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Thriller Is A Great Story - Op-Ed Piece


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Thriller Is A Great Story - Op-Ed Piece

The music video Thriller by Michael Jackson is one of the most iconic videos ever released by an artist. With its signature dance movies, and notable star, and catchy lyrics, the video is as recognizable today as when it was released. Many artists strive to make a music video as compelling in scale and reach as Thriller, and most fail. To even attempt a music video with the sophistication of Thriller is an act most artists don’t dare, for not many music videos changed the world like the zombie dancing classic.

Now I am going to look at Thriller differently than I have in the past. I am going to view it as a writer. Basically, get rid of the music video and see the composition at a more basic level; a story. I imagined Thriller if it was a short story, not a music video. Would it hold up? Is it even interesting to tell? Surprisingly, the answer to this is yes, it would. If it was written as a short story, Thriller would have been a classic story. And I am surprised that I haven’t seen anything like this when I go into bookstores; the written version of Thriller.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized, Thriller is a story that most writers would be happy writing, for it had multiple layers and separate pieces that can be enjoyed by themselves; having the complex story include the best singer of the 20th century, who many still idolized, and an iconic music video, only adds to the original great story. On its own, as a story, Thriller is very impressive and worthy of accolades for its storytelling. I can tell you right now if I wrote Thriller on this blog as a short story, I’d be happy with it.

So what is the story exactly? It is more intricate than you may think.

First, it begins with Michael Jackson talking to his girlfriend, played by Ola Ray. The poor girl agrees to be serious with Michael right before he becomes a werewolf and tries to kill her. Talk about bad relationship timing. As the Werewolf Michael catches up to the girl, we are then shown that it is only a movie being watched by Michael Jackson and his girlfriend, played by Ola Ray, too.

The music video never really addresses the fact that Michael Jackson is at the movies watching a movie with Michael Jackson; that is some very play-within-a-play writing. Anyway, the girlfriend, not the one in the movies, the one at the movie theater, rushes outside because she is scared by the movie. I guess she didn’t like watching herself on the screen get killed by a werewolf. Michael Jackson, the one at the theater, then goes after her and tries to comfort her. He does what many guys would do to their girlfriend then; he mocks her and the very idea of her own fear. This is where the lyrics of the song come into play. Michael Jackson is mocking her being afraid, with an impressive knowledge of the Halloween culture, too. He mentions demons, and aliens, and monsters and shows that he is really into the horror genre. You get why he would enjoy the movie.

Now, the two walk happily, and oh no, they are being followed by zombies. As the zombies surround them, what happens? Does Michael shoot them with his shotgun? Does he chop their heads off? Does he use violence against zombies, which seems to be our number one solution for defeating them? No. He becomes one of them, and because that is not enough, he dances with them. This part is almost amusing in a story context and is the second time Michael Jackson mocks something. First, it was his girlfriend; the second was the zombie genre itself. He does literally the opposite of what anybody would do; he joins in.

Then the zombies attack his girlfriend, who is not a zombie for some reason that is not explained, and as they are about to get her, the girl is woken up by Michael Jackson. Another Michael Jackson! Are you keeping track of all these Michaels?

Michael then says he will take the girl home, and he winks at the camera as if to say that the whole thing was real all along.

There is much more going on in the music video than many think, in my opinion.

I should mention that Michael Jackson, in terms of the Thriller story, is actually a character. He isn’t a real person. He is more like Sherlock Holmes with his pipe and deductive reasoning or Captain Ahab and his peg leg and obsession. I mean, the guy looks like Michael Jackson, obviously, but the guy is clearly written in terms of the story, not as a biographical piece. This creates problems for the fans because the Thriller Michael Jackson is a cool, clever guy. He is wearing the red jacket. He is there for his girl when she needs him. He dances with zombies. In the story of Thriller, you are meant to like the character of Michael Jackson, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the real Michael Jackson, the one that is not in Thriller. One is a character; the other is a person.

Let’s get a list of all the Michael’s in the Thriller story.

  1. Werewolf Michael – He is the one that transforms into a werewolf. He is a character in a movie.

  2. Pre-Zombie Michael – He is the main one that many of us think of when it comes to Thriller. He is wearing his red jacket and saying the lyrics to the song. He watches Werewolf Michael at the theater. It should be noted that the Pre-Zombie Michael character is not real. He is in the girl’s dream.

  3. Zombie Michael – This is the Michael that is a zombie and dances with the other zombies. This one is also not real, in that he is only in the girl’s dream.

  4. Boyfriend Michael – This is the last Michael we see and the one that gets the least amount of scene time. He is the real one because he is the one that the girl talks to when she is awake.

You got four Michaels for the price of one, there.

In terms of a story, most writers would have the different Michaels be different characters, with different names or actors to better help the audience. This never caused any confusion for anyone, though. In fact, most probably think that the Michael Jackson in the video is one character, but that is not the case. Each serves a different function to the story of Thriller. The most people get confused by the video is mistaking that the character Michael is the same as real-world Michael.

Also, I didn’t realize this until watching the music video recently, but as much as we all love Michael Jackson in the video, whichever one that he is, the story isn’t actually his. It is Ola Ray’s, his girlfriend’s story. We are following her dream. Thriller is a nightmare of a young woman. We are following her thoughts more than we are Michael’s. She is the narrator; he is the main character.

The charm of the story is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is family-friendly, despite being about topics that could easily not be. The couple is at a midnight showing, which could be rated-r. They go by a cemetery with zombies, which could get gruesome quickly. The girl is attacked multiple times, but we never get the sense she is in real danger. As soon as there is trouble, the story changes, or a new Michael shows up. The lyrics are written like something you’d read in a children’s book about Halloween. They are not meant to scare you. This innocence in the story is why so many watch the full 13-minute video. Honestly, it is a great story.

You could even view the lyrics and the ending monologue as two separate great pieces of literature. One is the already mentioned children’s rhymes, and the other could be a speech made by a villain in a movie. Both are equally impressive as reading material. When combined with everything else in Thriller, you get why the video is such a pop culture powerhouse.

Every year Halloween comes around, this song is blasted over again and again. People dance to it and love hearing it. The song is a part of Halloween, like pumpkins and skeletons. You can’t go a Halloween without hearing this classic. Next time you hear the song, take a moment to really understand it. See the story that is being told to you, and you will discover that you have been listening to one of the best Halloween stories of all time without even realizing it.



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About The Blogger

Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.


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