The video release of Black or White was a huge event. Many people remember the day it hit airwaves. Few remember the controversial final minutes of the video.
First, some back story — the music video for Black or White was first broadcast on MTV, BET, VH1, and Fox on November 14, 1991. Directed by John Landis, who also directed Jackson’s hit video Thriller, Black or White featured Jackson along with then-mega kid star Macaulay Culkin, Tess Harper, and George Wendt of Cheers. The video included ground-breaking special effects for the time, including face morphing and Jackson appearing singing on Lady Liberty’s torch surrounded by other famous spots around the world such as the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower.
The video premiered simultaneously in twenty-seven countries and had an estimated audience of 500 million people watched. It’s the largest audience ever to watch a music video, or anything on TV for that matter. To say the video was a success is a massive understatement. Massive.
But it wasn’t the music part of the video that had people talking — it was the final few moments in which Jackson went bonkers on a helpless car.
Here’s a synopsis of the last few moments along with the backlash to the video’s ending.
Controversy was generated concerning the last four minutes of the original music video. Jackson walks out of the studio as a black panther and then morphs into himself.Then he walks outside to perform some of his most physically complicated dance techniques, in a similar way to “Billie Jean”. The scene is also very similar to that of a commercial Jackson appeared in for L.A. Gear in 1989. This part contained sexually suggestive scenes when Jackson starts to grab his crotch, and then zips his pants up. In the original version, Jackson is seen smashing windows, destroying a car and causing an inn (called the “Royal Arms”) to explode. Jackson later apologized saying that the violent and suggestive behavior was an interpretation of the animal instinct of a black panther, and MTV and other music video networks removed the last four minutes from subsequent broadcasts. To make the vandalism and violence more understandable to viewers, an altered original version, containing four racial graffiti messages were released. The version included in the box set Michael Jackson’s Vision is the aired, televised version without the digital graffiti, and does not include the “prejudice is ignorance” title card.
So, without further ado, for those who’ve never witnessed what could have been the first video proof that Michael Jackson was about to lose his mind — the final few minutes of Black or White.