October 12, 2003
Disney's Ad'ed Value

Apparently inappropriate ad placement isn't only endemic online.

This week, Frank Rich (AKA, "The Butcher of Broadway") takes his cleaver to that bloody hunk of wurst, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his weekly Times Arts & Leisure column. Rich uses the ersatz aesthetic of Disneyland (and Disney generally) to critique the image-over-substance election results in California. Some classic Rich vitriol (richtriol?) follows:

It's Disneyland, not Colonial Williamsburg, that prefigures our future, the action-packed recall ride was nothing if not the apotheosis of the Magic Kingdom. It was fun, it was instructive, it was expensive, it was hawked relentlessly on television, it starred an Audio-Animatronic action figure...

Walt Disney had long despised the rowdiness that up until then defined amusement parks as 'dirty, phony places run by rough-looking people,' as he characterized them. He wanted to build instead a beautiful, phony place run by nice-looking people: an alternative America that he could script and control down to the tiniest detail of its idyllic Main Street U.S.A. and whose sovereignty no citizen could challenge...

The original notion of Disneyland lives today not only in the first park, its satellites, and its many imitators; its influence can be found in planned and gated communities, in Rouse-developed downtowns, in the carefully-scripted 'reality' programs of network television, in the faux-urban ambience of a shopping mall near you.

And what ad shares the page with this excoriating critique? Why, an ad for Disney's Brother Bear ("Featuring original songs from Academy Award-Winner Phil Collins"). Whoops! Guess that wall between church and state isn't quite so impenetrable.

On a related note, Rich's Disneyland analysis owes everything to Jean Baudrillard's "Precession of Simulacra" (though, oddly, he never mentions the text in his essay: Rich must have missed The Matrix). Here's what Mean Jean (Theory Machine) had to say 20 years ago: "Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the 'real' country, all of 'real' America, which is Disneyland... Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real..."

Posted in a Shallow fashion.

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