Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I object to Walt Disney being used as an example of a magical human being

Warning---the following blog post is being written in response to someone who held up Walt Disney as an example of a magical human being. Someone is sure to believe that it is just politics. Or flaming. Or both. Actually, it is just that I would not willingly associate myself with the man given what I know (yes, I a horrible person---a history student).

Ok, Robert Zink just held up Walt Disney as "a wonderful example of a magical human."

And I had to clean off the screen of my computer. Seriously, can't we find a better example?

Yes, Walt Disney is a wonderful rags to riches story and Disneyland is a place of wonder. But one could also describe Disneyland as an island of security and freedom though the medium of consumptious leisure, and Disney as a ruthless businessman.

There are questions about Walt Disney. There is a rumor that he was anti-semitic and racist. Most of that stems from his involvment with the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals; he was a founding member. This organization supplied Congress with suspected Communists during the red scare. By the way, Disney thought that the Screen Actors Guild was a Communist front and their strikes were merely ways for the Communists to gain influence in Hollywood.

I honestly would just rack that up to the fact that Walt was a product of his times and a businessman. Let's be honest---labor strikes hurt the bottom line, and the only people who matter are at the top of the food chain. The workers (serfs) have no right to better conditions and wages if it hurts those who are at the top of the pyramid. Or so, the wealthy elite tell us.

And as an example of how progressive and willing to let people become what they can be old Walt was, I present Disneyland. The rules for Disneyland were created by Walt Disney. Be scared, be very scared.

First off, the entire park is designed to separate you from your money. (Yes, it is a snarky comment.) Second, its location was specifically chosen because Walt knew that a highway was about to be built right next to it.

Now, we get to the really bad stuff. Note that some of the following is outdated, and refers to the 1955 opening conditions---but not nearly as much as you would think.

The entire park is designed to enforce confirmity. There is a homogeneous work force---nice attractive young white males and females. (There were actual physical appearance guidelines in the hiring manual.) There were a strict set of employee guidelines (dress and conduct code). There was also a one-dollar admission---in order to keep out undesirables.

There is no diversity at Disneyland. The park is set off in sections (you will not find anything Chinese anyplace other than the Asian area).

You never see the maintance people. The entire park is filled with tunnels to hide the most grubby workers.

Everyone who goes to Disneyland has the same experience. The animatonic technology is predictive, and ensures that the pirates I saw will say the same things that you heard.

The employees have a strict script and are only allowed to use answers from it. Any improvisation must be PREAPPROVED by the management.

Now, from a viewpoint of presenting examples of what a magical human being is supposed to be like, cookie cutter experiences are not high up on my list. I understand why Robert Zink likes the example of Walt Disney. But I would not use him. The world Walt created is too strict for my tastes.

And if you think that things have changed, consider this. A couple of years ago, a mother and daughter showed up to the park, both dressed as princesses. They were denied entry until the mother changed out of her princess costume. Official explanation it would confuse the other guests of the park. But sounds like confirmity of the experience is still high on the list to me.

I honestly do not think that confirmity to an artifical cultural norm is what a magical human being would promote. But what do I know? After all, I am not a good example of a magical human being.

Additional note---30 April 2011---I find it interesting that Seth Godin chose to blog about the Disney-Industrial Complex and dreams today. "It's so easy to be sold on the combination of compliance, consumption and approval by the powers that be. Of course, you're entitled to any dream you like, but I hope you will choose a bigger one."

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