Walt Disney Thesis Essay

Walt Disney Thesis Essay-22
In particular, approaches whose topics and methods fall outside our scope include discussions of the parks’ overall design and contents — most notably their presentation of history and technology.7 Under the European influences of semiotics and post-modernism, American cultural critics have approached the parks as sets of signs and representations arranged into a discourse and intended to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy.

In particular, approaches whose topics and methods fall outside our scope include discussions of the parks’ overall design and contents — most notably their presentation of history and technology.7 Under the European influences of semiotics and post-modernism, American cultural critics have approached the parks as sets of signs and representations arranged into a discourse and intended to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy.

A kind of euphoric disorientation is supposed to set in as we progressively accept the Disney definition of things.”11 In so defining the park, Fjellman closely follows the conclusions of Eco and Baudrillard, which have made the park a prominent example of man’s so-called ‘postmodern condition’: while Eco identified Disneyland as the epitome of “hyperreality,” where “[t]he ‘completely real’ becomes identified with the ‘completely fake,’” Baudrillard saw the park as an example of “simulation,” where “the radical negation of the sign as value” leads to a “reversion and death sentence of every reference.”12 In a post-Socratic critique of mimesis as illusion, the vivid representations of the theme parks are said to cause “the blunting of visitors' powers of discrimination” between fantasy and reality: while visitors are encouraged to take part in the park’s fictional environment, they also engage in real acts of consumption.13 As Fjellman underlines, the park’s stores are “part of show. Candy is there, in part, to lend verisimilitude to the false-front real stores.

It is both commodity and prop.”14 Fjellman’s observations closely follow Eco’s previous conclusions that “[w]hat is falsified is our will to buy, which we take as real,” making Disneyland “the quintessence of consumer ideology.”15 In other words, what the park works at manufacturing and commodifying is the entire mental life of the visitors, as Fjellman remarks: “Fantasy goes on the market, as the last remaining vestige of uncommodified life — the unconscious — is brought into the market system.”16 As they work at naturalizing the dominant ideology of mindless consumption, the parks serve as capitalism’s province of ‘false consciousness’: in so doing, they serve to displace the ‘locus of control’ for the guest’s experience away from individual visitors to the Disney-controlled environment.

For instance, Disney employees are typically required not just to smile, but to smile .

As Van Maanen and Kunda note, “[e]mployees are told repeatedly that if they are happy and cheerful at work, so too will be the guests at play.”30 While the active and willing participation of the employee is necessary, such emotional labor is extremely prescriptive and alienating, to the point that when the emotional toll seems too high, employees simply “go robot” or “fake” desired emotions, thereby opposing “passive resistance” to their supervisors’ control.31 Above all, the frivolous, Mickey Mouse connotations of the Disney corporation allow such instructions to not be taken too seriously, offering some leeway in how to interpret and apply them.

While it originally referred to a person’s perceived control over his and her actions and their attribution to personal (or ‘internal’) or environmental (‘external’) factors, the term ‘locus of control’ here applies broadly to the agency and motivations demonstrated by the park’s various participants (visitors, employees, and company executives) in shaping and assigning meaning to the park’s environment.5 As some critics have shown, the Disney corporation’s efforts to shape its environment are not just confined to the park’s physical landscape but include an entire array of legislations and infrastructures, allowing the company to contain outside forces and exert greater control over its parks.6 Beyond such hegemonic interpretations, other critics have placed the locus of control not within the Disney-controlled environment of the parks but within individual visitors as well as the wider socio-economic context of which the parks form only a part.

These diverse perspectives show evolving conceptions of the reception processes of mass media, that is how people respond to and consume mass media as well as how the social, economic and material conditions surrounding its reception affect personal interpretations.As the “satirical banter, mischievous winkings, and playful exaggeration in the classroom” suggest, “[a]ll [participants] are aware that the label ‘Disneyland’ has both an unserious and artificial connotation and that a full embrace of the Disneyland role would be as deviant as its full rejection.”32 Finally, in “Displacing Disney: Some Notes of the Flow of Culture,” Van Maanen uses the case of Tokyo Disneyland to evaluate local strategies of appropriation of Disney’s so-called global appeal, as Japanese visitors and entrepreneurs actively recontextualize the park and its apparent meaning.33 In Maanen’s expression, the Japanese park is made to serve as a “differentiating device” meant to instill national pride in the Japanese’s perceived “selective hybridity.”34 Though it is a near-exact copy of the existing Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the ‘displaced’ park, by virtue of its new cultural context, is invested with new meanings and allows for new uses.For instance, the well-publicized self-discipline of Japanese audiences allows visitors to explore at liberty the park’s environment and come within touching distance of elaborate and fragile pieces of equipment that are kept securely remote from guests at the American parks..8 In keeping with a semiotic approach, Fjellman and his European counterparts tend to present the park as a discourse or a text whose message is ideological in nature.9 While Marin found that Disneyland exemplifies the American ideology, “the imaginary relationship that the ruling class in American society maintains with its real conditions of existence,” Eco saw in Disneyland an “allegory of the consumer society”; Fjellman in turn defines Disney World as “the most ideologically important piece of land in the United States” in that it exposes “[t]he hegemonic meta-message of our time,” namely that “the commodity form is natural and inescapable.”10 However, it is only under careful analysis that the parks surrender their ‘true’ meanings, since within their boundaries the signs no longer stand for what they seem to represent: by presenting itself as ‘real,’ the park’s environment blurs the line between ‘fake’ and ‘authentic,’ allowing the ‘artificial’ copy — the signifier — to replace the ‘original’ model — the signified — entirely.Noting that in the parks “[t]he referential functions of normal, everyday language have been shattered and the signifier disconnected from the signified,” Fjellman remarks that Disney World “juxtapose[s] the real and the fantastic, surrounding us with this mix until it becomes difficult to tell which is which.In the fifty-five years since Disneyland’s opening in Anaheim, California, the characteristic insularity and thematic coherence of the Disney theme parks have made them prominent examples of the “landscapes of power” so often discussed both inside and outside academic circles.1 While Disneyland’s opening was met mostly with silence by academics, later responses have been mixed at best, revealing the suspicious attitudes of intellectuals with regard to popular culture: as early as 1958, the comments of screenwriter Julian Halevy on Disneyland would set the tone for later discussions of the parks, as he remarked in that the park’s “sickening blend of cheap formulas packaged to sell” only “exist[s] for the relief of tension and boredom, as tranquilizers for social anxiety, and …provide[s] fantasy experiences in which not-so-secret longings are pseudo-satisfied.”2 However, other voices soon emerged that found the environment of the park “immensely exciting” rather than oppressive and debilitating.3 In 1965, Charles Moore’s serious treatment of Disneyland’s playful theming helped the low-brow theme park enter high-brow discussion, thus paving the way for postmodernism in architecture: then the dean of the Yale School of Architecture, Moore praised the park as “the most important single piece of construction in the West in the past several decades” — a new public arena that responded to the erosion of public space in Los Angeles and allowed visitors to engage in “play-acting, both to be watched or participated in, in a public sphere.”4 At the heart of these interpretations of the Disney theme parks lies the issue of who controls the visitor’s experience or, more precisely, where the locus of control for this experience really sits.While Fjellman makes a solid point when he suggests that the fantasy landscapes of the parks present themselves as the objective product of collective labor and of specific structures of production (or what Marx called ), his analysis also shares some of the limitations of the works he draws from.Much of Fjellman’s work revolves around the meaning or ‘meta-message’ that visitors ultimately extract from the park’s environment, yet the author provides no convincing model for reception, thereby suggesting that reception is largely an unproblematic activity, neatly separated from production and free of interference of any kind.This has effectively allowed the park to serve as a differentiating device, whereby the Japanese can marvel at the spectacle of their cultural adaptability and superior sense of craft and service.As Maanen says: “The message coming from Japan (for the Japanese) is simply ‘anything you can do, we can do as well (or better).’…


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