July 01, 2009

Jacko was the King of Celebrity Eugenics.

The late Michael Jackson was a strange individual, but his various obsessions, such as weight loss, whitening his skin, and expensively designing his children, were hardly unique to him.

They are shared by more than few of his legion of female fans. To become a superstar, you have to embody some of the inner fixations of either the male or female publics. And in popular music in recent decades, the biggest names have had largely feminine audiences because male tastes have fragmented into multitudinous narrow genres, such as, say, Melodic Death Metal.
First, Jackson’s apparent anorexia (the 5″€™-10″€ entertainer is said to have weighed only 112 pounds when he died) helped make him such an astonishing dancer: he could induce the illusion that he was somehow exempt from the pull of gravity that all flesh is heir to. (In this 2003 interview, you can watch Jackson, in his mid-40s and ghastly-looking, climb a tall tree on his Neverland estate as effortlessly as any adolescent.)

Weightlessness is an enduring feminine fantasy. Michael of 2Blowhards has pointed out that the stick-figure female models in fashion magazines aren”€™t just a gay fashion designers”€™ plot against real women:

Not only do many women enjoy imagining looking like these models, they enjoy imagining feeling like them too. I think guys often forget what a weighty and earthbound thing it can be, being a gal. … The gals in the pages of fashion magazines and catalogs aren’t weighed down by anything, not even flesh.

Similarly, during the Olympics, women love watching gymnastics and figure skating far more than the less high-flying sports. Indeed, in Jackson’s fantasy, he was Peter Pan, the flying boy from Neverland who never grew up. During Jackson’s youth in the 1970s, Peter Pan was played on endless theatrical tours by Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby.

Second, Jackson was not the only star to practice Celebrity Eugenics.

Paparazzi site TMZ claims that Jackson’s white-looking children are not only genetically not his, they”€™re not even his ex-wife Debbie Rowe’s either. (She denies this.) This really shouldn”€™t be surprising because the former Mrs. Jackson doesn”€™t particularly embody the physical traits, other than skin color, that the perfectionist pop star craved.

Instead, all three kids were supposedly conceived in a test tube. The two older kids”€™ biological father is, according to Us magazine, Jackson’s dermatologist Arnold Klein, with eggs from an unidentified donor implanted in Rowe, who was Klein’s nurse.

Now, you might assume that being Michael Jackson’s Dermatologist would rank you on the Genetic Desirability Scale above only being Michael Jackson’s Cardiologist, but celebrities are not necessarily the best judges of who embodies good traits.

For instance, whom did lesbian rock singer Melissa Etheridge and her then-girlfriend Julie Cypher choose to be the sperm donor dad for Cypher’s two kids? David Crosby of the The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Granted, there is some evidence that musical talent is partly heritable. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians lists 80 different Bachs who were distinguished musicians between approximately 1550 and 1850. According to Paul Johnson’s book Creators, this continuity of ability didn”€™t stem solely from training, but also from the careful marriages the Bachs contracted with their musical rivals”€™ daughters:

The Bachs married, almost without exception, wives from their own class, usually from musical families, who could combine annual childbearing with copying musical parts and performing in family concerts as singers or instrumentalists.

Still, David Crosby doesn”€™t exactly resemble Johann Sebastian Bach in personal character. He only lived long enough to be the sperm donor because he had gotten a liver transplant after years of substance abuse.

Another lesbian star, Jodie Foster, is reported to have been more careful in her hunt for a donor dad.

You likely haven”€™t heard about this. That’s because”€”although America’s libel laws are less harsh than Britain’s”€”celebrities”€™ publicists keep our media under stricter control by practicing “€œaccess journalism:”€ Unless your magazine give me veto power over what you write about my client, none of my other clients will ever sit for a photo cover shoot for your magazine again. Hence, Fleet Street makes for livelier reading about show biz figures such as Foster, whose lesbianism wasn”€™t even mentioned in American newspapers until recently.

Yet, the more interesting story about Foster is one that was widely reported in Britain in the 1990s, but covered in America only by the National Enquirer: Jodie searched strenuously to find the perfect sperm donor, finally settling on a tall, dark, and handsome scientist with a 160 IQ.

That’s very much in character for the owner of Egg Pictures. Foster, a former child prodigy who learned to read at 18-months, seems to see herself as a sort of One Woman Master Race. (The two-time Oscar-winner spent years trying to talk the movie industry into making for her a biopic about Hitler’s pal Leni Riefenstahl, the directrix of “€œTriumph of the Will,”€ a propaganda documentary glorifying the 1934 Nazi Party Congress. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hollywood wasn”€™t enthusiastic about Foster’s Big Idea.)

Finally, although Jackson’s whitening of his skin under Dr. Klein’s care seems bizarre to Americans, bleaching is common among Third World women. CNN reported in 2007:

Skin bleaching”€”using chemical or natural products to lighten skin color”€”is common practice in the Americas, Africa, across Asia, and increasingly, in Europe [in immigrant communities]. Psychologists say consumer demand can be traced to perceptions that lighter skinned or white people are more successful, intelligent and sexually desirable.

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Lighter-skinned women are typically viewed by other women as being prettier. In contrast, as Mae West said of Cary Grant, men are supposed to be “€œtall, dark, and handsome.”€

Nineteenth Century European writers called women “€œthe fair sex“€ not because women are inherently more unbiased (a glance at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s losing opinion in the Ricci case would undermine that theory). Instead, as documented by anthropologist Peter Frost in his 2005 book Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Racial Prejudice, women average about one-tenth lighter in untanned skin color than their menfolk.

This small sex difference is no longer consciously noticeable in our multiracial world, but it still has subconscious power. Thus, Hollywood movies almost always cast love scenes so that the woman is fairer than the man. That’s why black leading men, such as Will Smith, Denzel Washington, and Eddie Murphy, can become huge stars, but black leading ladies are both rarer and fairer.

Therefore, my best guess about why Michael Jackson so abused his poor skin is: He wanted to look pretty.


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