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Hilton Als’ use of form in “Michael” is intriguing in the way that it allows for the form of the essay to enact its content. Als numbers his sections in this essay, which is not exactly an original or uncommon form for an essay in general, but is the first (and only) time the device is implemented in White Girls. This is useful in drawing a parallel from the Michael Jackson Als describes in the text to Als himself.

Als uses “profile” style essays throughout White Girls in ways that allow for him to discover and state something about his own identity as a black, gay man. “Michael” is more obvious about this statement of identity than some of the other included essays, though not because the content is more specifically applied to Als. As in most of the essays, Als plays a very small role in “Michael.” Instead, it is the specificity of the form that articulates how Als sees threads of himself in Michael Jackson. Als discusses Michael’s evolution from reflective artist to “man who said no to life but yes to pop,” insinuating, for a lack of better term, Jackson’s sort of selling-out in order to be perceived as successful in his art, while eliminating a crucial reflective element of his art that was originally a sort of driving force behind its creation and expression (182). It is this selling out that not only changes Michael’s artistry, but also his sense of identity.

The numbered sections of “Michael” paired with the more typically seen essay structure of narrative and discursive alternations could be seen as Als mimicking this sort of change in artistry. In using more conventional or common structure in the essay, Als likens his art to that of Michael Jackson. This could perhaps indicate a feeling of loss or confusion of identity on Als’ part as he sees it expressed in the progression of his own art. While there are hints of reoccurring themes and certain structural ideas that fit “Michael” in with the rest of White Girls, its structural differentiation from the others ought to be noted, as it contributes to another level of understanding Als’ points of identity.

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