ILM's 2005 collaborative mix project hoonja-doonja!

September 05, 2005

Hilary Duff - The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room

There was a time in 20th century American history when the Polynesian Chinese restaurant was all the rage. In stark contrast to today's no-nonsense, decorless noodle shops, the Polynesian Chinese restaurant was high tack, all lipstick-red carpeting and brass statues of fire-breathing dragons. Some restaurants had aquariums with exotic fish; some had pebble-strewn fountains adorning the dining area. The food never strayed particularly far from your parents' American-Chinese favorites, but there might have been a pineapple ring on the plate, to satisfy the "Polynesian" requirement.

As I was growing up, these places were dying out. 1980s restaurantgoers found the caricaturishness offensive, and they wanted their experience to be guilt-free (if not completely unassimilated).

The same was happening with the Disney brand around this time. And although Disney took at least another decade to become synonymous with baptism-by-Noxema, its science project EPCOT Center was chipping away at the spirit that made the eponymous Anaheim park so iconic: its warped sense of adventure, its passion for surrealist children's-fiction, and its thirdhand knowledge of the far-flung.

Hilary Duff's Tiki room isn't one of rumbling, soundstagey Arthur Lyman- like war drums, or menacing monolith monsters with wide eyes frozen open in stone. Hers is a fake authenticity that builds on the premise of an older fake authenticity, while removing the scary edges. And since her very young demographic doesn't come equipped with reference-knowledge of Easter Island and mid-century cod-kitsch and so on, the multiple levels of removal are meaningless to them.

But in a way, their cognitive tabula rasa puts them at an advantage over me; they're free to come up with a whole new arsenal of ridiculous constructs.

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