I have big news. And it's not, as my mother guessed, that I'm pregnant. This is much better: I watched the original full-length music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
Surely, you say, this is not the first time you've watched the Thriller video? It debuted over 20 years ago! Well, no. I watched it when it first premiered on MTV in 1983. It was a huge event; there'd been such hype about it. My whole family gathered around the living room TV. I think the lights were off and we had popcorn, but my memory's a little fuzzy on those points. Because the video came on and I was all excited—for whatever reason, I had a total Michael Jackson crush as a child. I had a Michael Jackson calendar, multiple Michael Jackson dolls, hell, my mother even made me my own glittery glove. Just one. I wore it to preschool and got peanut butter on it at snack time. Without exaggeration, I can say that I wanted to be Madonna and marry Michael Jackson. I was a weird little kid.
Anyway, the Thriller video started. Car runs out of gas. Michael's girl thinks it's a sleazeball trick, but it's not. All is well, except that they have to walk home now. At this point he decides to tell her that he's "not like other guys." Understatement of the century. The full moon comes out and sweet, girly-sounding, still-black Michael Jackson turns into a werewolf, complete with fangs and glaring yellow eyes.
Scared. Me. Shitless.
I was only coaxed back into the room after the opening sequence ended and werewolf Michael was replaced by the significantly less threatening zombie Michael. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I began having Thriller nightmares. I was three then...so that means I've been having Thriller nightmares for 23 years. Twenty-three years. I tried watching it again when I was in sixth grade, but I freaked out again and never even made it to the zombie dance sequence. Nope, the werewolf transformation had me simultaneously trying to shut my eyes, plug my ears, grope for the remote, and scream for my mom.
Needless to say, I avoided Thriller and, by and large, Michael Jackson in all forms. (Which was probably a sound idea, considering the ensuing train wreck he'd become.) Every time a "best of the '80s" clip show came on MTV or VH1 or whatnot, my palms would get clammy and my heart would beat faster. Oh, I wanted to be a material girl with Madonna and just have fun with Cyndi Lauper, but there was always that nagging fear that they'd sneak in a clip from Thriller. I'd still have Thriller nightmares every so often, sometimes not for months at a time, sometimes several nights in a row.
Fast-forward to last week. This past Friday night, I went out for fondue with some friends. It was a veritable food orgy, with six different kinds of fondue, unlimited wine, and cheesecake. When we returned to my apartment, the topic of conversation turned to the video of Filipino prison inmates doing a Thriller dance routine that had been circulating online. Pretty nifty. Then I mentioned that I'd heard of a Bollywood South Indian version that I sort of wanted to see, but was worried that the makeup would scare me. We chanced it though, and it was pretty ridiculous. Then Afshin said that he'd never actually seen the original version. Of course, I instinctively shouted, "No!" But my friend Kara wisely (though tipsily) said, "Kaitlen, you're 26. I think it's time to get over it."
And so, dear friends, I stood as far back from the screen as possible (which isn't far in my apartment), squinted my eyes, and nearly broke my friend Daniel's ribs from squeezing him so hard. But I watched it and got over it. The zombies? Piece of cake. The werewolf? Sorta silly. The Michael-to-werewolf transformation scene? Um, still creepy. But not terrifying by a long shot. I don't think I'll have Thriller nightmares anymore.
I told my mom of the recent development and she said that was great news. Just not as good as if I'd been pregnant. Sheesh. I just conquer my Thriller fear and all she can think of is grandkids. Some people....
PS: If you're up to it, here's the full-length version of the Thriller video. For the love of god, don't let your three-year-old watch it, though.