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Michael Jackson’s Hologram: Posthumous Exploitation?


Here’s an image of Michael Jackson’s hologram.

Everyone has been talking about the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. Because I don’t regularly watch music video award shows anymore, I missed the initial buzz about a hologram of Michael Jackson making a performance at the show.

Initially, it sounds exciting, right? I mean, who doesn’t love some Michael Jackson, especially if we have the technology to make him slavishly perform before us, even when he’s dead; however, after watching the performance, it just felt creepy…and slightly boring.

CNN stated:

 It was either the most amazing thing ever — or super creepy, depending on which side of the fence you were viewing it from.

Recording artist Trevor Morgan tweeted “MICHAEL JACKSON HOLOGRAM IS RAD.” New York magazine’s Vulture assistant editor Lindsey Weber tweeted “turns out this michael jackson hologram is just as confusing and uncomfortable as we imagined.”

The debate over whether or not we should be allowed to use holograms of dead celebrities to satisfy our needs is not new and initially sprung up in 2012 after Tupac Shakur’s hologram made an appearance at Coachella.

Michael Jackson Hologram2

Shakur’s hologram performing at Coachella.

I feel a bit ambivalent about this whole issue. On the one hand, I do understand that celebrities’ images are meant to be publicly consumed…meaning that it doesn’t really belong to them. Michael Jackson-the person-is dead, but his celebrity image will be alive forever, regardless if its in the form of a hologram, or on the cover of a magazine.

However, creating technology to make celebrities’ images perform seems a bit overkill. In fact, it might even be disappointing for fans who don’t necessarily want to engage with a hologram of their favorite celebrity.

I remember I went to a Beatles cover show where four guys who looked identical to the four Beatles dressed up as their characters, and played their instruments in the EXACT same way. Their voices were identical to John, Paul, George and Ringo’s as well—even their movements. While I LOVED the show, most of the audience didn’t even engage with them in an exciting way. In fact, everyone was sitting down trying to point out the differences between the real Beatles and these actors’ looks…and that was a bummer.

I couldn’t contain myself because I was so absolutely excited, but there were many folks who didn’t seem as enthused about the performance.


Here’s the Beatles cover band, “Rain.”

So, in reality, what makes hologram images so different from actors who study and portray celebrities so that they can perform as them? Audiences are obviously still very thirsty for dead celebrities’ music and images. Do holograms go too far?

I mean, it’s not like we’ve exhumed Jackson’s corpse and put puppet strings on his body on stage. That just sounds sick, right? We’re taking a popular image and making it move.  The only real problem I can see is the exploitation of Jackson’s image where others are profiting from it. In reality, this isn’t the first time people have tried to profit from his death. Maura Johnston states:

This is hardly the first time the Jackson estate and those who stood to make money from his music have dug up his legacy in order to make a posthumous buck. Jackson’s 2009 death came right before he was scheduled to embark on a lucrative 50-show residency at London’s O2 Arena; the shows didn’t happen, and neither did a pair of tribute concerts that were supposed to coincide with his 51st birthday. Instead, the film This Is It—made from footage of rehearsals for the O2 shows—landed in theaters that fall and eventually grossed $72 million in the U.S. and $261 million worldwide. A year later came the first posthumous album from Jackson, Michael.

What do you all think? Is Michael Jackson’s hologram just a natural progression and evolution of our technological advancements, or is it going a bit too far? Are hologram images creating an unhealthy relationship between fans and celebrities?

While I was curious to see how the hologram image looked, I personally thought the whole performance was super boring. Sorry Michael….i mean, Hologram Michael.

Here’s the performance:

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