Friday, March 16, 2001

Invisible In the Magic Kingdom, part III

Don’t know if you’d call this a meme exactly, or a 23-style perceptual trick, but during our trip the stylized S-in-a-pentagon symbol of Superman seemed ubiquitous—on ball-caps, T-shirts, jackets, and tattoos both temporary and permanent. In both the classic yellow-and-red and the more abstract Kingdom Come version, there were dozens of sighting over eight days. What can it mean?

Post-Pocahontas whitewash aside, I still found the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland and Frontierland disturbing. They’re built around unreconstructably racist colonial notions of “taming the land,” which translates readily into White Man killing Red Man and Black Man. Surely these notions were ethically problematic even in 1971?

The Disney organization itself seems to have given up on these two areas. Surely a tie-in with the rootin’ tootin’ cowboy Woody of the phenomenally popular Toy Story movies would be a boost for Frontierland, but he is nowhere to be seen there (though he’s a fixture at the Disney-MGM Studios park). Surely attractions themed to Tarzan and The Lion King would draw visitors to the jungle setting of Adventureland, but there are none there (though both are represented in lavish shows at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park).

Fine. If you’re going to let these areas die, good luck and it's about time: but do it, already. Get the bulldozers in there. Letting them hang on, while tacking on a few messages about “cultural sensitivity,” only compounds the damage. All the official back-pedaling just makes the ugliness of the original conceits that much more glaring.

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