Thriller rises from the dead?

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A quick search for “Thriller” on YouTube brings up just over 51,000 hits, most of which are amateur copycat versions of Michael Jackson’s 1983 music video of that name. The wannabe M.J.s? Teenage girls; prison inmates; a high-school marching band; a 3-year-old; and a formal wedding party — bridesmaids, groomsmen and all — to name but a few.

Many people believe that Thriller was never “dead” to begin with. 😛 – Admin
While the forces that drive pop culture have always been shadowy, inscrutable things — what could have possibly possessed us to spend three years performing the Macarena? — our preoccupation with Jackson’s 14-minute, zombie-themed pop video “Thriller” is worth a little attention, if only because after 24 years, it has yet to fade from the limelight.

Right now, one of the most popular postings on YouTube — garnering 6 million viewers and the concurrent cult adoration — is a Telugu-language rendition of “Thriller” by an Indian actor, Chiranjeevi, whose performance is equal parts adoring imitation and South Asian flair.

Scroll down the YouTube list a little more and you get an Asian businessman apologizing for his less-than-stellar version of the dance at what looks like a corporate talent show.

And a little more: A full gymnasium of hip-swinging students from Northwestern University, whose posting claims that they’ve broken the record “for the most people doing the ‘Thriller’ dance ever.” Way to go, Wildcats. (How much is tuition there again?)

If those students do indeed hold the title they claim they do, their mantle is in jeopardy. Last October, Canadian Ines Markeljevic organized 62 people to perform “Thriller” simultaneously, earning official status in the Guinness World Records book for most people to perform “Thriller” in a single location.

And now she plans to outdo herself: In February, Markeljevic started a Web site called, through which she hopes to organize local groups from all over the world to perform “Thriller” at exactly the same time — 3 p.m. PDT on Oct. 27 — and thereby earn the world record for most people performing the same dance simultaneously in different locations. (That title currently belongs to almost 200,000 Canadian elementary-school children for their simultaneous performance of the Hokey Pokey in 2002.)

By spreading the word via MySpace, Facebook and personal blog sites, Markeljevic has already registered 25 groups from six countries, including one group from Seattle, all of whom are committed to documenting their performance of “Thriller” at the requisite hour.

Lei Gong, 26, a software engineer from Bellevue, organized the first Seattle chapter after finding Markeljevic’s Web site on Google.

“A few weeks ago, ‘Thriller’ came on at a house party and everyone started dancing to it. We remembered all the moves. It was like we were all kids again,” says Gong. “Afterwards, I went on Google to find out if anyone was having a big ‘Thriller’ dance, just for fun. I found Thrill the World and it was perfect.”

Gong plans on spending several hours each week posting information about the Seattle chapter, responding to inquiries and organizing practice sessions, in preparation for the big day. All in the name of “Thriller.”

And Gong, obviously, is not alone. There seems to be something about Jackson’s dance that routinely inspires monumentally time-consuming tributes.

One video circulating online features 12 Lego men performing the iconic “Thriller” dance. They were filmed in stop-motion animation — one shot at a time — and with such painstaking precision that it actually looks like the Lego troupe is moving by its own volition.

In a more technologically savvy take on the same theme, another video features the animated characters from “Final Fantasy” shimmying through Jackson’s trademark spins.

The most quirky version of Jackson’s dance — and, arguably the most time-consuming of all — is performed by about 300 inmates at a Filipino penitentiary. Cat claws and all. The prisoners swap Jackson’s red leather get-up for a sea of bright orange jump suits, but costuming aside, it’s a remarkably accurate rendition.

According to an Al-Jazeera report, the prisoners were required to learn the dance as part of an “alternative exercise” experiment. But it doesn’t look like the men were coerced; these guys are really into it. They even go so far as to dress up a (balding) male inmate to look like Ola Ray, Jackson’s date in the video, lending the entire affair a partly-comic, partly-cringe-worthy quality.

But, then again, let us not throw stones from our zombie-themed glass houses.

After all, are there not those among us who’ve been dancing to “Thriller” — first in MC Hammer pants in 1987, and again in matching Polo shirts during the unfortunate boy-band craze — in our own living rooms since early 1984? Let us only hope that our VHS home videos remain hidden somewhere in the attic, far from the pop-culture spectacle of YouTube, MySpace and — now —


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