Monday, August 25, 2003

Ms. Mickey?
"Ou est le souris?" I asked. "La souris," he shot back. "Souris is feminine. I will find him for you."

Euro Disney is having financial hardship.

Why do I care?

Despite my anthropological studies, I do not lift my nose at the hyper-commercialized, artificial culture of a Disney theme park. I actually revel in it. Universal, Six Flags etc. don't come close to the experience of such a park, with its insane attention to detail, and incredible number of women's toilets. The masses of humans which stream into the pleasure domes of Florida and California rarely hit bottlenecks, rarely stand in line for more than an hour, and rarely go home disgruntled, unless they aren't willing to enjoy the magic of having their wallets emptied for the sake of mouse-eared frozen treats. The grounds are as clean as the inside of your television set. It would make sense that the French would not enjoy the place half so much as I do, because it is far from "authentic". But the critics are missing something important about the culture of Disney world, and its role in the human psyche: its about as close to utopianism as we allow ourselves to get these days.

I always felt that Disneyworld Florida was a descendant of previous attempts at finding Utopia in Florida. Long after Ponce de Leon wasted years searching for the Fountain of Youth, people came to Florida for the cheap land, warm weather, and lack of government oversight. Denys Rolle's Charlotta was meant to magically transform paupers into princes by bringing the wretched of the British streets to a beautiful new land, and reform them. Cyrus Teed's Koreshan Unity was a place not unlike the inside of a TV set, where Teed's followers believed the world was a concave sphere where people lived forever if they practiced celibacy. Of course, neither community lasted longer than the life of its founder, but the vision of transformation and trascendence through purity of living never lost its desirability.

So when Walt make his dream park, he meant it to be not just an all day affair, but a community too, with houses and schools and the whole kit and caboodle. You see this idea rearing its ugly head recently with Celebrations, but we don't need to focus on that: its not a trend. The theme park, however, allows people to get a breath of utopia for a little while, about as much as they can stand, and then go back to the normal disharmonies of life, like sex, work, and death.

Is this harmful, this escapist fantasy of Disney? Some people tend to think so. People who get persnickety about Mickey's gender think so. But that's some people. :)


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