Mar 23, 2010

Oh the tyranny of being adored by millions!

There was a moment in the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It that had me puzzled. Jackson is performing a duet of 'I Can't Stop Loving You' with one of his backing singers. She is giving it her all; he's hanging back to save his voice. Gradually a crowd of the shows dancers form at the bottom of the stage, applauding the two of them, whooping them on. Jackson starts to get into his performance, throwing in a dance move or two. The number ends and everyone applauds. Michael is angry. "You can't do that to me," he says. "You shouldn't make me do that..." At first I thought he was talking to the show's producers; maybe they had slipped him a signal to ramp it up? Or maybe the documentary's director? It takes me a while to figure it out: He was addressing the dancers. For applauding him. I thought that was fascinating: the idea of a performer so compulsive that the mere presence of applause wields a power impossible to resist, almost tyrannical. He was genuinely resentful at them for abusing that power.

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