Saturday, August 1, 2009

Michael Jackson: There's Anger in Dangerous

A review of Michael Jackson's Dangerous, the Short Films, 1993
by Orandon Marie

Illustration by Mark Rydon

At first watch, this DVD is a little confusing. Packed with more of Jackson's shameless self-promotion, it made me wonder why that was needed? Because in this set of songs, Jackson is talking about being a victim, and showing victims of prejudice. Now I think Jackson took so much crap from the public and media during his career, he had to learn how to promote his own work and efforts to overcome it and continue to be the success he was, and is. (His own campaigning reminds me a little of President Obama's campaign efforts, if the truth be known.)

The flip-side of this DVD is that it shows how the videos were made, some behind the scenes fun. Some of this is self-promotion again; some of it is MJ giving you a glimpse into his world.

I was a little thrown-off by the carnivalesque imagery with Dangerous; however there is some great symbolism here, much of it corresponding to ancient Egypt... Interested?

There is a hand of stone (from the taped-up fingers we can see it belongs to MJ, however, the fingers of mummies in Egypt were taped in the same manner). The hand is paralyzed, and holding a young girl in it's palm. This represents the inner child as female, paralyzed; she is holding the skull of a crocodile. The Egyptian Crocodile God represents death.

She is standing at the gates of death and rebirth, where you see the un-evolved animal spirit entering the tunnel of the astral planes, and coming out the other side, reborn.

I had to sit with the images on the album cover for awhile before I could appreciate the imagery in the DVD. In the DVD you will see some bits that seem to be much like Alice Through the Looking Glass, only this time it's Michael Jackson chasing after the Red Queen, singing, "Why You Wanna Trip On Me?"

The Eye of Horus, rich and green, appears occasionally inside a pyramid; the Eye of Horus was used for protection and as a symbol of medicine in ancient Egyptian times.

Some of the imagery is also corresponding to the innate wisdom of being young. One has to keep in mind that even at an early age, Michael Jackson was world-traveled and someone who witnessed a lot of what was going on with our planet and us, as human beings.

Black or White opens the set. At the beginning it shows, perhaps, rebellion is a healthy way to get free of some things that keep us down... Even inviting us to look at the rebellious spirit of children, in order to understand our own pain and hopelessness (thus the dark dancing sequence of Michael's at the end). Why was this video so controversial for the media? Reporters were concerned about it's sexual and angry impact on young children.

Are we a little higher in our intelligence than animals? That might be a question to ask when watching the morphing sequences of human faces. At the end of the video, MJ states "prejudice is ignorance". What is the difference between stupidity (like a kooky Simpson's cartoon) and ignorance?

Stupidity does not have access to information and tools - like music, languages, the arts. Stupidity is like living in the dark because one doesn't know how to use a light-switch. Ignorance refuses to gain access to those tools; in it's stubbornness and need to be "right", ignorance becomes a form of prejudice. I think MJ is also asking, how much of our ignorance is projected on us by the media?

Super-Bowl Heal the World - I thought these pieces were very emotional, colorful and powerful, especially with the participation of the children (many who are in their 30's by now). Love it!

Remember the Time - just a fun song and dance number with Egyptian themes and fantasy, like a magical dream or reminiscing about the possibilities of past lives.

Will You Be There - another very powerful performance, with more footage from the Super Bowl gathering. A prayerful song for the spirit of the child, Jackson is saying many go to war and act-out with righteousness because they were wounded as children. He would be one to know!

In The Closet - erotic and frustrating; MJ comes across a sort of dancing Pinocchio when it comes to actualizing his desires in real life. Better to have a super-model do that for him?

Gone Too Soon - with an intro and montages featuring a young boy talking about discrimination, someone who died from AIDS, this one is dedicated to sick and orphaned children, and children with AIDS.

Jam - Jam is basically saying life is very confusing, like a game; we've got to learn how to take advantage of every day of our lives, because life is short. Featuring artists of the time - Kris-Kross and Heavy D, I love the beat with the jingling bells, interspersed with more kids dancing, playing and jumping rope (as if it is the children that keep life going here).

Heal The World - seeing this performed live brings tears to my eyes. It was important to Jackson to make videos, he said, because these would outlast the actual concert performances, leaving images behind which would stay with people's minds. Once you see this video, you will want to learn the song and sing it to a few people you care about (and even some you dislike).

Give In To Me - interesting rock performance piece. Jackson was multi-talented, and did some scat-singing in this video which reminded me a lot of George Benson's approach to rockin'. Give In To Me, and not to the ignorance out there; give in to the testimony of my life and what I have lived through, and learn from it. Let my life be a tool, a source of information that will help and prevent others from living in stupidity, and by their hard experiences.

Michael Jackson... His inner "world" is in turmoil, turned upside-down.
Sets are interspersed in here with a video montage of Jackson sitting at the piano, playing and singing to himself "I'll Be There", with footage of himself from childhood, harmonizing. Just lovely!

Who Is It - another romantic piece about loss and betrayal; slick filming; seems more personal and autobiographical.

Dangerous & Why You Wanna Trip On Me? - The energy of the two pieces as they blend into to one another seem to say, instead of looking for what's good and what's right, why do we tend to look for trouble?

Our natural curiosity as children are lost in hopelessness and cynicism. That's the real danger, is it not?

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