Weekly Kitsch: Another T-Shirt
I promise not to do this every time underground/subversive imagery is appropriated by a corporation and sold to a mainstream audience. Last time I looked at Forever 21’s decision to sell a copy of a T-Shirt Kurt Cobain wore during a 1992 SNL performance. This week, Disney began selling Joy Division inspired T-Shirts (seen above).
Whereas Forever 21 made no mention of its T-Shirt’s relation to Nirvana or Kurt Cobain, Disney comes right out with it:
Inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album, this Waves Mickey Mouse Tee incorporates Mickey’s image within the graphic of the pulse of a star. That’s appropriate given few stars have made bigger waves than Mickey!
Stereogum found the pairing particularly jarring: “Seeing as how Mickey Mouse and Ian Curtis are on opposite ends of every cultural, emotional and voice-octave scale, this is pretty fucked up and/or funny.” Pitchfork wondered if Disney had all the facts: “Uhhhhhhhhh…. Does Disney know that the singer of this band hanged himself?! Do they know where the name “Joy Division” comes from?!”
But let’s be real for a minute. If Disney had released this shirt in 1980 immediately after Ian Curtis hanged himself, it would have been unthinkable. However, it’s now been over 30 years and Joy Division has had an opportunity to trickle down from a small 1970s British band to an unmistakeable pop-culture commodity. In other words, Mickey Mouse and Joy Division now operate on the same level each having been filtered and sanitized so as to be made saleable.
Today a 30-something father (or mother) might bring his family to Disney World, see the Joy Division inspired shirt and buy it because he enjoys the sincere irony of it. The children like it because it has Mickey on it. Surprisingly, so does the father. Maybe it reminds him of listening to Joy Division as a teenager. Maybe it reminds him of his first trip to Disney World as a child.
Maybe it reminds him of both.