Even as we adjust to a world without Michael Jackson, we’re still left grappling with the question of how to understand the gifted and bizarre “King of Pop.” A few years back in the pages of the Forward, Ami Eden offered up some insights, drawing upon what might seem like an unlikely source: the Book of Genesis.
In many ways, both significant and superficial, Jackson resembles the biblical character of Joseph, interpreter of dreams, viceroy of Egypt and favorite son of the Israelite patriarch Jacob.
Like Jackson, who first achieved fame as the youngest and most talented member of The Jackson 5, Joseph was imbued with natural gifts that allowed him to tower over his older brothers. In both cases the golden child’s superiority was marked by the acquisition of a jacket. Jackson took to wearing his trademark red coat after the release of “Thriller,” the record-smashing 1982 solo album that propelled the performer into a stratosphere of superstardom beyond the reach of his siblings. Joseph’s father gave him a multi-colored tunic, underscoring his elevated status as Jacob’s favorite son and chosen successor.
And both fought famine in Africa. Jackson used his superstar power to line up dozens of celebrities to record the hit song “We Are the World,” a successful effort to raise millions of dollars to fight hunger. Joseph used his dream-reading power to warn Pharaoh of an impending famine, successfully fending off starvation in Egypt.
Despite their respective good works, both Jackson and Joseph were plagued by a rising insecurity over their personal appearance. For both men, physical change became a vehicle for assimilating into the wider culture.
The full article is well worth reading.