04 May 2009


Disney's coordinated maw

What's wrong with me? My wife goes out of town on a fun vacation for a few days, and I get all cranky and ranty on this blog. (Fortunately, only here, not with the kids or anyone else.) First it's asbestos, then knowledge vs. understanding, then child safety.

Today? Well, via Kottke, it's something big: the Jonas Brothers. Even my daughters, in the prime Jonas target demographic at ages 9 and 11, hate them. Because, as musically inclined children, my kids told me without any prompting that the Jonases can't sing or write a decent tune. But it's worse than that:

Teenage life is sexual emergence and rock music often times is sex. The problem is that The Jonas Brothers conceal sexuality under the guise of sex-free fun.

My daughters aren't yet teens, but they can already sense something fundamentally false about the Jonas Brothers' "rock and roll purity." My girls do enjoy Miley Cyrus, who may be part of the same Disney machine, but at least she can sing (despite all the Auto-Tune processing on her recordings), she's shown hints of creating an interesting career for herself in the future, and her sitcom is pretty funny. Yet they've also noticed the seemingly endless succession of new "stars" coming out of Disney's coordinated maw at the moment.

They still prefer The Beatles to any of the others, anyway. Now there's a boy band we can believe in, and sexy too.

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One could complain similarly about High School Musical, except that there was talent there, and even I liked some of the songs. I don't think you could have such desexualized teenagers in real life unless you spiked their drinking water.

On the other hand, I don't really want to watch them making out, either, so it was probably for the best.
Zac Efron of High School Musical was on Saturday Night Live in a rather good sketch on that point -- his character Troy from those movies comes back to the school after a year at university, looking morose.

"Uh, guys, we're the only singing-dancing high school. No one else does it. And we don't learn anything here either."

High School Musical reminds me of those old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland "let's put on a show!" kind of movies. Empty calories, to be sure, but ultimately pretty harmless. The Jonas Brothers feel far more culturally corrosive. And that foam-spraying thing is ridiculous.