Man in the Mirror


This song exemplifies the central irony of Michael Jackson’s legacy; the vast disconnect between the message he wanted to impart and the one we inadvertently perceived. The song has a wonderful message; “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” It really couldn’t be any clearer. In the video, Jackson mixes footage of himself performing in a vast stadium with images of MLK, Gandhi and other important political figures. Jackson at his height of stardom had an enormous platform for activism, and he was dedicated to humanitarian work. He wanted to position himself as a major player, a serious force for doing good in the world. And he had the potential to become the kind of global ambassodor of social issues that celebs like Bono and Angelina Jolie have become. It is unfortunate that his personal problems so thoroughly undercut his ambitions. He simply made himself impossible to take seriously. Because when Jackson sings about taking a hard look in the mirror, we don’t think ‘hey, maybe that’s what I should be doing!’ We wonder what it was that Jackson saw when he looked in his. It’s highly likely that he suffered from some form of body dysmorphic disorder; a mental illness that causes people to have a skewed perception of their appearance. (For example, anorexics who remain convinced they’re obese even as they starve to death.) Some people have speculated that Jackson wanted to erase every feature that could remind him of his abusive father, others think the surgeries were just an unorthodox way of dealing with the changes wrought by vitiligo, but in reality, we just don’t know what it was he saw in himself that he hated so much. We do know that instead of focusing on the kind of world changes he clearly dreamed of bringing about, he got hopelessly sidelined by whatever monsters were in his head and slowly descended into some weird alternate reality of his own making.

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