First off, trying to analyze this song without actually hearing Michael Jackson singing is pointless. Forgetting all of his wrongs, faults, and peculiarities of the man, he has a wonderful voice and when this song first came out in 1988, it was considered a very positive and influential song. I started out reading the lyrics and saying them aloud to myself but that did not work at all, I could not articulate or give meaning to the words. Once I started playing the song on my computer and reading the lyrics simultaneously, my reading of the song changed. I could feel the compassion and meaning in his voice as he tried to make his message of personal sacrifice and humbleness understood.
I read Joel’s observations and I think he did a tremendous job of addressing Lacan and the mirror in the song. The man looking into the mirror is the central image in the song which means that this reflection that the narrator is going through is the key observation of the song. As Hall states on page 107, the mirror stage “centers on the dawning of self-awareness…when the child becomes aware of itself as a distinct being.” The narrator in the song has already passed the mirror stage for infants but he is now entering the mirror stage for adults. It is a period of understanding and self-realization for the narrator. As he states in the first line “I’m Gonna make a change,” he is going to attempt to change his selfish, inward looking personality, into a more helpful and compassionate one. The narrator, at some point in his life, has been greedy or inconsiderate towards others, “I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love,” but now he is going to undertake the task of changing his life for the better.
This song is extremely pertinent in understanding psychoanalytic analysis but it is also very applicable to learning about and understanding Lacan’s principle about the “mirror stage.” His principle generally applies to children and their realization that they are distinct individuals but his principle can also easily be applied to adults in situations similar to that of the narrator. The narrator undergoes a distinct realization that to change the world around him, he must for start “with the man in the mirror,” because only from within can change occur.