworn deposition and on other occasions. No matter how much some fans may love the queer, Michael wasn’t one of them. Please, pick somebody else to ‘honor’.

    2. I know where you are coming from in many ways, as someone whose early “indoctrination” into Michael Jackson came from being part of various fan communities. I saw those kinds of reactions-usually in response to some latest tabloid article-over and over. “Michael Jackson was NOT gay or asexual or a freak; he was a NORMAL guy.” iutd is right; those reactions (which I think people do without really thinking that they could be perceived as insensitive or offensive to gay or transgender people) are born out of a kind of long held resentment over what is perceived as the media’s attempt to “emasculate” Michael and to cast him into some realm of “otherness” that is not a threat to the supremacy of the white male ego. Ideally, we should live in a world where Michael Jackson should be perceived as whatever he wished to be perceived as (without mockery, ridicule or the need to project other ideas onto him) but, at the same time and by the same token, one in which fans would not have an automatic meltdown if-God forbid!-we should ever learn that he actually was gay all along (obviously, the “God forbid” is meant to be sarcastic). It is a question I have asked myself, but I know my appreciation for Michael Jackson’s art; my love of who he was and everything he stood for, would not change one iota. However, it would mean a kind of readjustment because obviously it would to some degree alter who Michael was in my eyes. By that, I mean I would probably see him as someone who lived a public lie. Would that make me think less of him? I think not. I think I would be sympathetic to his reasons, but still, any such revelation does have some bearing on you because you realize the person is maybe not quite who you thought they were, and so the perception is altered if not changed. But I am at a point in my fandom now where it would not be the end of my world as I know it, nor would it change anything other than that I might find some of the early stuff I wrote years ago slightly embarrassing. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that ideal world but, rather, one in which all of the prejudices and bigotries of the past will continue to rankle in some form or another. I think that as long as fans continue to perceive that the media and popular culture uses these terms in relation to Michael as a means of being demeaning, derogatory and “emasculating” that is probably how they will continue to be taken.

      Certainly, after reading your comments and also getting to know many MJ fans through the years who are themselves gay, bisexual, and even transgender, I have become a lot more sensitive to these issues in recent years. Michael certainly did not identify himself as either gay or transgender, and on that issue I think we can all agree but I try hard to keep the word “normal” out of all talk of sexuality as it is a completely anachronistic word when it comes to discussing sexuality or gender in any form or fashion. The media’s attempt to “emasculate” Michael as a way of removing the assumed threat of his virility is an issue that I do believe is all too real, but one that must be compartmentalized as a separate issue that has nothing to do with “normal” vs “abnormal.” I agree that we have to move beyond the standards of a bigoted society but that is not a change that can happen overnight. The fans who make those kinds of statements are part of that society and have been conditioned by it, and most of us still have those very gut reactions that are borne out of our conditioning. As long as we live in a society that still equates “gay” with “sissy” and the “p” word, those kinds of reactions will probably prevail, unfortunately.

      1. Raven, if your post is in response to mine, I feel that I have failed utterly in trying to get my point across. I shall try again.

        I never used the words “normal” or “abnormal”, or the pejorative term “freak” to describe anyone. I do believe we have arrived in a bizarro world of Orwellian double-speak, if stating the simple fact that Michael was not gay or transgender, is somehow construed as an insult to those who are. That’s akin to white people being offended if I point out that, vitiligo not withstanding, Michael was actually a black man.

        The prominence of flamboyant gay black men and Laverne Cox in the media is quite a hot button issue in the black community. There is a strong feeling that these images are being shoved down our throats, and anyone who protests is dubbed “homophobic” or “transphobic” by white commentators. Yet, as I pointed out, no similar white men are featured in the mainstream media. At the same time, ‘comedians’ call Michelle Obama a”tranny”, and a Russian tennis official referred to Venus and Serena Williams as the “Williams brothers”. This appears quite deliberate to us. Guess what? We don’t like it. We especially don’t like it when it’s done to Michael Jackson.

        It’s got nothing to do with “the standards of a bigoted society”. Since the days of the tragic Saartjie Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus”, white people have made a sideshow of black sexuality. We know that those who try to place Michael into gay, androgynous, or trans categories are not doing it out of admiration.

        1. It wasn’t in response to you, Simba I meant it as a response to Nina’s comment, and I was only speaking very generally of similar comments I’ve heard fans use through the years.

          I can’t speak for Nina but I sense her objections have more to do with the inflammatory language that some fans use (for example, equating “freak” to being gay or transgender, etc). I agree that it isn’t an insult to gay or transgender people to claim that Michael was a straight male (as he himself proclaimed to be) or at least in an ideal world it shouldn’t be perceived as such. Unfortunately the knee jerk reactions I often see on BOTH sides of this coin stem from very deeply ingrained biases and injustices, and that’s not something that can be eradicated overnight. Fans get defensive because they know, for example, that when a tabloid story circulates claiming that Michael was gay, or that he dressed in women’s clothes, etc, it is a thinly veiled (if indeed we can call it veiled at all) attempt to cast him into the realm of “freakdom.” As usual, I have this cursed ability to see both sides of the issue. I understand exactly where you’re coming from (I suppose as much as is possible for someone who isn’t black) and I understand, I think, where Nina is coming from as well. Her position is that we can’t progress as a society as long as we hold fast to these prejudices, but by the same token we can’t blame fans for reacting the way they do to what is obviously a conspiracy to deny Michael his rightful place as a black man who had potent sex symbol status. It is a very profound and complex issue, and in the case of Michael Jackson-where there are so many people trying to project onto him who they want/need him to be-is certainly not an easy one to untangle.

          Your comment here nailed it pretty good:”Since the days of the tragic Saartjie Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus”, white people have made a sideshow of black sexuality. We know that those who try to place Michael into gay, androgynous, or trans categories are not doing it out of admiration.”

          Exactly. Just like the fans who get upset over those tabloid stories do so because they know those stories don’t come from admiration, but a desire to belittle and ridicule. In other words, the one feeds into the other, and on and on the cycle is perpetuated. I still find it laughable that people actually debate on whether Michael Jackson was sexy. I mean, REALLY? People feel the need to debate this? The man was the epitome of physical perfection and his performances oozed sex. What’s there to debate? Where DID all this asexual nonsense come from?

          As for the issue of flamboyant gay men, I couldn’t help but think back to the old “Men On Film” skits from In Living Color. A big difference, however, was that in those days it was very common to see those kinds of portrayals of white gay men, as well. In the 80’s, we thought nothing of laughing at all of those old stereotypes. Almost every movie would feature at least one gay character, who of course was never the lead (more apt to be the fall guy) and usually the butt of awful jokes. He would usually be portrayed as basically a good and likeable sort, but not someone to be taken very seriously. He might be allowed to “flirt” with the leading character-who, of course, was always straight-but never with any serious intent of having his flirtations requited. These were usually white characters, but now, of course, these kinds of portrayals are considered highly offensive. Today, most male gay characters are portrayed as people who act very normal, rather than the over the top flamboyant characteristics of years past. But black gay characters are still often portrayed in this manner.

          Classic case in point: The Lady Chablis character from Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil (yes, that’s been eighteen years ago but still a good example). In the novel, the John Cusak character was gay, but of course that wouldn’t wash for a Hollywood movie, so they made him straight and even added an annoying straight love plot that had nothing to do with anything. The Lady Chablis, who of course is a real drag queen who lives and performs in Savannah, was used purely for comic relief. She was the clown of the show, whereas Kevin Spacey’s character was portrayed as very much the “straight gay man” (if we could say such a thing is possible). The message sent early on was that: It’s okay to laugh at gay people (or transgender people) as long as we aren’t too mean-spirited; gays are not to be taken seriously, and it’s okay to be gay as long as you’re not the leading character and the lead character doesn’t requite your affections. This seemed to be the code in entertainment for years, but while white gay people have managed to somewhat rise above it, I think it is still an ongoing struggle for black gay people who continue to be viewed and portrayed in a somewhat buffoonish manner. In some ways, it seems to be the last bastion of the old minstrel show mentality. One gets the feeling that these people are performing for the benefit of white laughs. And yes, it is very degrading.

          1. Unlike the Men on Film, Lady Chablis, the Fashion Queens, and the Prancing Elites are real men, not fictional characters. But there is no appreciable difference in the way “Miss” Lawrence and Derek J present themselves on Fashion Queens and the way David Alan Grier and Damon Wayans portrayed the Men on Film. And I could be wrong, but I can’t think of any film where the gay sidekick was as flamboyant as the Queens and the Elites, except perhaps A Low Down Dirty Shame, where the character was black. It is indeed a modern day minstrel show.

            One of the best portrayals of a mature, complex, black gay couple was in Spike Lee’s Get On the Bus, which was about the Million Man March. The theme song On the Line was sung by Michael, who was the biggest single contributor to the real march.

          2. Just one small correction: The Lady Chablis is not a fictional character. That is her real name (well, her real persona name, anyway) and she is a real person who still performs in Savannah. She was basically just playing herself in the film-that was the real deal. She was chosen, as were several others, to represent Savannah’s colorful eccentric characters. Well, she is a colorful character all right! But in being herself, she was used to exploit a stereotype, unfortunately.

  20. I think the problem with this idea of gender fluidity re MJ is that the tabloids were painting him as a ‘white woman’ and a freak, so when fans seem to make comments in the same vein , if if the intention is not the same as the tabs (to denigrate and mock), other fans get upset about perpetuating the tabloid idea of sexual ambiguity on a physical level, including sexuality. Personally, I do not see MJ as gender fluid, except on a psychological level, meaning he crossed the barriers of what is acceptable ‘male’ and ‘female’ as far as behavioral codes (like big boys don’t cry, don’t show openly their love and tenderness, etc).

    To me, he is a totally HOT male, very sexy. The fact that he choose to wear long hair is not a sign of gender fluidity to me. Barry Gibb (and of course many others) chose to wear long hair–it was more an anti-establishment thing than a gender fuild thing IMO (like the hippies, Native Americans, etc). He did cut his hair for LMP, but after she went away, he went right back to the long hair. The fact that he wore make-up seems directly related to his vitiligo and the need to cover it up in various ways, either with dark make-up or with a lighter one as the vitiligo spread. Then, to stop looking like an albino or a ghost, he wore make-up, lipstick, color tattoos, etc–but this seems more related to a physical disease than a gender fluid choice made without any such impetus. He certainly flaunted his male body in ways that drove many wild!

    Here is one video that does indeed drive me wild (on a personal level). And where is the gender fluidity here? Whopps, can’t find it now–will post it later (it’s ‘Shake Your Body’ from the Bad Yokahama performance).

    1. He was definitely HOT in that performance! Of course, speaking of this as a performance exemplifying his masculinity and as one without “gender ambiguity,” I do recall a lot of jokes back in the day about those male backup dancers on the Bad tour. They definitely seemed to be playing up a very campy “Village People” kind of vibe. But in a way it was a genius move; Michael probably knew his own brand of male sexuality would serve as a striking contrast against their campiness.

      But as we know, those persistent jabs about Michael’s sexuality were being circulated as far back as the mid 80’s. The song “Rumors,” a 1986 hit by the band Timex Social Club, referred to this in the line that begins at 1:21 “Did you hear the one about Michael/Some say he must be gay/I try to argue/But they say if he was straight he wouldn’t move that way” (it was also rumored that “Tina” and “Susan” were references to Tina Turner and Susan Anton) This was one of those songs-one of those one hit wonder bands-that I had completely forgotten about, and then one day I heard this on an oldies station and I was thinking, “Wow, I remember that, and how people were saying that line was about Michael Jackson.” It goes to show that the questions of Michael’s sexuality began long before the era of his false eyelashes tattooed lips, and long, coifed hair:

  21. The problem is that everyone projects their idea of sexuality, gender, culture and even race on him, critics as well as fans. Maybe with 80s ignorance we could attribute wearing make up, long hair, flamboyant /feminine clothes or being a male single parent to gender ambiguity, fluidity , queer etc . But in 2015 it is redundant and stereotyping.

    The only thing Michael ever said about his sexuality is that he was not gay and re virginity that he was a gentleman . We know that he had relationships with women of which going by LMs words – at least one was consumated . But relationships with women do not exclude relationships with men, which is not the same as being gay.
    Ergo, we the public can speculate forever about Michaels sexuality , but because we are sympathetic towards him does not make it more justified than if the tabloids do it. Any qualification of his gender, sexual preference and the whole terminology that goes with it: genderfluid , gender or sexually ambiguous , defying bounderies or other synonymous to make him into some kind of different breed than other humans has in it the suggestion that he did not have an identity or a sense of boundary. Which imo is a slippery slope considering what he is accused of. It is as disrespectful as is calling him a (hetero) sexual beast .
    Do I personally believe or condone everything that Michael has said and done over the years : absolutely not, and I will never defend or excuse it because I hold him to the same standards as other human beings.
    But because his music and art is open for interpretation, does not mean his private life is or should be .

    1. Anytime this topic comes up, I am always reminded of this excellent video and the scene at 11:17 where he is running (taken from Moonwalker, of course) and finally cornered. As the guns point to him like a hunted prey that has been cornered, the questions are superimposed: Male? White? Straight? Gay? Female? Black? It remains one of the best and most succint examples I have seen of how these never-ending questions dogged Michael throughout his career (and continue even after death). The video heightens the utter absurdity and also the sheer frustration, confusion, anger and even fear (perhaps) of being this person whom so many are trying to project upon and to pigeonhole.

      1. Thanks so much for this video, Raven. It seems there are a few of them made by this person, all on the theme of the threat Michael posed to the status quo.

        This is exceptionally well-edited, and it really brings into sharp focus the way some images of his facial expressions, gestures, and characterizations seem to “echo” and carry over from one film into another. The filmmaker lays out these similar “matching” images alongside each other, which makes Michael’s brilliant repertoire of recurring motifs even more apparent. The sound design, too, is excellent here. This person did a really fine job of editing existing material (unlike many fan-made videos).

        I also noted some portions of the text—right around the place you suggested “(Male? White? Gay? Straight? Female? Black?)” Some sentences were actually taken from Susan Fast’s important essay, “Difference that Exceeded Understanding: Remembering Michael Jackson (1958-2009), which appeared in the journal Popular Music and Society, From May 2010. She writes:

        “…. Bubbles the chimp, the black surgical masks, the rumor that he wanted to buy the Elephant Man’s bones, some of this surely calculated to attract attention), it was really his more substantive, underlying differences that were most troubling— racial, gendered, able-bodied/disabled, child/teenager/adult, adult man who loved children, father/mother. These differences were impenetrable, uncontainable, and they created enormous anxiety. Please be black, Michael, or white, or gay or straight, father or mother, father to children, not a child yourself, so we at least know how to direct our liberal (in)tolerance. And try not to confuse all the codes simultaneously. Jackson tested the boundaries of subjectivity, not with the ironic distance of his contemporaries, Madonna and Prince, but with his heart on his sleeve, and he eventually lost.”

        I also like the theme of giantism this filmmaker is playing with. I remember being scared out of my wits when I saw a horror movie called “The Amazing Colossal Man” on TV when I was a kid; today, this film, alongside other classics like “The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman,” is a great example of cheesy camp horror…. sort of like that giant inflatable creature in the Twilight Zone episode in this YouTube video, which is set alongside the giant “monster” that Michael at one point becomes in “Ghosts,” forcing the Mayor to look up to him.

        Another instance of giantism, from recent events: the idea of a scary black man as a “giant monster” has been echoed by people in law enforcement ways that reinforce a dominant stereotype of threatening black masculinity. For example, Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer who was *not* indicted in the killing of Mike Brown, testified that Brown was like “Hulk Hogan.” Wilson says:

        “And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” Wilson said of his struggle with Brown. “That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.” Wilson told grand jurors that when he and Brown struggled over the officer’s gun, Brown “had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

        The upshot, or final “message” of this piece, is displayed in the text on the screen. This seems to be the culmination of the themes that the images (and text, drawn from Susan Fast) have indicated throughout. The titles read:


        This, it seems to me, is one element that really goes to the heart of the way Michael was treated, by the tabloid media and other conservative forces in our culture. The Mayor of Normal Valley, determined at all costs to protect the status quo that the Maestro (by his very unlocatable *difference*) imperils, lays siege to the Maestro’s home and everything that symbolizes that difference.

        Sadly, it’s not only the press that—in a general way—subscribes to this form of prejudice (fear driven by the unknown), but often the fans themselves, who are determined to *define* Michael in a way that eliminates the very paradoxes and ambiguities that fill his performances and persona with that unmistakable charisma that we love so well.

    2. “But relationships with women do not exclude relationships with men, which is not the same as being gay.”

      If men having sex with other men is not the same as gay, what is it?

      1. Actually anyone can have sex with anyone , that is a choice and there are many people who experiment with same sexe sex without being homosexual.
        Being homosexual(gay) is not a choice, but a sexual orientation that is biologically determind, the brain is ‘wired’ like that . It is generally accepted and evidence based .
        Some people are bisexual= equally attracted to women and men.
        Neuroscientist D. F. Swaab was one of the first who did research on it. He wrote a popular comprehensive work on brainfuction called We are our brains, a neurobiography of the brain from the womb to alzheimer.
        He is quite extreme in his opinion that we are predestined by our biological make up and you have to put it in the right perspective, but he is very convincing and a its a real eyeopener.
        You will understand why gender fluidity , from a biological pov is plausible and not as far fetched as you may think.

        @ Raven said that she is against the label Normal for sexuality, and so am I , if it is seen as better or dominant and if minorities are discriminated upon. But if we read ‘normal’ as the standard of how the majority of the population behaves re relationships and sexuality it is not offensive at all. The majority of the male population happens to be heterosexual ,has a relationship with a woman, and has a wish to marry and start a family . Michael fitted more in the ‘normal ‘category than in the category of gender or sexual minorities. He married twice with the intention to start a family, surrogate aside, both his marriages ended in divorce, which is not out of the order for most celebrity marriages , he became a single parent, which is not happening on a large scale yet , but he was definetely not the first male who raised his children alone. E.g.Sammy Davis jr was raised by his father after his parents divorced.
        So with this explanation I do not have a problem to call what the majority does Normal.

    3. “The problem is that everyone projects their idea of sexuality, gender, culture and even race on him, critics as well as fans. ” (Sina)

      Exactly, Sina. (I don’t know if I’d even call it a “problem,” so much as an inevitable fact of life for an iconic figure.) And so we must acknowledge that a description of him as a conventionally masculine, and heteronormative man is JUST as much a projection—and a product of someone’s idea—as any other way of describing him.

  22. “Male? White? Straight? Gay? Female? Black? ”

    Yet this is a narrow range of options in some senses. I think part of the confusion people had/have is that no one really considers what he meant by the term “gentleman,” light of his J.W. background. LaToya’s first book makes it clear how restricted the children were–at least during the time they were under the parental roof. She said the rule was you could only leave home if you left to get married. Randy broke that rule, according to her, and of course Michael, but the rest did obey it. Dating was only for the purpose of marriage. The parents made it clear who was acceptable, as date and potential marriage partner, and who was not. Those who went with the J.W. ‘s (Michael, Latoya, Rebbie) were told that sex before marriage was out of line.

    So–to get back to the questions–the word ‘celibate’ in our sex-obsessed culture is literally outside of most people’s comprehension. The very idea made people uncomfortable b/c it’s a given that only weirdos/old maids and priests/nuns are celibate. Who in our sex-addled culture could think a hot, male, with sex appeal oozing out of him, could deliberately choose celibacy, at least for a good part of his early manhood.

    1. “So–to get back to the questions–the word ‘celibate’ in our sex-obsessed culture is literally outside of most people’s comprehension. The very idea made people uncomfortable b/c it’s a given that only weirdos/old maids and priests/nuns are celibate. Who in our sex-addled culture could think a hot, male, with sex appeal oozing out of him, could deliberately choose celibacy, at least for a good part of his early manhood.”


      Which is what got him in trouble, IMO. Because he protected his private life so much people filled in the gaps with their own fantasies (or with fantasies and narratives people like Victor Guiterrez and Evan Chandler offered to them). “Celibate” is suspicious in most people’s book because they cannot imagine themselves to be celibate. So they think it must be a front to hide something sinister.

      On the other hand, “gentleman” is not necessarily meant to be “celibate” IMO. It could mean simply that he would not talk about his sex life and relationships because gentlemen do not talk about such things publicly.

  23. When Diane Sawyer in this interview asked Michael where his androginous look came from, he said that It created itself, by nature. I think in part it’s true, because of his skin disease that made wearing make-up a necessity and the pepsi burn that made wearing weaves and wigs necessary. According to Debbie Rowe and Karen Faye, Michael hated wearing wigs and tried to grow his hair back through scalp surgery, but didn’t work out. But for another part, he explored those things in a artistic way. I don’t think he was offended by being percieved as androginous, what he doesn’t like was the rumors that he wanted to be a woman, because this wasn’t true. He was a very sensitive man, and sensitivity is generally atributed to woman. Like he said, he was like Katherine in this sense.

    If you analise his actions, he was in some ways the authentic male, especially when you consider his relationship with Lisa Marie. How Lisa Marie said that for the first time she felt like a “female” in a relationship because she wasn’t the one who was running the house.

    One thing that became trend in some groups of the fanbase is to claim Michael as mysoginist based on his supposed quotes in those shmuley tapes. His remarks about his marriage with Lisa Marie, about women in general, about Monica Lewinsky, about Madonna are being used as a “evidence” that he had “mysoginistic tendencies”. Shmuley too had this opinion because he felt that Michael didn’t have capacity to sustain a meaningful adult relationship with a woman because he distrusted all of them with the exception of Katherine (whom he idolized almost as saintly) and was imature emotionally. I don’t agree with this view of him, but i see more and more fans claim this as a fact.

    1. Re. alleged mysoginy. I think Michael had a very idealized and rather conservative view of women. He liked women to be classy. While he talked down on Madonna he idealized Lady Diana, for example. He did not have respect for women who used their sexuality in public ways. On the other hand, like all of us, he had his contradictions: while he talked down on Madonna using her sexuality, we know he had those porn magazines in his home, which is not quite in harmony with that view – and yes, in a way hypocritical of him. But he is not the only man with such a hypocrisy at all, far from it. It’s pretty common among men, actually.

      “Bad women” – Dirty Dianas, Billie Jeans, Susies and streetwalkers – were a recurring theme of his songs. To me it seems that those type of women interested and excited him, but while there was some sort of attraction to such women on his part, he would have never contemplated a serious – or any – relationship with such a woman in real life. When he thought about wife material I think he thought about pure and classy women. (Well, LMP wasn’t really the epitome of class, but look how her look changed while she was with Michael! It was her classiest, most lady-like period! I don’t think that’s a coincidence.) But this type of hypocrisy about female sexuality is pretty common among heterosexual men. I don’t think MJ was a mysoginist generally, but I also do not think he could be turn into a feminist hero. He did hold views of women which would upset feminists. (I have seen one feminist article heavily criticizing his song Abortion Papers.)

      1. “he did hold views of women which would upset feminists”.

        You do not have to be a feminist, not even a woman , to acknowledge that its the épitome’ of machissmo to think that because you marry a woman she owes you children asap, that you can get them on demand , threaten her to have them with someone else if she doesnt hurry up and actually doing it while still married. There is nothing classy about that. IMO.

      2. I agree with you, i think his views were alligned with the views of men of his age. He was born in the 1950s. I think his songs about women are influenced by his experiences as a child star, the famous “groupies”, coupled with his conservative upbring as a jehovah witness shaped his views. In my opinion, he expected a woman to be a “lady” in the streets and a “freak” in the sheets. That was the norm back in the day. I simply don’t see him actually hating women, i think based on his early experiences, he wouldn’t never know if they really loved him for him or for his money/fame.

  24. Sina says,
    “Any qualification of his gender, sexual preference and the whole terminology that goes with it: genderfluid , gender or sexually ambiguous , defying bounderies or other synonymous to make him into some kind of different breed than other humans has in it the suggestion that he did not have an identity or a sense of boundary. Which imo is a slippery slope considering what he is accused of.”

    Sina, do you mean to say that those who may regard themselves as “gender fluid,” “sexually ambiguous” and the like, are somehow non-human? I certainly hope that’s not what you’re implying.

    To be considered “a different ‘breed’ other than human” on this basis would certainly be (unwelcome) news to any number of queer and transgender people today.

    As for that “slippery slope”: you should know that for many years, the gay community has worked assiduously to debunk the very destructive fabrication that many people, in their ignorance and fear, have been captive to: that homosexuality is somehow connected with pedophilia.

    It should hardly be necessary, in 2015, for me to say that this is a complete myth. Being gay, after all, is no longer classified as a crime. It’s no longer even widely reviled: most Americans, for example, favor marriage equality, and same-sex marriage is now legal in 41 states!

    In view of this, I think it’s time for folks to reconsider the larger implications of the language they’re using to “defend” Michael Jackson.

    1. Sina, do you mean to say that those who may regard themselves as “gender fluid,” “sexually ambiguous” and the like, are somehow non-human? I certainly hope that’s not what you’re implying.
      To be considered “a different ‘breed’ other than human” on this basis would certainly be (unwelcome) news to any number of queer and transgender people today.

      @ Nina You know very well that is not what I mean . You would know If you had read my whole comment and other comments and not quote a line that gives that impression.
      Please do not act as if you are THE advocate for minorities, it gets quite annoying.
      I dont think I have to excuse myself but if it helps YOU, I have rallied for many causes and groups , including gays from the time when aids became rampant . Some of my best friends are gay, familymembers are, and I know transgenders , one who is in the middle of her transition , We actually even joke about it .
      To you that may sound special but I dont see it as a big deal.
      I damn well know the difference between homosexuality and pedophilia , but suggesting that he has no sexual boundaries can mean anything do you understand that?
      Last but not least I reject political correctness of any kind and to me you cannot put a label on someones gender or sexuality
      ( pigeonhole him so to speak) without actual proof , period.

  25. And one another thing I’d like to say about Diane Sawyer. She interviewed LMP in the early 2000s and she acted totally unprofessional in that interview as well. She expressed disbelief, even disgust over the fact that Lisa was sexually attracted to Michael. How can she sit down with someone like Bruce Jenner and act all tolerant and open-minded and understanding and accepting of difference when she talks about MJ like that? These type of things expose journalists like her for how they REALLY feel about anyone who is different. Had she said anything about Jenner’s look or person LGBT organizations would have been all up in arms, but it was open season on Michael, since he did not belong to any such groups.

    1. Suzy, I think this may be the interview you are referring to.

      It’s hard to believe she considers herself a journalist and his held in high esteem by others.

      What a mean spirited, hateful thing to say, but alas, she never gets called on the carpet for it.

      1. Yes, that’s what I meant. Unfortunately Lisa does not handle the situation very well, she lets Sawyer push her on the defensive about it, but then this was the period where she was angry with Michael and also she was never really good and articulate in interviews.

        1. I was shocked when i saw that interview for the first time, it was really offensive how Diane Sawyer insulted both Lisa Marie and Michael Jackson with her tone and facial expression. She acted like Michael wasn’t a human being able to appeal sexually at another human being. It was absolutely unacceptable. Lisa Marie is really bad in interviews and she gave so much interviews during the promotion of her first two records. All of the “interviewers” had a easy time to put her on the defensive mode about her personal life, and those interviews didn’t help her image at all. She came across at bitter and imature, in my opinion.

          I remember Lisa Marie saying in one of her old interviews that she didn’t recognize herself during this interview with Michael because she was acting like a “lioness” trying to protect him. Priscilla said the same. Some articles that i read from that time, attested how she tried to defend and justify everything that he did. Actually It was one of her most articulate interview, Michael made sure that Diane didn’t cut her off.

      2. I remember this one..It was so insulting..
        How could Elvis daughter have thought he was hot.?
        As if you would have to be out of your mind to find him , attractive , even sexy
        He is being cast as deceptive, because D Sawyer is effectively telling the viewers he cant be trusted , he is somehow sinister and calculating .
        Some how he must have bamboozled LMP.

        It is interesting looking back in this clip because it reminds me of the prosecutors saying that LMP and MJ never lived together at Neverland, citing it as evidence that the marriage was staged. He wasnt into women.
        That kind of stuff
        But here she is saying he would stay at her house , which makes sense because she had school age children , who naturally would have been enrolled in a particular school and that is where their classmates and friends would be ..
        And after MJ died , an interview was done with LMP daughter who is an actress and she talked about MJ driving her to school in the mornings saying he was a really cool stepdad for a short period of time , so she is being truthful in this interview
        At any rate it is amazing looking back at this , how determined Sawyer is to cast him in a negative light.
        Im sure the tone of the interview was determined by ABC honchos in advance.

        1. “He is being cast as deceptive, because D Sawyer is effectively telling the viewers he cant be trusted , he is somehow sinister and calculating .
          Some how he must have bamboozled LMP.”

          Yes, and LMP to “save face” for herself plays on that too during this period in her life. She seems to have been bullied into this feeling of embarrassment over her attraction for Michael. Of course, this also comes from her anger at the time because Michael did not take her back. So now her attraction to him was suddenly because Michael “manipulated her” – directly playing into that media narrative about MJ and playing some sort of victim. Of course that whole attitute is BS.

          1. These are always such slippery slope issues, as well. Michael COULD be manipulative and calculative. Most successful people are. He was always at least five steps ahead in gauging how his every move would be perceived by the public (and when he wasn’t, he had plenty of people in his ear advising him as such). But again, we have to remember that this was a man conditioned by being raised in show business and having had the spotlight on him since he was wee high. But the media’s ploy was to portray him as a kind of “evil genius” on a par with Machiavelli. I believe that Lisa did at times have reason to feel manipulated in that relationship, but she was definitely not the “poor, hoodwinked little princess” in this relationship that the media tried to portray. Michael and Lisa were BOTH calculating and knew what they wanted. They used each other in various ways, and she was very much a persuer in that relationship. But it’s interesting that even in this phase, she never denies it was a real marriage and a real attraction. This would have been the perfect time for her to “save face” for herself if that had been the case. The fact that she never did, even during this bitterest phase, speaks volumes.

  26. Diane Sawyer was likely over – compensating. She must be aware of the rumors about her own sexuality, that she is a closeted lesbian, involved in an affair with a famous writer. She and her late husband Mike Nichols have been fodder for gossip sites for years.

    1. Well, we know that Michael Jackson was also fodder for gossip rags for years. Does that mean we believe the content of the gossip sites? Or that his displays of normative, heterosexual masculinity (including his marriage to Lisa Marie) was a form of “overcompensation” for the rumors that surrounded him?

      Fair is fair: if we use a principle, let’s apply it consistently.

      If you are using a rumor about Diane Sawyer’s possible lesbianism (and I don’t know anything about this, nor do I care) as a means of discrediting her trustworthiness as a journalist, then your statement pretty accurately reflects your own prejudices and tells us nothing about Diane Sawyer herself.

  27. Sina says,

    “@ Nina You know very well that is not what I mean . You would know If you had read my whole comment and other comments and not quote a line that gives that impression.
    Please do not act as if you are THE advocate for minorities, it gets quite annoying.
    “I dont think I have to excuse myself but if it helps YOU, I have rallied for many causes and groups , including gays from the time when aids became rampant . Some of my best friends are gay, familymembers are, and I know transgenders , one who is in the middle of her transition , We actually even joke about it .
    To you that may sound special but I dont see it as a big deal.”

    Sina, I actually *didn’t* know what you meant. I was asking for clarification for something you wrote that, to me, was worded ambiguously. Also, please try not to take this as a personal attack that requires you to somehow “prove” your lack of prejudice.

    The argument “some of my best friends are _________” has long been understood as a kind of lame excuse in this regard: in fact, I was disappointed to hear Michael himself use this very same locution when Sawyer asked him about the possibility of antisemitism in his lyrics for “They Don’t Care About Us.” (I personally don’t believe Michael meant any harm by writing these lyrics—but that’s another well-worn controversy.)

    Lastly, there’s a tendency for some people to regard “PC” (“political correctness”) as a constricting dogma that’s designed to silence their right to free expression. Instead, I’m asking folks to become more attuned to their use of language; the ways it may reflect prejudices of which they may not be aware. You may think I have an annoying tendency to “[act] like THE advocate for minorities”; but I pose my comments in the hopes that we can all develop a greater sensitivity to the *many* modes of discrimination that permeate the consciousness of those who were raised in this culture. (Admittedly, this process is bound to disturb some, who see it as just another instance of being “PC.”)

  28. Simba says,
    “I never used the words “normal” or “abnormal”, or the pejorative term “freak” to describe anyone. I do believe we have arrived in a bizarro world of Orwellian double-speak, if stating the simple fact that Michael was not gay or transgender, is somehow construed as an insult to those who are.”

    Simba, it’s not yours or other fans’ factual statement hat “Michael is not gay” or “Michael is not transgender” that is the issue here. (Let’s keep these two statements separate, so as not to imply that both are abject “abnormalities”).

    A problem arises, however, when this argument is deployed, presumably in Michael’s “defense” (as if being gay is an “accusation”!) in a way that indicates fans’ OWN adherence to the tabloids’ underlying attitudes: that there’s actually something WRONG with queer identities (like gay, transgender, being a femme man, etc.).

    I don’t know whether some fans are even aware of how much they reveal about their own attitudes when they take up this kind of rhetoric in “defending” Michael from his detractors. To me, “Orwellian double-speak” occurs when people aren’t even willing to LOOK at what it is they’re saying, and remain unaware that they’ve unwittingly taken on the very language of bigotry—in all its varieties—that is deeply embedded in our culture. As Raven said, it’s a profound and complex issue.

    On the other hand, Simba, you have been very upfront about your aversion to queer folks, and have never tried to deny that you hold them in the utmost contempt. So I have to say I at least appreciate your honesty (lol)!

    (BTW, I don’t know of any white commentators—-besides myself—-who holds MJ’s fans’ feet to the fire the way in the way I have. On other fan sites, I’ve found that most participants, across race, agree with your basic premise—- even if they pay lip service to some kind of LFBTQ “tolerance”).

    You say,
    “The prominence of flamboyant gay black men and Laverne Cox in the media is quite a hot button issue in the black community. There is a strong feeling that these images are being shoved down our throats, and anyone who protests is dubbed “homophobic” or “transphobic” by white commentators. ”

    In real life and in our online existence, I think we all tend to gravitate toward people who think (roughly) as we do about the issues of our time. My Facebook friends and “likes” my bookmarks, the sites I regularly visit, inform me that an overwhelming amount of *support* and *affirmation* of figures like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and the Prancing Elites (and their self-described identities) comes just AS MUCH from black commentators as from white ones. As for Michael Jackson—as I’ve said—I seem to be the only *regular* on fan sites who consistently “badgers” people on these issues (!)

    Let’s look at the whole idea of “shoving images down our throats.”

    Every day, year in and year out, we are surrounded (indeed, bombarded) by images of heterosexual love, sex, and partnership. On the cover and pages of every magazine, every billboard, television show, film, in fact ANY publicly-displayed images—and the stories that go with them—constitute a huge stockpile that not only documents, but actively PROMOTES heterosexuality and normative gender expression as the ONLY mode of existence that constitutes belonging, or full membership in the human community. And this bias of omission—quite an overt one, in fact—held sway until very recently in our media culture.

    What must the emotional cost have been (and even the physical cost, given the violence against LGBT bodies of ALL races), when for DECADES, queer people of all stripes were emphatically told that they didn’t exist, because these heteronormative images were constantly being “shoved down [their] throats”?

    As I say: fair is fair.

  29. Simba, Let’s try another thought experiment.

    “By November 2000, interracial marriage had been legal in every state for more than three decades thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia (1967) – but the Alabama State Constitution still contained an unenforceable ban […. ] The Alabama State Legislature stubbornly clung to the old language as a symbolic statement of the state’s views on interracial marriage; as recently as 1998, House leaders successfully killed attempts to remove Section 102. When voters finally had the opportunity to remove the language, the outcome was surprisingly close: although 59% of voters supported removing the language, 41% favored keeping it. Interracial marriage remains controversial in the Deep South, where a 2011 poll found that a plurality of Mississippi Republicans still support anti-miscegenation laws.”

    What if we were to argue with these people, pointing out that this atavistic, backward form of bigotry was harmful to society as a whole? And what if we pointed to some interracial couples in public life (say, celebrities) whose marriages work, without any apparent harm to the body politic? Might these holdouts in Alabama then accuse us of “shoving these images down our throats”?

    I know you may object to these analogies; and I AM aware that different histories and politics apply to both these movements. But the psychology of bigotry, and much of the rhetoric that gets used in defending and perpetuating it, is strikingly similar.

  30. Nina Y F sats, “Or that his displays of normative, heterosexual masculinity (including his marriage to Lisa Marie) was a form of “overcompensation” for the rumors that surrounded him?”

    Many people, including dedicated fans, found The Kiss a bit over the top on Michael’s part, especially since LMP did not look at all comfortable with it. I think he did feel that he had something to prove, because of the constant gossip about his sexuality, and was indeed over-compensating.

    Whether the rumors about Diane Sawyer say anything about her as a reporter is a subjective opinion. But I didn’t make them up. Over-compensating is not unusual – recently yet another vocal anti-gay right winger has been outed as gay himself.

    ” My Facebook friends and “likes” my bookmarks, the sites I regularly visit, inform me that an overwhelming amount of *support* and *affirmation* of figures like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and the Prancing Elites (and their self-described identities) comes just AS MUCH from black commentators as from white ones.”

    It could be that your Facebook friends and “likes” are not representative of the black community in general. You write, “Fair is fair: if we use a principle, let’s apply it consistently.” This is precisely my point – where are the white equivalents in the media of Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and the Prancing Elites, for white people as well as black people to support and affirm? When has a white transgender male been on the cover of Redbook or People as a woman, or featured in Allure as part of their annual beautiful nude women issue? The media powers that promote those images of black men don’t do it because they’re pro trans. If they were, there would be white transgenders and queens all over the place. Where is your outrage over this appalling lack of representation? Fair is fair.

    I am not “defending” Michael when I say he was not gay or transgender. That’s your interpretation, perhaps because it suits your personal agenda.

    I’m not surprised by attitudes toward interracial marriage in Alabama or any other state. I don’t believe that most Americans approve of interracial marriage; I believe that, just as with same sex marriage, they don’t care one way or another. Arguing is a waste of time. I never felt the need to justify my interracial marriage. As long as people stayed out of our business, I didn’t give a damn what they thought about it. Over the years, that has worked out just fine.

  31. Simba says,
    “When has a white transgender male been on the cover of Redbook or People as a woman, or featured in Allure as part of their annual beautiful nude women issue? The media powers that promote those images of black men don’t do it because they’re pro trans. If they were, there would be white transgenders and queens all over the place.”

    Your assumption that the editors and producers of TIME, Allure, Oxygen TV, Netflix, etc. aren’t “pro-trans” mirrors your belief that they *must* share your view: that images of queer and gender-variant people of ANY race must necessarily be humiliating, demeaning, abject, and inferior; otherwise we’d be seeing a lot more white trans people in our media.

    I think this is a patently false assumption. For one thing, there have been quite a number of white gay men and women, and white femme men in popular culture over the past several decades in movies and TV. Will and Grace, TransAmerica, the Dallas Buyer’s Club, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The L Word, and “Ellen,” for Pete’s sake, come immediately to mind (butch women as well as trans men remain underrepresented, although occasionally we see these: e.g., the movie “Boys Don’t Cry.”)

    If people like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have come to the fore recently, it may be because this accords with their ideas of inclusivity (in a positive sense), as well as increasing popular awareness of the concept of “intersectionality”—once the province of the academy, and now making its way into popular culture.

    Unlike you and perhaps Raven, I see nothing “nefarious” about the way Cox and Mock (and even the Prancing Elites) are depicted. Raven writes:

    “This seemed to be the code in entertainment for years, but while white gay people have managed to somewhat rise above it, I think it is still an ongoing struggle for black gay people who continue to be viewed and portrayed in a somewhat buffoonish manner. In some ways, it seems to be the last bastion of the old minstrel show mentality. One gets the feeling that these people are performing for the benefit of white laughs. And yes, it is very degrading.”

    Maybe it’s not so much that white gay people have “managed” to rise above it, but that an *impression* of specifically black buffoonery has been seared into our historical memory in a way that may be difficult to expunge. The “optic” persists.

    But in emphasizing *this* performative aspect of black performance, it’s almost as though you are making the exclusion of queer blacks—their excision from the public view—a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words: people have a problem with black femme men because they’re not used to it—-therefore, let’s not show it, and guarantee that it’ll remain a problem!

    Yet keeping people who have been historically marginalized (on whatever basis) invisible has never helped to raise public awareness, nor has it ever served the communities to which they belong. There was a time when showing black people on television (in ANY context) was considered off-limits. It wasn’t the “done thing” until someone had the courage to do it. I suggest that *inclusion* is a better strategy, however imperfectly it might turn out.

    It may be different for me because I’ve been well used to hanging out in queer spaces most of my adult life, and I’ve seen a broad diversity of queer expression; from the most “respectable” suit-and-tie style to those who are—frankly—-“screaming queens,” as well as stone butches, and anything else that might be imagined. In an ideal world, people would be WHO THEY ARE, represent themselves AS THEY WISH, and manifest in the manner of THEIR OWN choosing. In the white queer world, support for this idea has been gaining considerable ground. Why should black queer people be denied this kind of liberty?

    Though I ask this question earnestly, I think I understand where the objection is coming from. Simba, I had been going to mention Saartjie Baartman (the “Hottentot Venus”) and the ways that black sexuality has historically been displayed for the delectation and amusement of white spectators. This is indeed an abusive relic, which persists today, of a deeply racist and colonialist mentality. It also includes figures like Ota Benga, who (in a less sexualized manner) was put on display at the Louisiana purchase exposition in St. Louis in 1904, and later at the “monkey house” in the Bronx Zoo. In fact, Ishmael Reed has an interesting essay that echoes much of what you’ve expressed in this regard, “MJ, Kobe, and Ota Benga: Continuing the U.S. War against Black Men.” In it, he details the way prominent black men have been skewered by the media (and mainly by white feminists). His critique focuses on the way Kobe Bryan, O.J. Simpson, MJ, and other black men have been criminalized and held up for display as “freaks.” About Ota Benga, he quotes a New York Times opinion writer from September 11, 1906:

    “As for Benga himself, he is probably enjoying himself as well as he could anywhere in his country, and it is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation he is suffering. The pygmies are a fairly efficient people in their native forests with enough intelligence to be considered successful hunters and to secret themselves from hostile—that is, other tribes, but they are very low on the human scale.”

    About Michael’s predicament during the 2005 trial, Reed writes:

    “Jackson’s arriving twenty minutes late and “sauntering” into the courtroom and then standing on top of a car to greet his fans was criticized for hours. The nigger wasn’t humble enough for them. They wanted him to arrive on a mule cart dressed in overalls and bow before the judge with his hands clasped behind his back, the way natives used to salute their colonial masters. Of course, later in the day, the CNN anchorwomen led by Nancy Grace and some other women, including some low-grade trashy tabloid types from something called Celebrity TV, came in to do clean-up duty on Jackson on the Larry King Show. This was another all-white media jury…..”

    [In the book by Ishmael Reed, “Mixing it Up: Taking on the Media Bullies and Other Reflections.”]

    These histories, in my opinion, should form an essential part of any study how we have come to this pass in white supremacist America, where black and brown bodies continue to live in peril of extra-legal abuse, torture, and murder, to this day.

    But I’d argue: it’s precisely *because* of our awareness of these histories that it’s absolutely IMPERATIVE that we make a distinction between them and the contemporary instances of Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, the Prancing Elites, and other performers like them. It would be well worth looking more closely at these essential distinctions.

    Raven, Janet Mock has written a memoir called “Redefining Realness”; and both she and Laverne Cox have been extensively interviewed on transgender issues, the intersection of gender and race in their lives, and what what their journeys have been about. Here’s an in-studio discussion they did at HuffPost Live with Marc Lamont Hill, with other guests Mark Anthony Neal (who has taught courses on Michael Jackson at Duke University) and Mychal Denzel Smith. “DJ Mr. Cee and the Invisibility of Black Trans-Women,” You can find it on Neal’s site, “New Black Man,” here:

    1. Nina Y F says, “there have been quite a number of white gay men and women, and white femme men in popular culture over the past several decades in movies and TV. Will and Grace, TransAmerica, the Dallas Buyer’s Club, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The L Word, and “Ellen,” for Pete’s sake, come immediately to mind (butch women as well as trans men remain underrepresented, although occasionally we see these: e.g., the movie “Boys Don’t Cry.”)”

      As far as is known, the majority of the white actors who portrayed gay characters on those programs are not gay, and the ones who are gay, like Sean Hayes and Ellen DeGeneres, are not overtly femme or butch. There is no white equivalent of the Fashion Queens or the Prancing Elites in the popular media, “screaming queens” who appear as themselves, not fictional characters.

      It’s intellectually dishonest to try to conflate gay men and women with transgenders anyway. An observer from Mars might reasonably conclude that only black men are transgender, as there is little mainstream media evidence that white ones exist. It’s not enough that Laverne Cox is celebrated. Cox must be accepted by the black community as a “beautiful” woman, even though “she’s” as big as a football linebacker, speaks in a silly affected lisp, and is not particularly attractive. Anyone in the black community who refuses to drink the trans Kool-aid is called “transphobic”. (This is not limited by race – when Alice Eve accurately described Bruce Jenner as “playing at being a woman”, she was viciously and relentlessly attacked. There seem to be a lot of people in the trans community with rage issues.)

      I have seen that Huffpost show with Cox, Mock, and Marc Lamont Hill. I don’t know if Hill is gay himself, but in my opinion, anyone who honestly believes that men can openly date transgenders and introduce them to family and friends as if they were women, and still be considered straight, is as delusional as they are. But he doesn’t really believe that. He can’t. He was just pandering to Mock and Cox, who were standing right next to him at the time. Hill is a commentator on cable programs on many racial issues, and as far as I’m concerned, he has destroyed any credibility he might have on any subject.

      While I agree with Ishmael Reed’s assessment of media treatment of MJ, I hate to see Michael’s name lumped in with Kobe Bryant and OJ Simpson. Unlike Michael, there’s considerable evidence that maybe those guys were guilty of what they were accused of. And also unlike Michael, as super star athletes, they were generally treated with great deference and respect.

  32. Simba says,
    “…..where are the white equivalents in the media of Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and the Prancing Elites, for white people as well as black people to support and affirm? When has a white transgender male been on the cover of Redbook or People as a woman, or featured in Allure as part of their annual beautiful nude women issue? The media powers that promote those images of black men don’t do it because they’re pro trans. If they were, there would be white transgenders and queens all over the place. Where is your outrage over this appalling lack of representation? Fair is fair.”

    Well…. fair may be fair, Simba. But do we really NEED any more “positive” images of white people, made BY white people, FOR white people? I don’t think so. And it’s not as though white audiences have *ever* been hard-up for positive representation of white performers or characters. The problem is known as the “burden of representation,” where white male characters (especially) can be heroes, drunkards, villains, ne’er-do-wells, and ALL kinds of good, bad, and indifferent; yet they never have to bear the burden of being “a credit to their race,” etc. Sadly, special care has to be taken that blacks, Native Americans, other people of color, LGBTQ people, and women of all kinds—*even* white women—are accurately and fairly represented, lest anyone think that ALL black women (for example) are either mammies or Jezebels.

    Having said that, my perception of Cox, Mock, and the Prancing Elites (unlike yours or possibly Raven’s), is that they DO present a positive image of black queerness; and I don’t see how this can be anything but a benefit to the black community, of which queer people are (and always have been) an inextricable part .

    These contemporary black figures HARDLY embody a sad or buffoonish stereotype; nor do they project an idea of people who are ugly, infirm, pathetic, abject, ridiculous, grotesque, or degraded. Quite the contrary: I have an impression of these people as attractive, youthful, confident, well-dressed and well-spoken, glamorous, professional, prosperous, and proud. Within the bounds of profitable entertainment, they have largely written their own script, and nobody else is giving them their marching (or prancing) orders.

    How to account for this difference between our perceptions? It cannot simply be that I “am” white, or that you, Simba, “are” black. As I said before, they are getting plenty of support from black journalists and commentators of all kinds…. whether these people are “representative” of the black community or not.

    You’ve undoubtedly heard and seen interviews with Mock and Cox. I can’t help but wonder how attentively you were listening to what they actually had to say.

    1. “How to account for this difference between our perceptions? It cannot simply be that I “am” white, or that you, Simba, “are” black.”

      Yes, it can.

      “Within the bounds of profitable entertainment, they have largely written their own script, and nobody else is giving them their marching (or prancing) orders.”

      I guess you didn’t notice the white woman who is the Elites’ agent. She treats them like not terribly bright children.

      “You’ve undoubtedly heard and seen interviews with Mock and Cox. I can’t help but wonder how attentively you were listening to what they actually had to say.”

      Mock and Cox hold views I find repellent. Their insistence on “playing at being women” doesn’t magically make those views acceptable.

  33. Simba says,
    “I have seen that Huffpost show with Cox, Mock, and Marc Lamont Hill. I don’t know if Hill is gay himself, but in my opinion, anyone who honestly believes that men can openly date transgenders and introduce them to family and friends as if they were women, and still be considered straight, is as delusional as they are. But he doesn’t really believe that. He can’t. He was just pandering to Mock and Cox, who were standing right next to him at the time.”

    “He doesn’t really believe that. He can’t.” But why not? Why “can’t” he? And why can’t Mark Anthony Neal believe it? (Neal also participated in the program remotely, and is, like Hill, a straight man as far as I know.)

    I don’t know what introducing trans people to one’s family has to do with it. Is the ability to do this some sort of litmus test? Some gays and lesbians who are in relationships cannot easily introduce their partner to their family—at least, not without a lot of conflict and possible trauma. Many people’s parents are conservative and intolerant. Does that mean that the couple itself are any the less loving and legitimate?

    As it happens, I HAVE known cis gender people who have dated trans people, and they HAVE introduced them to their parents. And I know for a fact that there are cis gender *straight* men—as “normal” as you please—who date trans women: either exclusively, or in combination with cis-gender women. I’ve met them.

    You say,

    “An observer from Mars might reasonably conclude that only black men are transgender, as there is little mainstream media evidence that white ones exist. It’s not enough that Laverne Cox is celebrated. Cox must be accepted by the black community as a “beautiful” woman, even though “she’s” as big as a football linebacker, speaks in a silly affected lisp, and is not particularly attractive.”

    Yes; but this observer from Mars may not even know there’s any between “black” and “white” earthlings.

    Is the black community a monolith? Although I am not black, I think it’s safe to say that the black community—like any community—is a fairly diverse group of people, with a wide variety of opinion and attitude on all kinds of topics. That both you and Laverne Cox coexist within the black community is proof of that. Some black people (not all, and perhaps not even most), evidently DO accept Cox as a beautiful woman. I don’t believe that *any* of us are in any position to be an arbiter of black “authenticity.”

    Within ANY group or community of people, the mainstream, majority, or most *typical* or *representative* point of view isn’t necessarily the right or the best one. The majority will not remain a majority indefinitely. We’ve seen the ways that over time, people grow used to all kinds of folks that were once considered unfamiliar and even “alien” in the eyes of the majority.

    This is why I’m convinced that an improved public perception of Michael Jackson, gaining steam since he died and now well underway, will at some point cease to even be an issue.

    (Sadly, thousands or millions of unknown people who are members of marginalized communities—-and who are *not* celebrities or acclaimed artists—-will face the culture’s bigotry for a much longer period of time. What this means is that advocacy and education is needed on *all* fronts.)

    Today’s New York Times has run this article, the first of a series:

    “The Quest for Transgender Equality”

    You say, “Mock and Cox hold views I find repellent.” I thought so. May I ask *why* you find their views repellent?

    1. Nina Y F, this is really getting silly, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Michael Jackson. I don’t know why you are so invested in trying to “re-educate” me, but you seriously need to stop. It’s insulting for you to write ” I don’t believe that *any* of us are in any position to be an arbiter of black “authenticity.” I have no doubt that I know a hell of a lot more than you about what’s embraced by the black community.

      If you have male friends who exclusively date transgenders, someone needs to let them know that men who date other men are gay, not straight, and that’s all right. No need to pretend otherwise. They have a (mostly) harmless fetish, so who cares.

      ““He doesn’t really believe that. He can’t.” But why not? Why “can’t” he? And why can’t Mark Anthony Neal believe it? ”

      Because neither man is stupid, and I don’t think they’re mentally ill. But I do believe both of them pander to mostly white notions of political correctness. Transgender is the flavor of the month, so everyone in educated circles has to pretend that “trans women are real women”, a totally ridiculous notion. Do you really believe that Bruce Jenner, a six foot two inch Olympian who’s fathered six biological children, has magically become a “real woman” because he wears lip gloss and nail polish, and likes to wear pretty dresses? He’s not a woman, and neither are Mock and Cox.

      Speaking of Mock and Cox, in that podcast you recommend, they are the ones who lament the fact that the male lovers of transgenders don’t take them home to meet mama. As to their views that I find repellent, Mock has written that underage prostitution is a positive experience for young transgenders, because it ‘affirms’ their female identity, which is effed up. Cox recorded a campaign in support of a man who raped and murdered a thirteen year old girl, who now wants sympathy and a transfer to a woman’s prison because he’s trans, which is beyond effed up.

      I co-sign this comment from a black woman participating in a current discussion of naked Laverne Cox:

      “We are tiptoeing around the bottom line so if no one will say it I will: It is embarrassing and humiliating having Laverne Cox held up as an example of black womanhood. To add salt to the wound? It is done not as a caricature, not as a joke but in all seriousness.  I wish he would just…go away.”

      She’s a lot more polite than I am. Cox is a buffoon.

    2. “And I know for a fact that there are cis gender *straight* men—as “normal” as you please—who date trans women: either exclusively, or in combination with cis-gender women. I’ve met them.”

      There are pre-operation and post-operation trans women. I do not think someone dating a post-op trans woman is gay, after all he is attracted to a fully female body and gay men are not. Gay man are attracted to the male body. However someone dating pre-op trans women is not labelled so easily. It’s interesting because in this context labels such “gay” or “straight” turn out to be not too useful. And apparently many people still think in those binaries: gay or straight. If you are not totally straight you are labelled “gay”, but that’s not so simple in real life. I have recently seen an interview with a man who left his family for a trans woman. The trans woman was a trans woman who still had his/her penis. The guy was asked what attracted him to this trans woman and he said that she was so feminine (her body was). He was asked if the penis did not bother him. He said it did not, in fact this trans woman gave him the best sex he ever had. So is this guy gay or straight? He is certainly not 100% straight but I would not call him gay either, since he was attracted to the overt femininity of the trans woman. It’s more difficult than to be described in gay/straight binaries IMO.

      I also think it’s a different case when someone meets a woman who some time into their relatinship reveals that she is a trans and the guy says it does not matter to him and they stick together regardles and it’s a different case when someone “exclusively dates trans women” – this latter does look like a fetish, because this latter seems like the guy deliberately seeks out trans women. He did not just happen to fall in love with a woman who later turns out to be trans. I would not call such a man, who has this fetish to go out of his way and seek out exclusively trans women, “straight”.

  34. Simba says,
    “Do you really believe that Bruce Jenner, a six foot two inch Olympian who’s fathered six biological children, has magically become a “real woman” because he wears lip gloss and nail polish, and likes to wear pretty dresses? He’s not a woman, and neither are Mock and Cox.”

    I have few memories of what I heard or thought about Michael Jackson before I became an ardent fan. But this incident, from some 12 years ago, stands out.

    I was having a conversation with an acquaintance about celebrities, and somehow Michael’s name came up. My acquaintance said, “I read that he was the ‘best man’ at Liza Minnelli’s wedding. How could he be a ‘best man’? How could he be a man at all? He hasn’t had the secondary sex characteristics of a man for over twenty years!”

    I asked my acquaintance what he meant, and he described a few things about Michael’s physicality—-mostly regarding his facial characteristics—that indicated (to him) a degree of femininity that should disqualify a person from regarding themselves as a “man.”

    I explained to him, in no uncertain terms, that it was strictly up to Michael Jackson himself to identify as a man if he wished to, REGARDLESS of what my acquaintance, or anyone else for that matter, believed MJ to look like. If Michael Jackson identifies as a man, then we are bound to regard him as one, IN SPITE OF whatever perceptions we might have formed about his physical appearance.

    I told this guy that whatever perceptions he had developed about Michael’s secondary sex characteristics were entirely *irrelevant* to his gender identity. I said that as a matter of common decency, it is strictly *up to the individual* to declare who and what they are; to NOMINATE themselves. And we are obliged to respect whatever pronoun, description, or name any person wishes to go by.

    Others had no right to define Michael Jackson. Nor has anyone any right to define Bruce Jenner, Janet Mock or Laverne Cox. To label them “delusional” and to misgender them is an act of violence.

    What’s clear is this: it’s not Cox and Mock who are demeaning themselves, nor are they being demeaned by the white media. Simba, you, and the person you quoted, and others who express this kind of hostility are the ones who are demeaning these women.

    1. Nina Y F, as I said before, this is beyond silly. Even black transgenders don’t believe in Bruce Jenner. Stop trying to tell actual black women what to think. It’s patronizing and racist at its core. In fact, stop trying to tell any women what to think. Nobody is here on this MICHAEL JACKSON site to talk about transgenders. There are so many other places where you can cape for the rights of deluded men over women.

    2. “I told this guy that whatever perceptions he had developed about Michael’s secondary sex characteristics were entirely *irrelevant* to his gender identity. I said that as a matter of common decency, it is strictly *up to the individual* to declare who and what they are; to NOMINATE themselves. And we are obliged to respect whatever pronoun, description, or name any person wishes to go by.

      Others had no right to define Michael Jackson. Nor has anyone any right to define Bruce Jenner, Janet Mock or Laverne Cox. To label them “delusional” and to misgender them is an act of violence”

      I think this gets very much to the heart of the matter. Fans “defend” Michael Jackson as straight because that is indeed how he identified himself. As for whatever Michael may have “really” been out of the public eye and behind closed doors, we may never know and it is really none of our business to know. That he had wives and girlfriends is fact, and that he slept with them-at least on some occasions-is fact. Anything beyond that is hearsay and speculation. Posthumous history often has a way of writing an individual’s narrative, and usually this comes about because historians and scholars accept certain facts about an individual to be true (even though the individual isn’t here to speak up one way or another) and so history accepts as “fact,” for example, that Alexander the Great was gay; that Emily Dickinson was a recluse who never left her house, that Richard the III was a nasty guy, that Oscar Wilde died of syphilis (long since debunked, but still believed and even perpetuated in some circles) etc, etc. I think many are concerned that there are those trying to “write” Michael’s history for posterity who want/need him to be everything/anything except what he declared himself to be. There are people now who desperately want to prove once and for all that he was a pedophile because they imagine it’s going to win them some kind of badge of honor for posterity. There are people who believe he was always “in the closet” and who desperately want to prove it-again, for posterity’s sake. Yet as I’ve said time and again, it’s not up to anyone to “out” Michael now that he’s dead. If he had made the conscience decision in life to do so, that would have been different (and, honestly, I think fans would have readily accepted it because Michael’s fans simply and genuinely love HIM, and they would have always loved him regardless. There are some openly male gay celebs now who still have very large and devoted female followers who ADORE them). Like I said, it will never be definitively proven unless there’s a smoking gun-a video or photos (and heck, even photos can be faked). Hearsayers are too easy to discredit, and people will believe what they want to believe, regardless. Even if Michael was bi curious (which many people are, and as most any adolescent boy could attest to) it means nothing.

      I do “get” the whole thing about the gender fluid issue and so forth because I understand how Michael did challenge those ideas in many ways, all while proclaiming himself a straight male. It was an interesting paradox, and certainly this was a person who had much to teach us about a lot of our biases and preconceived notions. And yet, by the same token, he was never one who actively sought out that platform. He was always, in the end, just being himself.

      I guess what I’m really trying to say is that there will always be speculation about Michael’s sexuality because he did upset a lot of those binary notions about what constitutes traditional male appearance and behavior (even if I don’t always agree with those notions and can debate a good many of them to Kingdom Come) but what you said holds true. Michael Jackson deserves the same respect accorded anyone to be accepted as whatever he wished to identify himself.

      1. Raven, if because of vitiligo, Michael had declared himself a white man, would you accept his new identity and respect it? Or would you consider him delusional, no matter how much you might love him? You cannot change your race, no matter how fervently you may believe in “racial fluidity”. You can hide it, deny it, or modify your appearance, as a whole slew of movie and music stars have done. But you can’t change it.

        Race is minor compared to the immutability of biological sex; some biologists don’t even believe in race as a concept. But they all believe in the reality of male and female. Physically, humans are binary. (Sexually-ambiguous individuals are the rare anomalies that prove the rule.) Michael never did anything that would make anyone question his sexual identity. He didn’t do anything that was particularly unusual for his gender. Even Diane Dimond says there is no evidence that he was gay. (You seem conflicted about his sexuality lately. If so, could you tell us why?)

        So it’s a mystery to me why some ‘fans’ relentlessly emphasize his minor eccentricities, to try to make the case that he was some kind of exotic androgyne. To each his own I guess.

        1. Simba, where on earth have I said, now or any time, that I am conflicted? Since when does the ability to acknowledge how OTHER people have viewed Michael through the years-rightly or wrongly-make me conflicted? Can you honestly say you never, ever heard rude comments and crass jokes of people calling Michael a “white woman?” Can you pretend those discussions and accusations don’t exist? Sorry, but they do. Acknowledging that as fact doesn’t mean I agree or am conflicted in any sense of the word. It isn’t even about what he did or didn’t do to invite those comments and accusations. Good lord, people have accused him of being everything from a woman to a castrato. As for Michael declaring himself a white man post vitiligo and would that give me reason to call him delusional, let’s not forget that even though he never claimed such, a lot of people did think that was his intent and, yes, thought he was being delusional-a black man who wanted to be white. We’ve all heard that for years, yet did Michael ever say such? No, he most assuredly did not. Yet it hasn’t stopped people from trying to hang that label on him despite his own repeatedly stated comments that he knew who he was and was a proud black man. So this is about people blatantly IGNORING the wishes and statements of an individual in favor of what they want to think about them. That was the topic of discussion, correct?

          As for the question of his sexuality, I don’t know how many times I have to state that, as far as I am concerned, Michael identified himself as a straight man and that is the end of the issue as far as I’m concerned. This is the very reason I am so up in arms about people trying to project this upon him (especially when he is not here to speak for himself on the matter)-not because it should matter whether he was or wasn’t but because no one deserves to have a false narrative of their life accepted as historical truth. I am not conflicted in the least as far as what I personally believe (as well as what I know to be fact, based on what I know from people who knew him).

          1. I’m sorry, Raven. I wasn’t accusing you. I just notice that lately you’ve been writing things like, ” As for whatever Michael may have “really” been out of the public eye and behind closed doors, we may never know and it is really none of our business to know.” Michael said repeatedly that he was not gay, and no one has ever produced evidence that he was. I honestly don’t think there is anything more to know.

            Of course I’ve heard the “jokes”, mostly from unfunny people who have issues themselves. But you raise an interesting question, especially for black people. You write, ” a lot of people did think that was his intent and, yes, thought he was being delusional-a black man who wanted to be white”. Most black people would love to be treated as if they were white. Life would be a hell of a lot easier. It has nothing to do with hating one’s race. Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray would probably be alive if they had been white. Nobody offered them water or asked about their comfort, before they were summarily executed. They didn’t threaten anyone. But James Holmes, the Colorado movie theater killer, gets kid glove treatment from the police. There is nothing delusional in black people wanting to be “white”, politically speaking.

            But if Michael actually BELIEVED he had become white, because of his talent and wealth, as well as the vitiligo, he would indeed have been delusional. Delusional like Martin Bashir, who discovered that a British accent was not enough to allow him to get away with dissing a white woman, not with his skin color. Delusional like men who think a dress and a few ounces of silicone makes them women.

          2. But because of that misconception, Michael was really caught in a Catch-22, between blacks who were calling him a traitor and whites who were screaming, “How DARE he?” and “Who does he think he is?” He was accused of being delusional even though he never said a word and, in fact, all of his public statements were explicitly to the contrary. I was thinking back to the conversation I had with my black colleague, the one who let it be known in no uncertain terms that she considers Michael Jackson as someone who didn’t want to be black. When I mentioned how he always proclaimed he was a black man and proud to be black, her comeback was: “Well, of course he wasn’t going to come out and say he wanted to be white; that would have been a death sentence to his career.” So, again, we have a case of someone projecting a belief about Michael onto him and believing it to the point that it has become THEIR gospel truth. There are people who made a conscious choice to not believe anything the man ever said. Her exact words, to that effect, were “His actions spoke louder than his words to me” and, unfortunately, that is the all too typical attitude that many seem to have about him.

            Your comments reminded me of an article I read when I was doing my research on the Langston Hughes piece. I’ll have to look up that article again, as I can’t remember now who wrote it. He was a black writer, however, and he said, “Why WOULDN’T Michael Jackson have wanted to be white?” Then, as he went on-I am only paraphrasing from memory here-he said that when Michael was growing up, all he would have seen as show business role models were white entertainers (not quite true, but true enough, I suppose) and if he turned on the TV, shows like ‘Leave It To Beaver’ would have shown him that this is the ideal that everyone in America strives for. But again, Michael never said as much and this is yet another case of that brand of psychoanalyzing where someone is attempting to “explain” Michael’s behavior, appearance, and “choices”-a very slippery slope indeed. (Obviously, this was a writer who believed Michael wanted to be white and strove to eradicate his “blackness” but for very sympathetic reasons). But let’s not forget that Michael grew up in a town where black people were not even allowed on the downtown side of the tracks after 6pm (a curfew that remained in effect until 1968, encompassing nearly all of Michael’s childhood years in Gary). So it would be naïve indeed to think that Michael didn’t grow up with some conflicted feelings about being black. He was already being taught that even his hometown viewed him as a “second class citizen.” That kind of thing is bound to have an effect on a child, as I’m sure it did.

          3. “So this is about people blatantly IGNORING the wishes and statements of an individual in favor of what they want to think about them. That was the topic of discussion, correct? ”

            The whole subject came up because of an in my opinion false analogy between Michael and trans people. The analogy would have only been correct if Michael had demanded people to consider him white or a woman. Michael was factually and biologically black and a man and that’s what he wanted to be considered. There was no contradiction between who he biologically was and between who he wanted to be considered. So anyone calling him something else than what and who he biologically and factually was is the delusional one, not Michael. The situation is a lot more complicated with trans people.

    3. Sorry, but someone questioning Michael’s manhood and someone wondering about whether a trans woman really is a woman is not the same thing. That’s a very bad analogy. Michael was a man in every sense of the word: he was a biological man, he had XY chromosomes, he had male reporductive organs, he was raised as a male and he identified as man all his life. The reason why he was a man isn’t just because he claimed to be one or wished to be one. In his case it is simply a biological fact in every sense of the word, regardless of anyone’s opinion of how a “real man” is supposed to be.

      In case of trans people, I’m sure it is easy to see why it is different. I have checked out a trans message board in my country last night and even many of them admit that they do not have XY/XX chromosomes and in some ways they will never be biologically 100% male or female no matter how much they want that. That’s it. I prefer this genuinity to when some people pretend trans women/men are 100% the exact same as biological women/men. To say that they are not is not transphobia, nor hostility towards them, it’s just stating a fact. Of course, you do not have to rub it under their noses all the time and it’s enough of a pain to them that they can never be 100% biologically women or men, but I hate it when in the name of being PC people start talking nonsense that are contrary to facts. I’m all for considering trans women/men women and calling them she/he and protecting their rights etc. but they are not like their biological counterparts in many ways. And to say that someone questioning a manhood of a 100% biological male is the same as someone questioning the womanhood or manhood of a trans person… no, that’s a horrible analogy.

      1. I’m not sure if your comment is in response to me or Nina. I was referring to the gay/straight aspect of this debate. Of course Michael was 100% biological male and that is not up for dispute, so yes, it goes beyond just what someone identifies themselves as being. However, I am fairly certain that those who refer to Michael as a woman certainly know better. These kinds of comments, I have found, usually come from typical macho jock types (jerk types, rather) who make those comments as a kind of dispersion on some of the obvious aesthetic choices Michael made to his appearance-makeup, false eyelashes, tattooed lip color, etc. Then there are people who genuinely believe he was transgender for the same reasons (which is ignorant but that’s a whole other ballgame). But I don’t think most people who make those ignorant comments really believe he was a woman. Some think that he “wanted” to be or was trying to be, which is different. In Michael’s case, there are a lot of false projectives out there, as we know too well.

        1. It was in response of Nina. My point was that other than some sort of bad “joke” there is no basis of questioning Michael’s manhood when he was factually a biological male who never identified as anything else. I would hope at least we are honest enough to admit in this world of PCness that the case of trans people and the reason why there are wonderings about what they “really” are is very different. (Actually it’s the contrary to that MJ analogy: someone saying that MJ is not a man despite of the fact he is biologically is the exact opposite of someone saying Bruce Jenner IS a man and not a woman – well, because he is a biological man. The first would deny someone’s biological sex the second says that biological sex is all that matters. Totally contradicting view points, not analogous at all.)

          BTW, I’m not advocating calling trans people by the wrong pronoun or disrespecting their wish to be referred to as man/woman. But there are certain discussions and contexts when the difference between trans and biological people is a valid point. Obviously I am not talking about everyday interactions and telling a trans person “you are not really a man/woman!” just for the sake of it. But there ARE differences and to act like there aren’t and to act like people who cannot get their head around these differences are all “bigots” and stupid does nothing for the cause IMO.

        2. “The reason why he was a man isn’t just because he claimed to be one or wished to be one. In his case it is simply a biological fact in every sense of the word, regardless of anyone’s opinion of how a “real man” is supposed to be.”- Suzy.

          Unlike trans genders or gender fluids everything about Michael that we know of is in sync with how he identified : his masculinity( slim and muscular), his behavior, his relationships , what family and friends say about him, even traits of machissmo whether some will acknowledge it or not. All the Jacksons are soft spoken and have a softie image, the women as well as the men, Michael most of all. Jacky Jackson after his wife died took care of both his children as did Tito when Dee Dee died. So male single parents are not unusual to the Jacksons. Make up ? look at Joe Jacksons eyebrows and tell me that they are not styled. Even when they were broke in Gary, Mrs J took care that they look and dressed well. Michael wore glittery stage clothes from since he was a child. These imo are more plausible reasons for his looks and (life)style than gender fluidity.

          Yes he did upset those who have a very narrowminded view of how a black man is supposed to be or look. At the same time he wow-ed those with the same narrowminded view who never expected a black man to be like that to the point that they turn him into a deity. Which is also projection.

          Marginalized groups deserve attention and I give credit to Nina for being adamant about it . However this discourse does not do justice to either Michael or transgenders .

  35. Suzy, it’s true that not everything fits neatly into a binary category (gay/straight, man/woman).

    Most trans people and advocates have encouraged people not to overemphasize surgeries, etc. in these discussions. It’s irrelevant, and often regarded as intrusive (nobody would ask these questions of straight or cisgender people, after all).

    Luckily, there are good resources with *accurate* information out there, so it’s no longer necessary to try to figure out everything on your own with sketchy (dis)information. (There’s a lot of much sensationalized bs out there as well.) Here’s the site for an organization called GLAAD, which has all kinds of resources, pamphlets, glossaries, with definitions and terminology, etc.:

    Transgender 101

    What does transgender mean?
    Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

    Gender identity is someone’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary). For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.

    Trying to change a person’s gender identity is no more successful than trying to change a person’s sexual orientation — it doesn’t work. So most transgender people seek to bring their bodies more into alignment with their gender identity.

    People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one (or more) of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer. Always use the descriptive term preferred by the individual.

    Transgender people may or may not alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically, but it’s important to know that being transgender is not dependent upon medical procedures.

    Why is transgender equality important?

    *Transgender people face staggering levels of discrimination and violence. In 2012, 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. According to “Injustice at Every Turn,” a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force:

    *Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.

    *Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.

    *90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.

    *22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color. Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.

    *41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.

    *Transgender people still cannot serve in the US Military.

    *Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, face shockingly high rates of murder, homelessness, and incarceration. Most states and countries offer no legal protections in housing, employment, health care, and other areas where individuals experience discrimination based on their gender identity or expression.

  36. There is some confusion here about gender/sex, sexual orientation and choice of sex partner.
    Gender is male/female /hermaphrodite and everything inbetween. The word TransGENDER says exactly what it means. Orientation is who you are sexually attracted to : gay, straight, bisexual , pedophile and everything in between. As for having sex, to put it graphically , humans and animals to a certain extend choose who (man, woman, trans with or without penis ) or what ( seks toy, animals) they have sex with . It is usually in line with, but often regardless of their sexual orien-tation but just for gratification , excitement, curiosity or because they can.

    Nina said
    “” I was having a conversation with an acquaintance about celebrities, and somehow Mi-chael’s name came up. My acquaintance said, “I read that he was the ‘best man’ at Liza Minnelli’s wedding. How could he be a ‘best man’? How could he be a man at all? He hasn’t had the secondary sex characteristics of a man for over twenty years!”

    In a previous comment you replied to me :
    “The argument “ some of my best friends are _________” has long been understood as a kind of lame excuse in this regard. “

    Couldnt the same be said of bringing up an acquaintance friend who said such and such , to make your point?.
    Ayway , I would have asked him/her what authority or knowledge he/she brings to the table to make that assumption.
    I do not say this lightly but indeed Michael needs to be defended against such ignorance.

  37. Sina, it’s a different thing entirely. I was objecting to the “some of my best friends” approach.

    Growing up in the ’60s, I distinctly remember PSAs (Public Service Announcements) that were regularly broadcast on TV, advising people against “prejudice.”

    The narrator of this PSA said, sardonically, “….you may say, ‘I’m not prejudiced. Some of my best friends are…. ‘ You know the rest.”

    And my parents, who were fashionably “liberal,” regularly joked about people they’d heard say, “I’m not prejudiced! Some of my best friends are ______________ [whatever]!”

    At the time, the phrase was well-known as a mealy-mouthed denial, so I took care never to use it and I learned to distrust that line of argument. My anecdote about my friend, however, falls under a different category altogether.

    You say,
    “Ayway , I would have asked him/her what authority or knowledge he/she brings to the table to make that assumption.
    I do not say this lightly but indeed Michael needs to be defended against such ignorance.”

    Yes; but at the same time, I’m inclined to ask what knowledge folks here bring to the table to make the assumptions they do about trans people, LGBT folks, and other people who are marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—among other categories.

    They, too, need to be defended against ignorance.

      1. I agree it would be nice to go back to the “Head to Toe” series. Was thinking about that myself. I think you stopped with his hair–but not sure.

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