Indie in the Strangest Places: Wilco in Popeye, Joy Division in Disney

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Blame Garden State or The O.C. or some other extremely 2004 touchstone if you have to, but indie sure is showing up in some pretty mainstream parts of pop culture these days. Exhibit A: The latest Popeye cartoon (yes, that Popeye, and yes, Hy Eisman is still cranking 'em out, apparently), which features a boat named the S.S. Wilco delivering Wilco-brand spinach—like the Chicago-based alt-country-turned-just-alt-in-general band of the same name. OK, sure, that in itself doesn't necessary denote a reference—Wilco had to get their name from somewhere, and just about any other reference would make as much sense as one to the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot group—but look closer, and you'll see caricatures of the band members on the dock handing out spinach to the crowd. Unexpected, to say the least.

More surprising still is a shirt recently brought to the attention of The Internet, pictured above, which fashions the seismic-reading image that adorns the iconic cover to '70s post-punk band Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures album to look like the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, with the ears and such. OK, cute and all, though the cross-platform meshing of pop and underground imagery is nothing terribly new—see CineFile's excellent line of metal band logo / arthouse director name t-shirts—but the difference here: This t-shirt is actually being sold by Disney themselves. That's right, the company behind the majority of the Happiest Places/Movies/Things on Earth is hoping to capitalize on imagery popularized by the band behind songs like "Isolation," "Atrocity Exhibition" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart," whose singer hung himself over 30 years ago.

Tomorrow: Stephen Malkmus on a Wheaties box and a St. Vincent cameo on "NCIS." May you live in interesting times, kids.


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