This lecture, delivered to the faculty of the School of Foreign Languages at Jiangsu University in China, centered on the use of Fifties style and imagery in the 1980s music videos of Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson experienced resistance from powerful institutions in pop music before his blockbuster 1982 solo album Thriller, and skepticism from some influential Black cultural figures after it. In both cases Jackson partially addressed these challenges through nostalgia-inducing images of the Fifties in his music videos.
In the 1980s, nostalgia for the fifties became an enormously lucrative and politically resonant trope in American popular culture. The text most often identified as the founding document of this “nostalgia wave” in America is American Graffiti (1973).