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Back to the FiftiesNostalgia, Hollywood Film, and Popular Music of the Seventies and Eighties$
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Michael D. Dwyer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199356836

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199356836.001.0001

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Michael Jackson, MTV, and Crossover Nostalgia

Michael Jackson, MTV, and Crossover Nostalgia

4 (p.112) Michael Jackson, MTV, and Crossover Nostalgia
Back to the Fifties

Michael D. Dwyer

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the role of Fifties nostalgia on MTV through the career of one of the era’s biggest and most influential figures: Michael Jackson. Jackson was the first Black artist to receive major airplay on MTV, and his music videos reveal a careful negotiation of his Black masculinity, using the logic of “crossover” generated by record companies and radio stations. In “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal,” Jackson embodies masculine archetypes from the Fifties in order to present his own masculinity as safe, traditional, and normative. At the same time, viewers with knowledge of the references made in his videos (to midnight movies in “Thriller” and 1953’s The Band Wagon in “Smooth Criminal”) can generate alternative readings to those videos, ones in which Jackson’s performance of masculinity works as a self-reflexive masquerade, or critical signification, of dominant norms.

Keywords:   Michael Jackson, MTV, Thriller, Smooth Criminal, crossover, masculinity

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