For those unfamiliar with the term, a Castrato is a male soprano whose larynx was never transformed by puberty (i.e. lowered into Tenor or Bass range). Occasionally, this is the result of an endocrinological condition (as the Wikipedia tells me), but it was semi-common practice throughout the Catholic Middle Ages & Renaissance to castrate great boy singers to preserve their pristine upper ranges. (Countertenors are male altos with testicles who have perfected their falsetto, & were also commonly used in church music for centuries, & still sing modern & ancient music today. The last proper Italian operatic Castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1922. There are a few scratchy old recordings of him.)
I do not know that much about Michael Jackson or his music, but I watched the premier of his controversial interview with Martin Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson, while I was in England in 2003/04. I was fascinated by his behavior on that program, & I tossed off the theory that maybe he was castrated before he reached puberty, thus explaining many of his quirks at once. I was just thinking about it again recently, & I asked my friend Danny Holt to bring up an old VHS tape of Living with Michael Jackson, from his collection, when he visited last night. (It's not commercially available.) Danny's friend Shirley suggested I should write down my theory, so, if in twenty years, I'm proved correct, I can say "look when I guessed it!" I'm sure others have suggested this before, but here's my talking points, all based on Martin Bashir's interview.
-HIStory: Jackson was an inspired child singer. His father was controlling, abusive, violent, & obsessed with the success of his children's act. Michael describes repeated beatings, & also his extreme desire to fulfill his father's expectations. With the international fame, & stressful schedule, Michael more or less did not get a childhood. He also refers to his emotional turmoil at puberty, not wanting to grow up or lose his child star qualities, being embarrassed at his zitty pubescent face. If he, his father, or someone else, ever had the crazy idea that they could prolong his child fame & soprano voice by castrating young Michael, I do not want to speculate the actual events. Or maybe he developed an endocrinological condition possibly related to his phoney skin disease.
-His Voice: His singing range is very high, with some seriously difficult-to-reach upper notes which he hits with no strain. Stranger, tho, is the apparent lack of any low tones. I'm not that familiar with his complete cannon, but if anyone is aware of a moment when he throws in a masculine phrase or Elvis impersonation, where is it, & are we sure that he sang it? More interestingly, his speaking voice is pretty high without sounding affected - it doesn't sound like, say, a stereotypical movie transvestite speaking in falsetto with the occasional break away from head voice.
-Eternal Youth: It is obvious that Jackson has deep psychological issues with age. I'm sure these can't be chalked up to any specific thing, his abnormal childhood or his celebrity isolation - and if you castrated a normal small-town boy, he could conceivably have a normal adult life or musical career without building a fantasy Neverland with a private zoo. Jackson claims to have the soul of a child, & some of his regular 12-year-old friends that are interviewed say that he acts & plays like just one of the kids. But as sociopathic behavior isn't evidence of anything physical, I'll leave this issue to the forensic psychologists.
-Virginity: Jackson tells several anecdotes to Bashir about how he was scandalized by sex as a boy. Once when his brother was having sex with girls in the same hotel room. The second story is far stranger, when he is older, at a time when normal teen stars couldn't be happier that girls follow them everywhere, he describes a groupie trying to seduce him & he wasn't "tempted." I should discuss that castrati historically are not asexual, with famous examples like Farinelli, the 18th Century playboy opera-singer. Eunuchs of Antiquity were castrated men employed to accompany & protect the many wives of a patriarch, but their roles also were not asexual - they were often needed to pleasure neglected women of a harem without the threat of impregnation. Michael Jackson is almost certainly not a virgin; but in my subjective opinion, there is something very non-sexual about his relationship with women, & there is something very pure about his obsession with toys & desire to hang out with kids his mental age. I'll return to this thought below.
-His Children Are White: The unalterable nature of genetics & recessive genes were not subjects that his private tutors (most likely Jehovah's Witnesses) ever taught in much detail, because he has a Bush-ian ignorance that he can just tell the world whatever fantasy he believes, like that he is the father of his children. Prince Michael I, Paris, & Prince Michael II ("Blanket") are Caucasian, visibly not half nor fully African-American - (Jackson claims the secret mother of Blanket is black). Whether he has convinced himself that his phoney degenerative skin disease has affected what color his children's skin will be, or if he has been lied to, or simply doesn't get that the rest of the world understands genetics better than he does, is a mystery. But on the interview he unblinkingly describes the conception of his children with their contractual mothers, & rhapsodizes lovingly about their family resemblance to other Jacksons. I feel I can say without much controversy that Joe Jackson is not their genetic grandfather. Whether this is because Michael Jackson does not possess the biological capabilities to create sperm may never be known. But at some point in his late thirties, he expressed the obsession to become a father (he says he would carry around baby dolls), & rather than going about the fairly conventional process of impregnating his wife with his own DNA (& celebrities with large egos are even more prone to want to sire replicas - like baseball player Manny Ramirez, who also named both his first two sons Manny, Jr.), Jackson somehow brought into this world three white children.
-Michael Jackson His Sexuality: Again, we may never know for sure if he is actually a sexual predator who has a history of ogling adolescents. He has been determined, thru several decades, to have sleepovers with kids, & it is even his naive & earnest desire is to admit it openly. This doesn't seem like the behavior of a pervert, who usually has some self-awareness of indiscretion. When I think of Humbert Humbert's caution & paranoia, Jackson comes off as much more of a foot-in-the-mouth putz. He is just so oblivious that, in his mind, kids aren't allowed to sleep in the same bed as other "kids". A better historical parallel may be Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the Oxford mathematics professor & Anglican clergyman, who wrote Alice in Wonderland under the pen name Lewis Carroll. Although Dodgson had many consecutive relationships with young girls, & even photographed some of them semi-nude, Carrollians are in general agreement that his relationships were "platonic". As an adult, Dodgson was a shy, nervous stuttering man, & he only ever felt comfortable around his child friends. It's more complicated than that of course, & one interesting aspect is that the age of Dodgson's girlfriends increased as he did, so that by the time he was an old man, he had several female friends who were in their twenties. As for any Victorian appreciation for the beauty of children, without the creepy sexual overtones always inflicted by our modern minds, we may never be able to see his photography-hobby as not suspect. I'll tell you what I think is creepy: the oil painting in Michael Jackson's house, shown behind him in the interviews, of a mostly-naked Michael in Renaissance style, surrounded by a dozen floating naked cherubs. The point is, even if he naively doesn't see the harm in this aestetic, can't he realize how twisted that seems to the rest of us! Dodgson's photographs have long since been salvaged from suspicion by art critics & biographers - (Go ahead! you can enjoy the beauty of Alice Liddell without feeling non-Catholic guilt or receiving a subpoena) - but there's something fundamentally disturbing about Jackson's tacky taste. I'm on the fence about what's actually going on in his psyche, why or how he is the way he is, what he actually did, & whether history will vindicate him.
If it ever comes out that Michael Jackson is a castrato, that would certainly add an interesting dimension to the discussions about his sexuality & psychology. I recall that in one of the court cases, there was some talk about the victim identifying something unusual about the defendant's genitalia, & there was going to be a photograph of the King of Pop's privates exhibited as corroborative evidence. Any revelation of that magnitude would have been explosive, impossible to keep away from the press. But could it have been....?
UPDATE: I've posted some of the comments from this post in two new separate posts: here & here.
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