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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 05/20/2010

Michael Jackson’s unexpected place in academia

By Valerie Strauss

It seems that there are no limits to the influence the late Michael Jackson had on our world.

Not only did he dominate pop music for years, but, according to a new bibliographic guide to academic literature, he has been referenced in journals of law, psychology, medicine, chemistry, mass communications and even engineering.

The guide was compiled by two Texas Tech University associate librarians, Susan Hidalgo and Rob Weiner, who looked through more than 100 databases for scholarly papers and peer-reviewed articles for a special issue of The Journal of Pan African Studies.

It’s called “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: MJ in the Scholarly Literature: A Selected Bibliographic Guide.”

“I was surprised by a lot of what I read. I just thought I knew Michael Jackson,” said Hidalgo, also head of access services for the Texas Tech University Library in Lubbock.

The librarians focused on peer-reviewed or scholarly works with unique Jackson content that might shed light on the way people view larger-than-life celebrities.

In one instance, researchers used Jackson to critique the media’s handling of criminal cases. A 911 call made by Jackson prompted an article in Fire Engineering journal. A British Medical Journal piece written after Jackson’s death last year discussed ethical issues that arise when a patient is more powerful than the attending physician.

One article about the privacy of jury members uses Jackson’s child molestation case to discuss the subject. And one chemistry professor argued that reframing popular songs such as “Billie Jean” could help students understand difficult chemistry concepts.

“The fact that someone would take a Michael Jackson song and co-opt it as a means to convey chemistry concepts just shows the pervasiveness of Jackson’s influence,” Weiner said.

For better or for worse.


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 20, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Research  | Tags:  influence of michael jackson, michael jackson, michael jackson in academia  
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Why did you write the last sentence "for better or for worse"? In years to come you will find out that Jackson was one of the great artistic geniuses of all time and MUCH will be written about him from a scholarly point of view. Berklee College has already put him into the ciriculum, Columbia College is planning a 3 day conference in September, and classical violin virtuoso David Garrett included him in his repetory even prior to his death, just to name a few. It would be hard to overstate his influence in many many different areas other than and including his music that were global in reach. Why the snide comment? Why are journalists afraid to give Michael Jackson his rightful place?

Posted by: ultravioletrae | May 20, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

You totally destroyed your own blog with your narrow minded "for better or worse" comment at the ending.

Michael Jackson's influence on our world will outlast all of us. He is already immortal.

I guess you don't have the courage to be objective re MJ after all the media brainwashing back in 2003 and 2005. Do you still think Saddam was behind 9 11, too?

Posted by: remorse | May 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

You ruined a perfectly good article with the snarky last sentence. Michael Jackson's
genius was a gift to the world. When will the media/press/tabloid writers finally learn that always degrading him like that
just is not acceptable? I would expect better from the WPO.

Posted by: Cford3 | May 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I find it very typical that the original
posting for this article by newswise was
buried behind a number of sensationalistic
entries. However, this reprint is
prominently featured and just happens
to contain a nasty, unnecessary, final

To the author: I am very disappointed
that a representative of the Washington
Post would demean herself with that
comment of "for better or worse". Michael
Jackson has had a far reaching and positive
affect on many aspects of world wide culture and his contributions to humanity
are well documented. They speak very clearly to the respect he deserves. It is time for print media to stop the negative, demeaning, repetition of old tapes. I, for
one, am sick and tired of it.

Please just stop it. The man deserves
our gracious thank you for his lifelong
humanitarian work; for sharing his musical
genius with us; and for the powerful
influence he was, and is, for effective

Posted by: lmat | May 20, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

For God's sake is it still illegal to say anything remotely positive about this man outside of music and dance? Your last sentence negated your connection to the rest of this article.

Posted by: nilajalove | May 20, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Why do people who obviously know little about Michael Jackson write articles ?
Ya know Washington Post, this really doesn't make you look so good. You mean to tell me you have no one on staff that is familiar with bio info. on MJ ?
She writes, "and even engineering". This is probably because Michael patented an invention of his. I'm not even going to tell you what it is. Why not discover for yourself, since this is generally a requirement of journalism; to research facts. Actually, his complete patent design was posted on the internet following his passing (?). In fact this has been the only 1/2 respectable acknowledgment, by the US gov.,
since his passing. Another cryin' shame.
"For better or worse" ? Are you kidding.
Here's a fact I will tell you. Michael J. Jackson gave over 300 million to charities which he oversaw himself. He is now in The Guinness Book of World Records for his humanitarianism, among many other creative achievements. Not to mention all the hospitals, orphanages & US military bases he visited.
Oh, and by the way, also innocent beyond any reasonable doubt; even by the FBI, who followed him for 12 years. God willing, the libraries will spare the public books of false allegations & stories of ignorant authors.
So wake up to the real Michael Jackson.

Posted by: cawobeth | May 20, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Why would it be so unexpected of him in academia? His music and dance were the work of a gensius. How else would one capture the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people all around the world? His energy his mere presence. Study that!

Posted by: shell517nj | May 20, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

To Michael Jackson Fans:

Please do not buy any newspaper or magazine. If we all join together as one, and not buy these things, we can make people like Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post to join the UNEMPLOYMENT line. The other benefits to fans is you save big dollar and you can use the money saved for charity or to buy MJ stuff.

If we join together as one, we can achieve anything.

The newspapers are already struggling from the recession.

Posted by: buzzialdrin | May 21, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

It is critical that we not underestimate Michael Jackson. He was the first truly multimedia composer and performer. He was a genius of the caliber of Mozart and the first truly international celebrity.

Most important was a very special observation that he made as he performed to overflow crowds in 40 different countries. He saw that people of all races, ages, ethnicities, religions, and both sexes could sing and dance together, holding hands and smiling. He saw that a performer could achieve this miracle when politicians could not. He saw that in singing and dancing together we are all one.

He called himself "instrument of nature." He believed that nature wanted us all to be together in huge, happy crowds, just like he saw in his audiences, singing and dancing together. He wanted to establish an event where the whole world would sing a song together at the same time, like we did "hands across America" a few years back. He felt that, if we could all sing and dance together, war would become more difficult.

Some of his fans are trying to organize such an event for the anniversary of his death, an event called "mjworldcry." I urge everyone to join this event. This is important. This really could work where politics -- which proceeds by argument, defending territory, and competition -- does not.

In fact, I would submit that our lives depend on Michael Jackson's observation about visual and performing arts forming a healing international language.

Also, I personally would like to see MJ's song "Heal the World" become the official international anthem of the United Nations. The UN has completely failed to recognize the important role of art as an international language to heal the world -- something that Michael Jackson observed from personal experience.

Posted by: straightarrow372 | May 21, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

This "reporter" has abused her station, as much of medialoid--defined as mainstream media infected by tabloid journalism--has done since the late 1970's.

As other commenters have noted, Strauss couldn't seem to help herself. It's beyond her ken to acknowledge a radical and rare genius without referring to other aspects of Jackson that were repeatedly, consistently and persistently slandered without cause.

Strauss should hang her head in shame. She has done a disservice to journalism and to a stunning entertainer and unparalleled humanitarian.

Posted by: SoCalGal2 | May 21, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Michael's reach and influence was more far-reaching than most of us realized and can even fathom.

Learn the truth about Michael

Exclusive interviews with attorney Tom Mesereau, Aphrodite Jones, Geraldine Hughes and Larry Nimmer. A true, honest portrayal.

Posted by: MichaelandDeborah | May 22, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

This was a very good article until that last comment. Total disrespect.

Posted by: GlendainTexas | May 22, 2010 3:26 AM | Report abuse

I agree with all the comments on here. The last sentence displays all the same old worn out media bias - get over it.

Jackson truly was the first, and I think only, huge international star. He was popular even in non-Westernized cultures mainly because, first he was good, and then he took advantage of global mass communications that were not available before the 80's.

In a perfect world, only people who actually knew Jackson or had taken the time to do independent reliable research about him, which does not include media frenzy, would be allowed to write about him.

Posted by: TomJoy | May 22, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Once, again, some have lost their ability to write with professionalism or intelligence especially when it comes to Michael Jackson. Readers, before commenting, be sure to read the guide the writer is referring to in this article "Wanna Be Startin Somethin, MJ in the Scholarly Literature, A selected Bibliographic guide." It's not what you think when you hear "scholarly." More like an insult. The authors of the guide, Texas Tech University associate librarians, Susan Hidalgo and Rob Weiner, do not share a balance of the highs and lows of MJ's life pertaining to the excerpts they selected for the guide. Why would anyone take this guide as a serious reference? Really?

Posted by: shell517nj | May 22, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

shell517n is correct- I went back and read the whole article- it is mostly about the trial, his surgeries, his whiteness, his sexuality-there is even one article titled "The Michael Jackson of 2 or 3 noses ago and the MJ of today". Good God- nothing about his humanitarian work, about the thousands of orphanages and schools and military bases that he has visited and helped. Nothing about the kids whose life saving surgeries he paid for. There is a reason he is so loved in countries like Japan, Russia and India-they ignore this other tabloid trash and appreciate him for what he was. A genius, a kind and loving man, a troubled man for sure who made some bad decisions, but whose adult life was a result of his childhood. He only tried to do good and the media destroyed him for it. We will never see the likes of someone like this again, and that is our loss to be sure.

Posted by: 2ford | May 22, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

It just goes to show that you give Jesus Juice to underage boys, and everybody prejudges you forever!

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | May 22, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

the point is that MJ's influence on this planet was so far reaching, we can't even begin to comprehend it. yes, the beginnng stages of this analysis have to do with the media trash that people have bought into for so long. but MJ will be studied for CENTURIES to come (i have a music degree from a pretigioius university, trust me on this) in the end, his genius will be remembered and the narrow minded ignorance of the press will be exposed. it's only just beginning.

Posted by: ultravioletrae | May 23, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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