Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 29, 2009

The Meaning Of Michael


Interesting choice for the Newsweek cover after five days of Michael Jackson-inspired media saturation. After so many images evoking Jackson’s pain, the schism between his public and private life, and his twisted physical evolution, Newsweek wipes it all away with a visual “last word” embracing the tactic of regression.

With the recently redesigned magazine battling for survival and gripped by its own identity crisis, the cover — especially in the context of the headline — is the equivalent of comfort food.

Not only does the photo let us off the hook in confronting any complexity in regards to “the meaning of Michael,” the image — serving up what reads like a sensitive, untouched, all-knowing, black-is-beautiful old soul — offers a simple, soothing, innocent time-out from from things like the brutal recession; the health care crisis; the wars; global warming — in other words, just about everything else that is fractious, complicated and all-too-much-work to make real meaning out of these days.

(image: still looking. Michael Jackson Newsweek Cover July 13 2009)

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