Monday, February 18, 2008

The Magic Kingdom

Disney World is twice the size of Manhattan.

I'm not quite sure where I picked that fact up, but I'm pretty sure it's accurate. In fact, I find the fact to be rather fitting. It seems that Disney owns everything, and the fact that it doubles the size of Manhattan is unsurprising.

The first time I noticed that infiltration of Disney-manufactured (pre)teen entertainment was in the fall, when while browsing the iTunes store, I noticed that the Jonas Brothers had somehow become one of the most — if not the most — downloaded album that week. For those who don't know, the Jonas Brothers are a group of three brothers — as the name suggests — who have a Disney backbone and a Christian background. And since I first noticed that these heartthrobs have somehow come to be a part of pop culture consciousness, I've been a casual observer of this phenomenon.

The immediate comparison for this "band" — the term used lightly because alone, they hardly comprise a full band — is Hanson. And to a certain extent, I understand that. When Hanson first became popular in the late 1990s, I was the right age to be a fan of the band. After all, they had everything a young girl could ask for: catchy songs, pretty hair, and scrubbed-clean good looks.

Now that I'm older, and this teen culture phenomenon is back again, I am looking at it from a different angle. The Jonas Brothers seem to be similar to Hanson in only a few aspects; that is, they are brothers who are teen heartthrobs creating music. But this time around, the music isn't innocent bubblegum pop that sticks to the soles of our shoes; rather, the music of the Jonas Brothers seems to be only catchy if by catchy, you mean loud, thrashing, and generally confusing. Sure, there are a few hooks here and there, but for the most part, it's like Fall Out Boy-lite.

I'm not going to mock this type of music; after all, it has its place. And for once, I find it nice that there is something out there that younger teens can listen to with their parents without having to buy the censored version of the CD at Wal-Mart. At least this music isn't teaching well-orchestrated misogyny and that a woman's value lies in her body only.

But what scares me the most about the Jonas Brothers phenomenon is that I fall in the same age range as the band. Unlike with Hanson, I am not the young girl who can't relate from a common demographic perspective, but instead, I am at the age as a young woman where I can stand back and gape with fright. The idea of this amount of fame thrust on anyone my age is far beyond frightening.

It's hard not question if the band wants to be making the music that they are making, and it's certainly hard to answer that question with a yes. There are so many musicians who, at their age or slightly older, are making some of the best music in years. And of course, it's hard to ignore how painfully contrived everything about the band seems to be from their straight-from-Urban-Outfitters apparel to their extremely scripted answers.

In all honesty, I feel sorry for them. It can't be easy to lose that much anonymity to something like this at such a young age.

Last week, on Youtube, I found this video:

It's hard to ignore how much it is reminiscent of Vanessa Redgrave in Atonement when she returned from her year of magical thinking or whatever.

History has shown that so many of these teen idols, at the end of their careers, end up in a bad situation. Hanson, fortunately, has survived; the band is married with children and are making extremely successful indie records.

And maybe, just maybe, Disney should stop exploiting young, slightly talented, and good looking teens. This has become a machine that needs to have a wrench thrown it.

1 comment:

Corinne said...

this reminds me of my one sociology class. basically...disney (world in particular) has ways of controlling you to MAKE you have fun.

pretty creepy. like those photoshoot places with the palm trees or some poor guy in a sweaty mickey mouse suit...all meant to give the illusion of fun in your family photos.