Uncomfortable Is the Way You Make Me Feel

Let’s talk about Michael Jackson for a minute.

I love Michael. He was an entertainment god and his videos have a mythic quality about them. I mean, Thriller, seriously? It is justly considered the best video of all time. However, watching his videos requires a certain suspension of disbelief because they are often about as believable as a cartoon.

As evidence, I submit the 1987 video for “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Have a look:

So the video* begins with Michael screaming “HEEEY” at a girl as she walks the streets alone one evening. The timbre of his voice definitely reads “playful flirtatious encounter”, not “prepare to be stalked, beaten, and brutalized on top of a bunch of old boxes smelling of lo mein.”

*That is, the abbreviated video above. The full version 36 hours long.

Michael is dressed to the nines in an outfit that would be sure to receive a disapproving cluck from Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Nothing says streetwise like a floofy white scarf holding your jeggings up. Also, am I the only person who feels like the more surgery MJ got on his face, the worse he smelled? I have always felt this way. Maybe it’s because he was a child trapped in a man-ish body, and kids don’t like baths. Or maybe it’s because he was lulu and lulus are prone to forget to practice basic hygiene. Or maybe it’s because this video was filmed in the Land the Sanitation Department Forgot.

So here in the LSDF, a young lady got all dressed in a diced up wet suit that night for her beau, MJ. Right. I guess she’s pretty good in the video, but for reals, she looks a bit too much like an emaciated Janet Jackson for me to be 100% comfortable with her role as Michael’s love interest. And could someone please feed her a pizza? For sers, guys, I think Miss C weighs more than her.

Michael usually has a posse in his videos, probably because he was always an outsider in real life. In this video, his posse is a group of middle-aged hobos. I think I even spotted the Hamburgler in there. His girlfriend has a posse, too, which is good because between the four of them, one of them is bound to have a rape whistle. Most likely the one who appears to be a man in drag. According to Wikipedia, one of the girl’s friends is played by LaToya Jackson, which I guess makes sense. Wouldn’t YOU want to be in a music video where your brother does pelvic thrusts towards the girl playing your friend?

Frolicking through the streets strewn with used syringes, the girl makes like Laura Winslow and brushes off the geeky advances of Michael, who is about as smooth an operator as the electronic jug band at Chuck E. Cheese’s. But by the end of the video, someone has popped open a fire hydrant and she is embracing MJ like her life depends on it.

And yet I love this video. Go figure.

Special thanks to Angie at Childhood Relived for allowing me to completely plagiarize her What the…Friday? idea for this post, where she resurrects an old YouTube clip and then points out that the drugs of the 80s were indeed potent. She’s pretty rad.


And then there were four! Congrats to my friend Jells from I’ll Sleep When They’re Grown for the birth of A2! I am now officially not following any pregnancy blogs. I have a little hole in my heart.


  1. Emily,
    Michael is an amalgam of genius and creepy. Which is why I often cringe when I see The Whispering Petunia dance like Michael. Well done.
    Le Clown

    1. Kids in Korea (and by “kids” I mean “everyone”) were always dancing around like Michael. It was cool and bizarre at the same time.

      1. Emily,
        Cool and bizarre… Are you describing Le Clown?
        Le Clown

        1. You know, I very well could be. There are a lot of things you have in common with Korea.

          1. Emily,
            Le Clown

            1. I would hope you smell better than fermented cabbage.

              1. Emily,
                As does my wife.
                Le Clown

  2. Aw, good for the Hamburgler. I thought he just drifted off into obscurity, but at least he had a tad more fame hanging onto Michael’s coattails.

    1. Yeah, but he clearly didn’t make any money because he still had to wear his McDonalds-issued uniform. One hit wonder I suppose.

  3. There’s so many songs of MJ I love. Despite everything we heard about him (whether true or not, who knows?) he was weird, but incredibly talented. Great post, Em.

    1. I tend to doubt a lot of the scary stuff that was said about him. He was a weirdo whose upbringing didn’t allow for him to ever be in a place where he could work out his neuroses. Although there are grains of truth behind every bad rumor, I prefer to remember him for his talent.

  4. Michael Jackson Off The Wall.
    One of the best albums ever.

    1. I think so too! You have great taste.

  5. Ah, yes. MJ. The 80s. The drugs of the 80s. A really good time to be young and single. I’ll say no more.

    1. I’m going to have to insist that you expound on this comment someday in a blog post.

      1. But then I’d have to remember!

  6. runningonsober · · Reply

    This was a fun post! I think I probably listen to MJ more today than I did back in “the day.” So much of his stuff is fun to run to. I try not to think about all the personal crap from his life; It’s sad to me really. This video was pretty cool-the one that gives me the creeps is “Bad” with all it’s screaming and moaning. So on that note, have a “Bad” week (which of course means, have a totally awesome week!)

    1. Thanks! “Bad” is INSANE. I would have written about it but I think Weird Al has already put its ridiculousness to rest. I like working out to MJ, too. And I am so, so excited that it is almost “Thriller” time! Can’t have a proper Halloween without it!

      Thank you for your comment and have a “bad” week yourself! :D

  7. That Michael Jackson was a one-of-a-kind artist is indesputable. But so is the fact that he was a bit “off the wall” indeed. And the idea of him netting a woman like the one in the video? I think not. But like you, I love that video. And so many others of his.

    Great post. :)

    1. He was indeed pretty awesome. And I am so excited that it’s almost Halloween because I get to watch “Thriller” a thousand times. Such. A. Great. Video. Thanks, Carrie!

  8. krugthethinker · · Reply

    Emily! You are hilarious! You made my morning, and I think writing commentary for Michael Jackson videos should absolutely be your full-time job. I was going to say that I think the scariest thing about this video is that MJ and that girl actually look exactly alike. Creepy! Also, if I saw a bunch of coordinated dancing dudes snapping and twirling like that, I think my biggest fear would be murder, Jets and Sharks style. And I could totally pick LaToya out of that line. Good work!

    1. Really?! I have no idea which one she is. Ah, to be a Jackson who is not as recognizable as Janet or Michael but still have the money. And not be named Tito.

  9. unfetteredbs · · Reply

    Props for the Project Runway reference and MJ totally freaks me out.. I don’t like him at all. Creepy manchild

    1. I would shimmy a Project Runway reference into every post I write if I could. Thanks, Audra!

  10. Awww! Look at him, all tied up with a bow! And that chick doesn’t even flinch when his arms start flailing.

    1. They paid her the big bucks to stay professional and look the other way.

  11. hahahaha! I almost fell off my chair with the mention of the “Hamburgler!” L-O-FRICKIN-L!!
    This is 100% true and funny, and yet I love this video as well!?? Must be the magic of Michael?

    1. He is magical. When viewed objectively, he is the most outlandish person ever. And yet we all adore him.

  12. Brilliant observation on MJ and his need for a posse. I think it added a lot to the Weird Al parody videos.

    1. Which are also freaking awesome. I <3 Weird Al too.

  13. I think that most music videos are “about as believable as a cartoon” but MJ’s had terrific production values and they were the gold standard of the era. Viewing that video 25 years later, knowing what has since been revealed about this tortured soul, can influence one’s opinion in the present, but even while watching it now the enormity of his talent shines through. When I think of him, I think of him as a master showman that grew increasingly disconnected from the world as he aged. The second he hit 40, I felt he was living on borrowed time. The fact he made it as far as 50 still amazes me. I prefer to remember him as he was in the 80s, his “king of pop” decade, when he was in is prime and his music was topping the charts, than what became of him in the 90s and beyond when his downward spiral picked up momentum and he was such a polarizing force. By the time he checked out, he was both an object of societal rejection, mockery and contempt as well as someone that continued to command a fanatic level of adulation. That is extraordinary. It’s probably a gross understatement to suggest that it probably was not easy to be him. If there is a place beyond this life, I hope he is there and he’s found the peace and contentment he did not seem to have during his stay here.

    1. I love what you wrote here. Anyone could see that, even as a child in the Jackson 5, his talent was transcendent. Like you, I hope he’s found his peace.

      1. I think he has. I HOPE he has.

    2. You have really articulated my thoughts on him very well. Being a preteen and teenager in the 90s, I remember making fun of him along with everyone else because that was the tone set by the media and by most of my cohorts. He was an easy target and the tabloids couldn’t have asked for a better celebrity to serve up. As I’ve grown older, I realize that he was an extremely complex PERSON (not just character) who impacted the world in ways that couldn’t fully be recognized when he was in his prime. I’ll say it: I miss him, and I don’t think he was guilty of the horrible things he was accused of.

  14. Good video but it pales in comparison to the 36 hour director’s cut.

    1. I know, right? Plus it’s so much more upbeat than The Sorrow and the Pity.

  15. WordsFallFromMyEyes · · Reply

    You’re a little brave to write all this! But I did enjoy it. Had me look at the video again, in a new way. A good write, really.

    1. Thanks. Although I’d say I’m more bored than brave ;D

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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