Mickey Mouse as a Cultural Battlefield

oh-logo mickey

Mickey Mouse is a legendary symbol in the copyfight. Of late, though, I’ve been noticing a surprising number of Mickey references — in street art, activism, and high-end fashion — that are making me revisit the controversial Disney mouse.

In winter 2008 H&M had a front line of Mickey Mouse clothing, no doubt mainstreaming a sub rosa fashion cue that had inspired the likes of Rihanna and Cate Blanchett. Elsewhere this year, sneak designer Jeremy Scott rolled out Mickey adidas kicks, while Hong Kong had an entire luxury Disney collection, and Louis Park presented a (super-Flashy) tribute to the mouse. Admist all that, fashionistas are posting endless snaps of themselves sporting Mickey gear.

Entering the scene with a twist of critique are the blank-face Mickey Mouse prints by Oh Logo. Their “Do Not Wear” collection is “ripping icons from the collective memory and reducing and diversifying them into a visual experience.”

The Oh Logo motto builds upon the older Mouse Liberation Front, an underground coalition launched in the seventies by cartoonists rallying against Disney’s “corporate seizure of the American narrative”. The MIL is rediscovering itself in the digital age and adapting the cause to the current copyfight. Screenings of RIP! The Remix Manifesto, for example, is one way people learn about Mickey, lawsuits, locked creativity, and the liberation efforts.

mouse liberation front

These developments interest me because they allude to an intersection of high-end / mainstream fashion with a political movement. Perhaps Mickey Mouse parallels what’s happening already with pirates — those daring outlaws who are stealing the limelight both in fashion and politics.

Come to think of it, pirates are pretty well-backed by Disney, too.

What do you make of the Mickey Comeback?

Suggested reading: Cory Doctorow’s debut novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Bob Levin’s Disney’s War on Counterculture.

Images: Classic serigraph by Oh Logo, Official member of the Mouse Liberation Front bysukisuki / CC NC SA


Leave a Reply to Austin Lee Watford Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Easeteham · July 26, 2009

    Lots of of guys talk about this issue but you wrote down really true words.

  2. JatStraikarFan · July 26, 2009

    Waow enjoyed reading this article. I submitted your rss to my google reader!!

  3. V.E.G. · July 26, 2009

    One of the Mickey Mouse’s biggest competitors is Bugs Bunny. Mickey Mouse is like the Coke of the cartoon world while Bugs Bunny is the Pepsi of the cartoon world.

    • anna · July 26, 2009

      And the pink panther is the virgin cola of the cartoon world … :D
      Great article

  4. Mickey · July 26, 2009

    Wow awesome articles , I’m Mickey mouse lover I have bid more collectibles from ebay :)

  5. Austin Lee Watford · July 26, 2009

    Free Speech Fair Usage is the issue here, not who’s better, Mickey, or Bugs! Our nations pop culture was built on not stealing, but sampling others ideas, look at Disney itself! I promise you if you take a little closer look at “Steamboat Willie” You’ll notice it was copied off of another similar movie, but once Walt died, the Disney Corp. went nutso.. Do you know they own the rights to the Birthday Song?