To quote Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks, “everybody knows” that Michael Jackson took fans on a roller coaster ride with respect to his appearance. Though his issues with skin pigmentation were rooted in him suffering from vitiligo, Jackson reconstructed his entire face by way of cosmetic operations. Couple that with a relaxer and varying hairpieces, and Jackson’s look changed a multitude of times throughout his short life.
M. J. went from handsome Black child to handsome Black man with a wet curl to favoring a light-skinned Diana Ross (or Evan Ross Sr., in hindsight). Later, he would look like a spare DeBarge member before morphing into someone who surprisingly resembles Kris Jenner.
Jackson spent much time and money chasing his idea of perfection—a false image rooted in Eurocentric standards of beauty beaten into him by his insensitive father, his brothers (who should’ve known better), and the White supremacist ideology that informed their insults. But no matter how many people failed Michael Jackson in his life (and in some cases, he failed himself), that doesn’t negate the fact that he was a Black man. With that in mind, why on Earth have some silly people opted to cast a White man to portray one of the best and brightest Black entertainers in history?
According to reports, the very White Joseph Fiennes will play the King of Pop in a comedy called Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon. The special is based on a Vanity Fair story recounting that time Michael Jackson invited Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando to his concert at Madison Square Garden, rented a car with them, and began a quest to California after the 9/11 terrorist attacks stopped all travel. This story has been widely discredited as an urban myth. In fact, Taylor’s former assistant claimed the late actress visited Ground Zero and a church to pray for victims after the attacks.
Nonetheless, the movie is happening, with Fiennes saying, “It’s a fun, lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like. But also it’s rather beautiful and poignant about their relationships.”
This is the equivalent of whispering sweet nothings in one’s ear with bad breath. Michael Jackson was not a White man. Michael Jackson suffered immensely from the pressures of not looking anything close to a White man. To have Michael Jackson die and cast a White man to portray him in a “comedy” feels like taking a piss on the grave of an already wounded spirit.
Some—White people, of course—are trying to compare this to casting a Black girl as Annie or a Black woman as the Wizard of Oz. Clearly these were children left behind, so allow me to hello: Michael Jackson is a real person. Annie and the Wiz are not real. It’s not the same.
Now if the folks behind this comedy wanted to cast NeNe Leakes as Elizabeth Taylor or Samuel L. Jackson as Marlon Brando, then maybe I can ignore some White man playing my namesake. That is highly unlikely though, which makes this the one time I encourage Joe Jackson to grab his belt. I wish these special folks nothing but failure and more failure. Michael Jackson has suffered enough. Ask Flex Alexander and VH1.