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“You Can't Win, Child, but You Can't Get Out of the Game”: Michael Jackson's Transition from Child Star to Superstar

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This paper examines the early performance style of Michael Jackson and argues that his work as a child prodigy is crucial to understanding his adult career. As a young boy, Jackson was presented to mainstream audiences in ways that connected him to clich├ęd images of child stars of 1930s Hollywood and also drew on stereotypes of black masculinity deriving from blackface minstrelsy. His transition through puberty created anxiety, as the attributes considered appealing for a little boy would strike audiences differently coming from an adult. Analysis of Jackson's navigation of adolescence touches on questions of artistic integrity, masculinity, and the function of child performers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2012

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