Monday, February 11, 2008

Psychoanalysis of "Man In The Mirror"

At first glance, Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror," is a song about a person who, while considering the needs of people less fortunate, reflects upon himself and realizes that in order to have a positive impact on the world around him, he will first need to move beyond his own petty wants and address the changes that need to be made within himself. I will resist the urge to interprete the song as a masturbatory experience of delusion and self-gratification to instead advocate a more homely and psychologically sound comprehension of the song in the broadest terms.

As in the terminology of Lacan, the metaphor of the mirror is invoked to symbolize the move from narcissism and selfishness into a realization of one's distinct but shared sense of empathy and the universal human condition. The speaker begins with a desire to shape the world to his ideals, to 'make a difference,' to 'make it right.' He next cosiders images that reflect the collective suffering of his fellow man and will use this tactic again throughout the song to justify the urgency of this change that needs to be made. The singer is under the impression that his next move is obvious: to change the world, he must first start by changing himself. His understanding of this need to change is apparently conflicted, for at first he avoids taking responsibility for the way he had been living his life previous; he is the 'victim' of 'a selfish kind of love.' In the next line, he will at least appear to take direct responsibility for his actions ('It's time that I realize...") and then end he will question whether or not he had really been living his life in this way at all ("Could it really be me pretending they're not alone?'). This poses a challenge for the singer, for it obviously contradictory to his nature to gratify others at the expense of himself. But he justifies this effort with the incentive that it will 'feel good,' and will be the 'right thing' to do.

Obviously other bloggers might consider the singer's relationship between the singer, his society, and authority when considering what exactly is 'right' about this 'right thing' to do and who decides that it is right. But the aforementioned gloss of the psychological implications of this song should be sufficient for a general analysis.

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