Michael Jackson’s Death Mask (Sorta, But Not Really)

Regular readers of Biblioklept may know that for the past year or so I’ve posted a death mask every Sunday. Sometimes these “death masks” are actually life masks or even busts made years after burial. Obviously, these bizarre statues—which belonged to Jackson himself—are not death masks in any literal sense, but I think that they capture some of the strange horror of MJ. As I argued in an essay written shortly after his death, Jackson’s physical body was a concentrated site and signal of the American Dream as process, as change, as commodity capital written on the physical self. The death masks above (as I choose to call them) embody the bizarre fascination that will always mark any serious consideration of Jackson’s career as a public figure. As he showed us repeatedly in his music videos and short films — not to mention in his multiple radical plastic surgeries — Jackson posited his physical body as a site of mutation, transformation, and disruptive change; these changes ran the gamut of physical possibility, from the organic werebeast/zombie dancing king at the center of “Thriller” to the mechanized cyborg we see above. In any case, forgive this post’s (probably) lurid title—it is simply offered in the spirit of consistency, affording me an opportunity to share some strange pics of a tragic, horrific figure this Halloween.

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