Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

The Disneyfication of Pop

Written by johnleemk on 8:57:41 am Nov 13, 2006.

Unlike a lot of anti-conformists I know, I've never been one to diss pop culture with blanket statements. It's vapid, it's mindless - these are all true criticisms - but it's still entertainment. Perhaps a number of people can't bring themselves to suspend all brain activity whenever they want to, ahem, have fun, but these are probably the same people who got pissed off when Armageddon turned out to defy all the laws of physics. (Then again, I hear this is a substantial constituency - I personally blame education systems which train people to keep their brains turned on at all times. Damn you, John Dewey!)

Seriously, once you realise you're not supposed to think while you consume it, pop culture can be an enjoyable thing. Sure, Westlife are fags, Justin Timberlake can't sing, and nobody wants to hear about Jessica Simpson's "Public Affair", but as long as you keep your brain's gears engaged in neutral, you won't mind. And on rare occasion - The Beatles being the best example I can think of at present - some pop artists go on to actually produce some pretty deep stuff.

There comes a point where you have to draw the line, though. This point is generally reached once you realise that pop culture, especially today, is increasingly designed to appeal to pre-teens and children. Normally it takes a while to hit you, but anyone after glancing at the Disney Channel should have noticed by now that the pop stars of today are increasingly becoming the same people whose target audience is in the under-16 age strata.

Now, this would be disturbing enough if these performers were, you know, old enough not to look like they just got out of diapers. Look at The Wiggles - they're a bunch of 30-year-old men performing for the same age group as Barney and Sesame Street. (We can only thank God that, as far as we know, their stage repertoire does not resemble that of The Pussycat Dolls' at all. Creepily, though, The Wiggles earned more last year "than AC/DC and Nicole Kidman combined," according to Wikipedia.)

Most unfortunately, however, many up and coming pop stars are increasingly, well, looking like they just got out of diapers. This is a trend that started, if I recall correctly, back in 1998 when 16-year-old Britney Spears sang "Hit Me Baby One More Time", but is disturbingly growing and growing. The first time I saw many pop celebrities of today was on the Disney Channel.

To grasp how creepy this is, you have to realise that by appealing to the lowest common denominator, pop culture harks back to the age-old slogan: "sex sells". Kids today aren't just watching Blue's Clues; they're also seeing girls only a few years older than them shaking their booties in a very provocative manner. The same people who are likely to have just learnt the alphabet song are just as likely to have learnt how to sing "The Touch of My Hand" (a Britney Spears song referring to - you guessed it - masturbation). That same girl who just went crazy about an advertisement for Barbie dolls is also likely to go insane when MTV puts on a music video featuring six women performing a striptease.

Probably the worst thing about all this is that suspending your mental functions is no longer possible when it comes to young stars or starlets. Who can possibly not be disturbed by a girl who can't even legally have sex yet dancing like someone in heat? Who would not be creeped out by the fact that the music video featuring these dance moves (which are really tame compared to the stuff on MTV) is in heavy rotation on the Disney Channel?

This isn't really a rant with much of a purpose. Pop culture is still going to appeal to young girls, even if they don't have a booty to shake or a bust to flaunt, no matter what I, an inconsequential pimply-faced youth (if anyone gets the reference to a particular satirical computer article series, they are my God) have to say. But you know, I just have to say something. An underaged girl gyrating her pelvis on the Disney Channel is just beyond the pale.

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