Michael Jackson thrills with classic MTV debut

In 1983, Michael Jackson released what would prove to be his crowning achievement. MTV’s very first world premiere video, Thriller, debuted and single-handedly altered the landscape of music videos. Directed by John Landis and produced as a short film, Thriller clocks in just over 13 minutes and leads viewers through a chilling fantasy filled with an atypical love story, the supernatural and living dead. Flamboyant makeup, ornate costume design and Vincent Price’s sepulchral articulation illustrate the eerie setting and add to the video’s theme of fright, horror and awe. Jackson’s iconic red and black leather jacket is still easily recognizable today. While the early days of MTV ushered in music videos merely the length of the tune and lacked much pomp, Thriller paved the way for future artists and encouraged entertainers to explore a more creative side to an otherwise cookie-cutter industry.

As a young girl, I remember gathering in the family room and settling in to watch the mega-premiere. Despite being a young age then, I have vivid memories of hiding behind our couch afraid that a cemetery somewhere nearby was coming alive with the dead peeking out from their eternal dirt nap. The fact that zombies were performing elaborate dance sequences did nothing to ease my fears (although admittedly apropos, the moves are a fantastic nod to classic horror film monsters.) Thanks in part to my wild imagination as a child, watching the undead circle Jackson and his date to the sound of shuffling feet and unearthly moans sealed the deal for me: This was quite possibly the most terrifying 3 minutes of a toddler’s life. Enough so, that I can recall with such clarity today. Let’s not forget Jackson morphing into both a werewolf and zombie himself. No thanks, I’ll pass!

Of course, we didn’t have fancy technology such as DVR or even Direct TV for that matter; some families lacked basic cable. However, Jackson had a penchant for creating a buzz around his projects and Thriller was no different. Anyone with bare interest made sure to be in front of a television, with cable, the evening of December 2, 1983. Eyes glued to the screen, we watched as Jackson pioneered his way into our homes and exhibited his capacity to engross and enthrall th a timeless piece of work. Except for kids like me, you know, who cowered behind their parent’s couch.

Watch the epic short film below! Happy Halloween! [embed width="600" contenteditable="false"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA[/embed]

Reach the columnist at Katie.Self@asu.edu or on Twitter @rallykate. You can also find her on Spotify at Katie Self.


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