Wednesday, April 30, 2008

#29: Michael Jackson



Like Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson is a perennial favorite among Indians in America. Eddie Murphy wrote the handbook for immigrant acculturation in Coming to America; the Huxtables became the model family for raising dark-skinned children while working as doctors and lawyers; Michael Jackson showed recent emigres that in America it's still okay to dance. MJ's reach has even extended beyond the pond, inspiring Indians in England to put their arms up and get down, as shown by Suleman Mirza and Madhu Singh on a recent episode of Britain's Got Talent

Perhaps nowhere else in the world does Michael Jackson continue to enjoy cultural relevance other than the place where 1980s American music stars go to die and enjoy karmic rebirth on the Channel V pop charts - India. Just ask Bryan Adams.

Jackson moved to Bahrain, seemingly aware that the white people he loved enough to physically emulate have rejected him as a psychopathic baby-dangler. You married Lisa-Marie Priestley, but she didn't like you. You were best friends with Paul McCartney, but now he hates your guts. No worries, Michael, you never had Paris, but at least you'll have Dhaka, where the less informed still believe "Heal the World" is a motivating message and not just a pretty badass Super Bowl halftime show.



In the 1970s and 1980s every Indian-American family had a copy of the Bad album on vinyl, had committed to memory the words of Weird Al Yankovic's parody "Eat It," and had a third cousin named Raj who at every annual Telugu convention in Houston would unbutton his white shirt, tip his black fedora, hike up his white socks and pop-lock it out to a Michael Jackson - Bally Sagoo medley mix.

You're right, Michael, it doesn't matter if you're black or white. Sometimes you can be brown or whatever race you are now. In the end what brings us together is the popular culture that unites us and the songs to which we can dance from LA to Lahore, ideally with members of the same sex.

48 comments:

Desi said...

The love for Jacko goes far back to the "Thriller" days. I also remember seeing a clip of Will Smith on Indian Idol (or something like that), and one of the contestants was wearing that exact same glossy red jacket Jacko rocked back in the day. Except, this clip was from last year.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we Indians love flattering anything and everything.

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