Proposal for a Michael Jackson Studies department at the University of Kansas

With the movie-adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise coming out in the near future, the question of how literature affects popular culture is once again thrust into the lime-light. In White Noise, The protagonist is head of the Hitler Studies department and doesn’t know a lick of German. I don’t know how to dance, and that is why I’ve written this proposal for a Michael Jackson Studies Program at the University of Kansas:

Dear Chancellor Bob,

I did not fully comprehend the importance of Jacko until a few loose associations came together:

  1. I once dated a girl whose face was on Michael Jackson’s magazine cover. I had no idea that he had a magazine.
  2. Thriller might have been cool, but I was traumatized as a child by it. This may explain why I’ve reverted to loving the J5 over “P.Y.T.” or “Billy Jean.”
  3. Bubbles. Bubbles was the glue that made G-n-R guitarist Slash friends with Mike because of their mutual love of pets.
  4. My roommate didn’t know how to take a birthday cake with a frosting-composed simulacrum of Jacko’s post-surgical schnoz on top of it.

The previous point was the catalyst for this proposal. Like a blinding flash, Q.E.D., Eureka, I had discovered it! That dancing machine and his uber-chiseled nose on a two-dimensional cake is indicative of everything that makes American culture appear despicably saccharine, ludicrous, superficial and repulsive, yet, oddly glamorous and alluring.

Jackson’s infamy and fame; his innocence and guilt; marriage and pedophilia; opulent wealth and forecasted poverty; blackness and whiteness; adulthood and lack of maturity; natural nose and surgical updates; claims of honesty and obvious omissions of truth; drop the baby or not, these represent all of America’s internal dialogues, conflicts, and perhaps their resolution.

After all, who can argue that they are not in an existential dilemma, when one is faced with cutting a pop god’s deranged facial structure or honoring the iconic status? What would you choose? Do you nibble? Where did this dilemma come from? Is this cake copyrighted? Who actually put him onto the cake? Did they feel as dirty as I imagined? Was it a joke, or in earnest?

I think that we can all recognize that the true origin of this dilemma lies in the ubiquitously residual cultural ramifications of slavery. One need only juxtapose Jacko’s cake-face with Picasso’s ground-breaking cubist painting “Les Demoiselle’s D’avignon” to realize Michael Jackson’s genius. He has cleverly continued the centuries-old dialogue between African culture(specifically African masks), African American identity, and popular American culture.

Further research and funding must be given to this subject. Michael Jackson embodies a large amount of the fences straddled, the metaphorical boundaries, and tensions buttressing American culture. I hope that I have gained your support in making KU, potentially, one of the cultural meccas of the world.

Your pal,


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