Queer figurations in the media: Critical reflections on the Michael Jackson sex scandal

John N. ERNI

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    33 Citations (Scopus)


    This essay examines the discourse of stigmatization set off by the 1993 child molestation scandal implicating Michael Jackson, and reflects on the implications of the scandal for the political possibilities and limits of non-normative identity constructions in the media, and of queerness specifically. After a brief overview of queer theory and its significance to media studies and a discussion of the "queering" of Jackson by the media long before the scandal, I examine three central aspects of the scandal: (a) the commodification of "witness testimony" as it relates to the question of sexual innocence in the case of child molestation; (b) the effeminization of Jackson as a homophobic containment of him by the press; and (c) the interpretive excess in the media's focus of an alleged pedophilic "bedroom scene" that served as the condensation of queer perversity. I argue that because child sexual abuse is a serious social problem, it cannot be treated separately from the regimes of knowledge that construct and regulate human sexuality in the legal, psychiatric, moral, economic, and cultural/mediated spheres. Therefore, if Michael Jackson's troubles preceded the scandal, it is critical for us to understand the source of those troubles and their discursive life especially in the media.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)158-180
    Number of pages23
    JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Communication


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