Huma Yusuf in Dawn, Blog (Pakistan):
One of my best friends and I first started talking because of Michael Jackson. It was 1991, and satellite dishes were creeping into Pakistan. Weeks after my family splurged on a dish, the iconic music video of ‘Black or White’ hit the airwaves – one viewing of that, and we knew the cash doled out for the dish had been worth it. Our worlds – and minds – had been blown open, and nothing was ever going to be the same.
My father stationed himself in front of the television for nights on end, glued to Channel V, eagerly anticipating another screening of the world-turning, people-morphing, dance-inspiring video. For months, I was summoned out of bed, out of the shower, away from the dinner table, and even off the toilet to watch the last 30 seconds of a video that used special effects to defy bodies, space and race. It got to a point where I started wondering that my family was a bit weird, a tad too obsessed with the cinematic draw of Jackson and his video. And then my classmate, let’s call her Z, admitted to staying up nights in the hope of catching another screening of the video.
For weeks, Z and I analysed each and every frame of that video, the lyrics of the song, the poignant casting of Macaulay Culkin in the rap sequence (hey, it was 1991!), and more. We’re still firm friends. But even better, I realised that my understanding of the World Out There, friendship, family, music, dance, desire and film has forever been shaped by Michael Jackson.
Of course, Jackson had permeated my world years before the satellite dish came to rest on my roof. His music was everywhere in the 1980s, and after finding a pirated copy of the complete version of the ‘Thriller’ video on VHS, my elder brother ensured that my nightmares were populated with yellow eyes, animated corpses and jerky arm movements for many months. No doubt, the King of Pop as artist and celebrity was a familiar figure. But it took me a little longer to figure out that Michael Jackson as cultural phenomenon has always been a part of my everyday life.
Photo source: All Things Pakistan