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  • Author: Anna Pochmara x
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Cultural Perspectives
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Abstract

The article analyses Michael Jackson’s album Thriller and Prince’s movie Purple Rain. We explore their camp aesthetics and their recasting of the cultural representations of the black male. Jackson’s and Prince’s performative personas are both liberatory and burdened with the received cultural scripts of black masculinity. We claim that their employment of camp is political rather than escapist and depoliticized. Camp serves them as a platform to mourn the cultural displacement of the black male body in a postslavery America. In particular, the two artists distance themselves from the extensive ideological and physical pressures exerted on the black male body in the early 1980s. As a result, their performances are complexly de-Oedipalized. Prince in Purple Rain refuses to assume the patriarchal position of the Father. Analogously, Jackson fashions himself as a Peter Pan-like eternal adolescent who never makes his final identification as either heterosexual or LGBTQ desiring agent. In the coda to the article, we reach beyond the 1980s to explore a more flexible approach to camp in the artistic output of twenty-first-century African American performers of Queercore and Afrofuturist scenes, which were partially enabled by Jackson’s and Prince’s performances.

Black Authorship, Masculinity, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance