The Mouseketeer and the Skank

Annette Funicello made life brighter, not more sordid.

Annette Funicello passed away earlier this week.  To the younger set among our readership, this name will mean nothing.  Older readers will recognize Annette as one of the original Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club, and later as the fetching star of a series of California surfer movies best characterized as beach romps without the sex.

Ms. Funicello was neither the only or nor the last Mouseketeer who became a celebrity in her own right. Britney Spears started out the same way and followed the modern equivalent of her career arc, but the differences are striking.

There's no doubt that the young Annette Funicello was beautiful, but she presented that beauty in a wholesome way.  Her performances on the Mickey Mouse Club as a teenager were not sexless - no doubt many boys of the late 1950s had a photo of Annette somewhere around - but they weren't sexual either.

Even her later ongoing roles in beach movies steered clear of the sexpot you'd expect in any modern movie involving teenagers and a beach.  Wikipedia describes them thus:

When she was cast in her first beach movie, Walt Disney requested that she only wear modest bathing suits and keep her navel covered. However, she wore a pink two-piece in Beach Party, a white two-piece fishnet suit in the second film (Muscle Beach Party) and a blue and white bikini in the third (Bikini Beach). All three swimsuits bared her navel, particularly in Bikini Beach, where it is visible extensively during close up shots in a sequence early in the film.

Imagine - a world in which a studio executive would ask a female alumnus not to show her navel!  And then when she ultimately did, it still was a clean performance.  Who even notices navels anymore?

Beauty incarnate, not sex on a stick.

Annette Funicello never won an Oscar or performed a role for the ages of profound dramatic depth.  She did something ultimately more important to the lives of ordinary folks: her career demonstrated that the concept of "good, clean entertainment" isn't just a joke.

There are those that would argue that Britney Spears has more talent on the dancefloor, but odds are they're really thinking of the bedroom.  The original Mouseketeer had something Britney cannot even begin to understand: class.  And her classiness only added to her beauty; is a slutty, knickerless Britney truly more desirable than gorgeously clean girl-next-door Annette?

Both Funicello and Spears were children of their times; the death of Annette underscores the death of that innocent, more wholesome, and in a real way more fun age.  The world is poorer for her loss, and her modern replacements only go to show just how very much poorer we are indeed.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
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