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Michael Jackson: the man that Beat It

“…and Gordon Brown will probably moonwalk into Prime Minister’s questions.”

To understand the cult and martyrdom of Michael Jackson, we need to go back to Thriller, the 14-minute masterpiece directed by John Landis in 1982. Jackson hired Landis after seeing An American Werewolf in London and he told him: “I want you to turn me into a monster.”

That is what happens. It is an extraordinary piece of music-TV and it helped the album to sell 65 million copies. Jackson does his breathtaking dance routines, and then morphs into a lycanthrope, his physical features changing almost beyond recognition, so that what was once charming becomes downright scary. Which is what happened, of course, to Jackson himself over the next two decades. He entered into a kind of abusive relationship with the tabloid press, in which his attention-seeking was matched by their prurience. He mutilated himself with plastic surgery, and the world was treated to stomach-churning pictures of dislocated nostrils and drooping eyelids.

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