I smell a a polka dot dress.

Marketers, producers, authors beware: this is the generation that learnt to say “resistant reading” before we learnt “mama”. Our highly sophisticated crap-filters, honed by a steady diet of search engines and wiki pages that may well have been written by that paranoid aunt convinced the Boxing Day tsunami was born of a U.S. bomber, will see right through your attempts to exploit our minds as your own consumer playthings. So unashamedly devoted to critical pedagogy are we, that the universal third person will always be referred to as “she” over “he”, no matter how wanky it inevitably appears to our reader. But there is one chink in this otherwise impenetrable armor of cynicism and distrust: put a doe-eyed little mouse in a polka dot dress and we’ll be eating out of its hand like it was James Franco at a cougar convention.

Evidenced by the hundreds of thousands making the yearly pilgrimage to Disneyland; the soaring price of real estate in the Disney town of Celebration; the thirty thousand weddings hosted in Sleeping Beauty’s castle; and the steady number of Arts enrollees who evidently gobbled-up the Disney message that dreams - even those as far-fetched as a career in the arts - do come true, Disney is the Achilles heel of our generation of pop culture insurgents, even into our adult lives. And who could blame us? Simba exerts more sex appeal than any Hollywood superstar as he makes the transformation from pre-pubescent cub to strapping young lion in that log-crossing scene (is it weird that I’ve long nursed a crush on a cartoon animal?) At any rate, in an era that’s all about equal rights and the emancipation of the marginalised, it’s difficult to do anything but adore a rather camply-attired duck with a speech impediment. And in a society more afraid of aging than Peter Pan himself, Disney provides a pain-free alternative to Botox. As Henry Giroux writes in The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, the adult viewer “often discovers some nostalgic connection to their childhood when they enter the Disney cultural apparatus.” Just one session with the mouse in the white gloves will wind back years on the psychological clock.

This association with childhood, however, is the exact ingredient undermining our offensive as pop culture insurgents. It works to bolster Disney’s image as a paragon of innocence, whose fairy tales operate in an infantile zone beyond the insidious reach of social convention. Thus we turn to Disney for an escape from our adult world, leaving our Gen Y crap-filters at the door; but with a controlling interest in twenty television stations, ownership of the largest radio network in the US, three music studios, the American ABC television network, and five motion picture studios, the Disney empire is more realistically associated with the word “monopoly” than with “freedom” - and I’m not talking about the game. Funny, then, that old Walt described his company as “emphasising the story of what made America great and what will keep it great,” given the threat to modern democracy posed by such expansive corporations. As former Disney executive Michael Ovitz reflects “Disney isn’t a company as much as it is a nation-state with its own ideas and attitudes, and you have to adjust to them.”

Cue the slapping of “Biggest Killjoy Since the Hunter that Killed Bambi’s Mum” label across my forehead. But trust me, I’m not advocating a Disney bonfire - this would leave me with very limited entertainment options, since I never really liked vampires. I’m simply reminding you that a rodent in an adorable little polka dot dress is still a rodent. Simba, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I’ll always be a sucker for guys with shaggy manes.


If Mozart had Facebook...

In a rare break from the beloved tradition of blaming my parents for each of my ineptitudes, asymmetrical eyebrows, and the fact that I am not an elite gymnast (if only they’d been gangster enough to force fifty hour training weeks upon their five year old kid), today I summon Mark Zuckerberg to the stand. Before you call me the most unoriginal bandwagon jumper since The CW made The Vampire Diaries, allow me to bring my case. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m pretty sure I’d be retired by now and rolling around a mansion with those ridiculous stone lions guarding a front door with a knocker in the shape of an Ancient Greek’s head - completely unnecessary since I spend most of my time floating in my dolphin-infested pool and so won’t hear you knocking the Greek head. Instead, each time I dust-off my thinking cap, ready to conceive some miraculous invention that’ll bring in the billions, I am assaulted by an onslaught of images of strangers lounging on deserted beaches (oh how I regret accepting that random add from the Maldives); acquaintances from my English tutorial winning crab races at Scubar; single forty-something male work colleagues at Rihanna concerts (although this explained a lot, it’s the unexpected ones that really twist the dagger). It’s mighty difficult to sit alone in my room and concentrate on inventing an umbrella with built-in water harvester (who needs desalination plants?) with such constant reminders that I am the sole human being not out at the biggest party since Woodstock. Of course there’s no disclaimer warning that Facebook delivers a distorted reality and people don’t post about vacuuming or shopping for laundry supplies (with the exception of Kim Kardashian who has made a career of mundane banalities). Zuckerberg, on the other hand, makes his billions by ensuring that the rest of us aren’t doing anything productive so as to win them back from him. And as Lynn Tan’s “Summer Lovin” album has me packing my bags for the beach instead of finishing this post, I rest my case.

Creative License and Registration, please.

So perhaps I’m not as serious a Sufjan aficionado as I would like to think: I may or may not have mistaken his supporting act from Toronto for the man himself (to my defence I forgot my glasses that night and, at the extreme peril of my personal safety on vacation in North America, I still can’t tell the difference between the Canadian and American accents). Notwithstanding, if you’d asked me what I was expecting from Stevens, King of the Banjo, at his Sydney Festival gig, I can safely say that synthesized chants to ancient volcanos performed in thigh-hugging fluro would not have crossed my mind. Nor would an oversized auto-tuning helmet, producing a noise homogenous to what I imagine it would sound like if T Pain and that annoying dancing hamster they turned into a ringtone had a baby. 
Judging by the random eruptions of laughter from alternating regions of the audience, promptly morphing into coughing fits once the perpetrator realised they were in fact witnessing a profound moment of artistic expression, my fellow spectators were equally surprised. Nevertheless, Sufjan still inspired a standing ovation and after years of being denied by prudish old women and their Galilean binoculars, the Opera House seats finally got some action from boogieing behinds. Thanks to a decade of dependably disarming melodies and haunting lyrics, Sufjan has earned himself a creative license stocked with more demerit points than a Supreme Court judge.      

Surpassing the driver’s, gun and even the pen license on a scale of one to liberation, the creative license is a portal to social irreproachability. While the ordinary citizen who attempts a similar maneuver might be thrown in a straight jacket or sent to a government position in Tasmania, those in possession of a creative license can excrete into a can, sell it for its weight in gold, and be deemed sophisticated for doing so - as filthy (‘xcuse the pun) rich Italian artist Piero Manzoni knew only too well. 
Our generation is particularly flippant in awarding creative licenses (see: Lady Gaga and her meat shoes). Perhaps we believe that, like shopping at recycled clothing markets and eating acai berries, listening to experimental this-might-be-awesome-but-pretty-sure-its-the-most-negligent-thing-since-the-“iSnack2.0” makes us better people; indeed, as Triple J ratings propel the station into the mainstream, the perpetual quest to achieve the divine status of “alternative” is being pursued more fiercely than ever; though most of us are still stuck on the question of how to be alternative from everyone else being alternative. We’ve all experienced that violent self-loathing in a musically geared conversation as we fight the urge to rattle-off a bunch of obscure bands composed of three men and a lesbian and a pretentious oxymoron in their name. But if we can’t all be artists with licenses for incivility, the next most virtuous thing is to appreciate them. And since that darned spinning woman just wouldn’t turn right for me, I guess I’m in for more Sufjan tickets next time he visits.