Monday, August 3, 2009

Two Unrelated Questions

As still more Michael Jackson-inspired drivel sullied the TV screen a few days ago, a co-worker asked what I thought made him so successful. I must say that I struggled for a coherent answer at the time, and the question had been rattling around in my head since. I finally realized that for all the complex angles one can take in analyzing that (racial, demographic, musical), the basic answer is that he was a good song-and-dance man, and they have always been successful.

Of course all those angles did come into it - he was still young enough and cute enough to attract young fans as well as bring back his old ones; the country was finally ready for a black superstar; the musical scene at the time (late 70s-early 80s) was due for a comeback of that type of performer. But under it all is the fact that he was a good entertainer; people liked his show.

During a later conversation a daughter of that same co-worker asked a more offbeat question: Why don't men use romance novels as a source for some type of clue to wooing women, since they seem to provide what many women like? Again, I didn't have a ready answer, but a few thoughts came to mind.

First, doing that would require reading such literature, much of which is simply bad. I'm sure there are well-written romance novels out there, but the process of locating them would be too much effort for most men, especially young men, whom I believe were the target of this. Even among the good ones, finding something appropriate and applicable could be difficult. Those books tend to be period pieces, and translating that into a modern relationship might be problematic.

I suppose the above problem could be mitigated by finding out which books she has read and limiting the research to those, but then there's the matter of whether she would really want that. Those are fantasies, after all, and fantasies rarely transform into reality well, especially when the man attempting it lacks the abilities and resources of a fictional character. It's also possible that she just likes reading that type of fiction and has no interest in actually trying to live it. No man wants to find that out the hard way.

Finally, there's the pathological aversion to reading instructions. If a man won't glance through four pages of a chair assembly pamphlet, how could he be expected to read an entire book about something he thinks he can just figure out on his own?


Dale said...

I don't think your assessment of MJ's appeal is wrong, but I would add that for a time -- late 70s to early 80s -- he put together some remarkably good pop music.

People rave about his dancing, but I have a hard time believing that explains much of it. I think that's the tail and the music is the head. Certainly, as you say, he was known for putting on a great live show, and dancing was a huge part of that.

He peaked in 1983. I think it would be better if most of what came after had never happened -- musically, choreographically, cosmetically, personally, etc.

Mike said...

Yoyu're quite correct, Dale. I should have said people liked "what he did" rather than "his show". He did craft some fine pop music at a time when there wasn't a lot of that around. Unfortunately he really didn't have anywhere to go but down after Thriller, and it's success also enabled the ensuing weirdness.

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