Michael Jackson As Scholarly Subject: A Texas Tech Study

When The Journal of Pan African Studies decided to devote an entire volume to Michael Jackson after the Gloved One's passing, Texas Tech librarian Rob Weiner had an idea: why not find out how many times MJ popped up in academic journals, and for what reasons. We don't know if/what Weiner had been drinking and/or smoking at the time, but Hair Balls is certainly thankful for his contribution to academia.

"'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin': MJ in the Scholarly Literature: A Selected Guide," was the result of Weiner and mentor Susan Hidalgo's months of reading through articles with titles like "The Politics of Morphing: Michael Jackson as Science Fiction Border Text."

They surveyed "at least 100 different databases covering a wide range of subject areas, from chemistry, music, general and humanities, to engineering....The breadth of Jackson's influence, beyond his just being a pop icon, truly astounding," the paper's intro says.

Hidalgo tells Hair Balls what surprised her the most were the articles that focused on the meanings/symbolism of his videos. She said after reading certain articles, she saw the videos in a whole new way.

"Everything he did...he had a purpose for it," Hidalgo says. "...I think he was a lot deeper than people gave him credit for."

Well, maybe the average person. But it seems dozens, if not hundreds, of academics found great cultural insight in every "shamone!", crotch-grab, or moonwalk he did. See if you can distinguish the fake research from the real stuff that definitely ensures the U.S. will remain the leader in education for generations to come:

1.) "The author places Michael Jackson within the 'Jung child archetype' and argues that he somehow represents a 'safe' androgynous star. He says that placing MJ in this archetype compares the pop icon to the classical mythology concept of 'the flower boy,' like Adonis."

2.) "The author, a professor of chemistry, argues that using modern songs and reframing them in terms of teaching chemistry is an effective way of getting students to understand difficult concepts. 'Billie Jean' was a way to teach about nitrobenzene."

3.) "The author focuses on Jackson's hairstyles, placing the Afro of the Jackson 5 period and the jheri curl of post-Off the Wall fame within broader socio-political contexts, arguing that the singer's social commentaries could most be accurately derived from the way he wore his hair, and not his radical surgeries."

4.) "This short piece describes how a cable television company used a brain wave analyzer to gauge viewers' responses to various shows and advertisements. The company found that there were high responses for those watching documentaries, but a Michael Jackson produced little response and negligible brain activity."

5.) "The author goes beyond Jackson's lyrics, gestures and singing vocals, analyzing those non-verbal vocalizations of Jackson's 'whoops, yelps, grunts, squeals,' etc., and there is a definite decipherable 'Hoo or Ow!' that is identified with Jackson. The author points out that non-verbal vocalizations have a long history within slave spirituals, but Jackson's vocalizations have little in common with those."

Now of you'll excuse us, we need to go listen to Thriller...


(By the way, the answer: 3 is the false one)

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