Thursday, February 2, 2012

Michael Jackson and Is It Scary: Origins and Thematic Concerns

'Is It Scary' was written to feature in 'The Addams Family Values' but after it was omitted, it became Jackson's personal account of the events of 1993.
Is It Scary (Jackson, Michael. Harris III. James and Terry Lewis "Is It Scary" Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. Epic Records.1997), remains a curious R&B pop song, as beneath the pop-rock infused sound, Jackson's lyrics allude to his personal struggles during 1993 .
Is It Scary under it's original title Is This Scary, was written specifically for Addams Family Values (1993), the then anticipated sequel to the popular family film The Addams Family (1991). Lisa D. Campbell, author of Michael Jackson: The King of Pop's Darkest Hour states there were contradicting reports regarding to why the song was omitted from the popular soundtrack for the feature film:
"Some reports stated Michael said he would not be able to finish the song by the release date of the movie which was due in theaters in November [1993]. Other reports said the project was scrapped due to legal difficulties" (pg 63).

Background and Origin of Is It Scary
On August 17 1993 the Los Angeles Police Department began it's criminal investigation of Jackson, who had been accused of child abuse by Evan Chandler, on behalf of his son, Jordan Chandler (Campbell pg. 42). Jackson was in the midst of his sell-out Dangerous World Tour and in the latter months of 1993, the final-leg of the tour would be canceled as Jackson's emotional and physical health was deteriorating, due to the stress of the continuing investigations. Jackson eventually entered a detoxification program during the month of November 1993 (Campbell pg. 104).
It is quite possible Jackson was unable to fulfill his commitments to the soundtrack of The Addams Family Values due to time constraints, considering Jackson's extensive Dangerous World Tour schedule:

  • From August 1993, the press openly ridiculed and vilified Jackson (as explored in Stranger in Moscow) despite the fact a police officer stated to the LA Times "that no evidence (medical, photographic or video) could be found that would support a criminal filing" (Campbell pg. 42-45). Also the filmmakers of the Addams Family Values arguably did not sympathize with Jackson and instead chose to place a cheap joke at his expense within the feature film - or it could be said this 'joke' (which 'may' have already been in the screenplay) took on a different meaning in light of the accusations.The first leg began on June 27 1992 in Munich, Germany and ended on October 1 1992 in Bucharest, Romania.
  • The second leg began on December 12 1992 and ended on December 31 1992 in Tokyo, Japan.
  • The third leg of the tour began on August 24 1993 in Bangkok, Thailand and ended on November 11, 1993 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Michael Jackson's Ghosts
Jackson continued to work on Is It Scary as it would become to be known and it was reportedly "finished along with an extended video ... financed by Michael, ... said to cost 6 million" in March 1994 (Campbell pg. 207). It is unconfirmed if Campbell (her book was published in 1994) is referring to another unreleased music video or Michael Jackson's Ghosts ( MJJ Productions 1997) which featured Is It Scary in the short film.
Michael Jackson's Ghosts is a thinly veiled account of the events of 1993, from Jackson's point of view. The short film which was directed by the late Stan Winston and written by Jackson and Stephen King, screened out-of-competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.
The short film features Jackson in a dual role, as the otherworldly protagonist 'The Maestro' and the antagonist 'The Mayor,' who attempts to threaten, intimidate and persecute the 'The Maestro' as he is different from the other citizens of their township 'Normal Valley". Throughout the course of the feature 'The Mayor' belittles 'The Maestro', calling him a "weirdo" and "freak," despite the pleas of the town's children who maintain 'The Maestro' is not deserving of such disgraceful treatment.
Is It Scary features as part of an extended dance routine alongside 2 Bad (Jackson, Michael, Swedien Bruce, Moore Rene and Dallas Austin " Bad" HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1. Epic Records. 1995) in which 'The Maestro' and his family of ghosts and ghouls attempt to 'scare' 'The Mayor.' Eventually 'The Maestro' possesses 'The Mayor's' body, revealing a grotesque image, in which the possessed 'Mayor' is asked by 'The Maestro' "Who's the freak now? Freaky Boy, Freak circus freak".
Thematic Concerns of Is It Scary
Is it Scary, similar to the thematic concerns explored in Threatened (Jackson Michael, Jerkins Rodney, Jerkins III, Fred and LaShawn Daniels. "Threatened" Invincible. Epic Records 2001) is Jackson's response to being crucified in the media. Both Is It Scary and Threatened use fantastical metaphors to depict, what Jackson felt was endless judgment in the media and the public of his personal and public life. In thelost footage filmed by Hamid Moslehi, from the Living With Michael Jackson 2002/2003 interview sessions with Martin Bashir - Jackson revealed the soul-destroying nature of being a universally recognized celebrity:
"Everybody judge[s] you matter what you do your judged"
(Quote from Living With Michael Jackson: A Tonight Special. Dir. Julie Shaw. Granada Television 2003).
Judgment and in particular, choosing and desiring to view an individual in a negative light is at the heart of Is It Scary. Jackson within the lyrics, in the first person states the subject of the song can be whatever one (i.e. the media) desires, but by wanting the subject of the song to be 'evil' and 'grotesque' it is not him who is 'scary,' rather it is those who choose to take pleasure in destroying and victimizing him. Within the lyrics Jackson also significantly states he is "tired of being abused" a sadly unheard outcry for privacy, calm and restraint, in what would have been a demoralizing and dispiriting series of events for Jackson in 1993.

Read more at Suite101: Michael Jackson and Is It Scary: Origins and Thematic Concerns |

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