Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson show: Finally, something scarier than Circus Circus

Circuses are creepy. At least, clowns are creepy. On a philosophical level, the subtle menace of clowns is partly the result of the mask that separates them from the realm of normal society; basically, the clown is not quite human, but rather a grossly exaggerated caricature of one aspect of human behavior — the happy clown, the sad clown, the mad clown — and thus, in a way, peels back our own masks to reveal what is within ourselves, giving rise to a certain existential dread. At least I'm pretty sure that's why clowns make me so uncomfortable.

That, or Juggalos.

When he was alive, you could have perhaps applied a similar psychology to what it was about Michael Jackson that was so disquieting. For one thing, his appearance was weirdly mask-like, radically altered from its original form into a plasticine semblance of itself, like some kind of alien approximation of the humanoid form. More important, though, Jackson was a gross exaggeration of an aspect of the human experience, a neurosis perhaps no better epitomized than in his Neverland Ranch, the King of Pop's estate and monument to his life's most crushing tragedy.

Because the root of Michael Jackson's sadness was that he literally never had a childhood. By the time he was five, he was packing arenas and fronting a chart-topping band, on contract with Motown and in a straight-up, full-time career, just like you or me. Now imagine a regular five-year-old boy, and the mind fucking explodes to think that someone that age could have the faculty to handle that kind of responsibility. It's impressive, for sure, but it came at an unfathomably steep price — read: ruthless exploitation — and he never recovered from it. In adulthood, he became a real-life Peter Pan, a boy who could not grow up, and naming his estate Neverland Ranch was a shockingly naked acknowledgment of that fact.

There's no way to be certain, but he probably wasn't a child molester; he just related to kids on a level that normal adults move beyond. But it sure did give us the creeps, and we could not forgive him for it until about two seconds after he died, when we could forget the consequence of what we made him into and reduce him to it: a great entertainer, and no more.

Anyway, let's get back to more traditional clowns for a second: Just because they're classed-up, vaguely continental French clowns does not make the clowns of Cirque du Soleil any less unsettling. In fact, they're maybe more so, possibly because they are less exaggerated in form than American clowns, and therefore somehow more sinister — kind of like Michael Jackson was.

And that's why it's so troubling that, in conjunction with its tribute to his life — which, really, is weird enough — Cirque du Soleil announced last week that it will re-create the Neverland Ranch in the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, basically adding clowns to the symbol of everything that disturbed us about an already pretty unsettling dude, then putting it in a casino: It's like the unholy confluence of everything horrible about the world. (Cirque's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour plays in Denver January 6-8, 2012.)

On the bright side, at least there will finally be one thing in Las Vegas more terrifying than Circus Circus.

Jef Otte is the assistant arts & culture editor for Westword and blog editor for Show and Tell. Read more by Otte at his Westword author page.

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This article is just ridiculous! Poor Michael. And by the way, Cirque du Soleil doesn't use any clowns. Their shows are pretty awesome and one has to admire all that human body can do. Plus everything else. Michael loved it and I'm happy that Cirque will pay him a tribute this way. I'm going to the show in Denver in January next year. I can't wait.


Mister Would-be:"I am so smart" (You wish..)

You should mistake for conceit not with education/formation)!To be honest, it falls in to me to you only one: Even a fart of MJ(sorry Mike ->i♥u) has more IQ and class than you, you manure birth! Crawl again in where you have crawled out. Nobody needs dark forms which hunt themselves with negative rubbish after fame. Such a shame!

MJ is n will be, the immortal King over any kind of Art(Music/Dance/Writing/Acting/Magian/Spirit/the List will never take an end, cuz MJ is just as a Ginuis touched by GOD), that exists, HE`s also the King of Humanity, MJ`s also well known as "The King of LOVE n ♥-ts" --> a Gift by God brought to Earth! Michael earns respect, not only as master of the arts, but also as an individual and as the person HE is=a true Angel!


Your an idiot!!

Jef Otte
Jef Otte

Donna, I think you mean "you're" an idiot.


I find it comical that you correct Donna's grammatical flub, yet you didn't correct one in your article and I quote: "... and therefore somehow more sinister — kind of like Michael Jackson was." Kind of like Michael Jackson was what, Jef?

Also I find your use of explicit language disturbing, and only proves your ignorance and lack of intelligence that you can't find better words to use in a statewide publication.

Jef Otte
Jef Otte

Not an error, Tyler. In that construction, "Michael Jackson" is equated with "French Clowns," so when i say "Kind of like Michael Jackson was," "less exaggerated in form than American clowns, and therefore somehow more sinister" is implied -- it would be redundant to spell that out, and most folks can infer the meaning.

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