The Dangerous album was such a beautiful space in which Michael Jackson existed. He traveled the line of race & sexuality as America welcomed the ’90s: cross-colors & grunge, The Clintons & The Fresh Prince, gangsta rap & New Jack Swing, & the death of the cassette tape.
In February of 1992, Michael Jackson, with the help of New Jack Swing super-producer Teddy Riley, premiered his song & video “Remember the Time.” It was released after his love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself anthem “Black or White” and before his Naomi Campbell-laden “In the Closet.” Now, Jackson always had panache*, but with this single he cleverly reclaimed the story of Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt. He subtley challenged Elizabeth Taylor’s starring role as the queen by replacing her with the beautiful & exotic Iman. Jackson’s use of an all black cast of performers that included Eddie Murphy & Magic Johnson, & powerhouse director John Singleton (Boys in the Hood) made a bold and lasting statement that rested in irony & in the black community’s frustation with Jackson’s appearance. Jackson suffered from vitiligo, a rare skin disease that caused discoloration on the skin leaving it white or pigmentless. The change in the color of his skin & the various facial transformations are evident, & many assumed this was caused by self-hate, mainly in regards to his race. However, assuming he hated his people may have temporarily been laid to rest when “Remember the Time” aired in the Spring of 1992. With choreography by newcomer & future dance phenom Fatima Robinson, this 9-minute video production incorporated pop & African tribal dancing that celebrated the intersection Michael Jackson represented: the American dream.
Michael Jackson was the manifestation of America as it rested on the talent, poise, & greatness of a black man who transcended race, as well as other barriers. Also, in a decade that embraced open sexual expression, Jackson’s sexuality took center stage. Although, “Remember the Time” is one of few video’s in which he is kissed, black sexuality is at the forefront of this production. Beautiful & well-built men & women performing before the iconic & smoldering Iman introduced the story of Cleopatra to a new generation. As always, this too, was a chance for Jackson to teach the world about the African-American experience while still allowing pop music—the people’s music—to remain the focal point.
I remember, as a child, practicing the breakdown in the video & performining it for a dance recital. I remember my father taking the time to not change the channel because he, too, knew that this production was unlike anything we’d seen before. He knew like we all knew that this was another classic moment that Michael Joseph Jackson extended his hand & offered all the world a chance to see what we were, what we could be, & what a blessing imagination & hard work are. I’m sure that my eyes refused to blink for nine minutes each time I watched “Remember the Time.” It was like dreaming awake. I was in a trance. I still am.
When you wish upon a falling star, you know that eventually that star finds its end & touches the earth to fall no more. You know, too, that somewhere someone else may wish upon that same star, both of you ignorant of the other’s heart longings. Mr. Jackson,though you have fallen, you have touched all the earth with a remarkable body of work & philanthropy. I may never know what someone else wished for you, but I wish your legacy to infuse our world to create & imagine life beyond the realm of conformity in spite of recession & politics. I wish that we’d hear your words of healing & togetherness & work to transcend hate. I wish your soul rest.
Michael aka envy
*I refuse to say Michael Jackson had swag. Souljah Boy & his henchmen have shamed the word. Plus, I find it ridiculous to think Mr. Jackson jumped up out the bed & turned his light on, let alone his swag.