Disneyland is a cultural icon. Known across the world. With locations in the U.S., Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, and that’s probably just the beginning.
How does a theme park get so much fame?
Even though it is just a theme park — it’s not marketed as such. It’s something far better:
- The happiest place on Earth
- Where you can be a kid again
- The place of dreams and making wishes come true
Or is it?
Those are three dangerous myths of Disneyland, and it’s important to understand why.
Myth #1: It’s the happiest place on Earth
The happiest place on Earth doesn’t exist. Because happiness doesn’t come from places or things. Yet that won’t stop people from yearning for Heaven on Earth, or just plain Heaven.
Disneyland caters to this contrived, codependent need.
You go to Disneyland prepared for lots of fun, and magic, and wonder. There’s no reason not to be happy there.
But what is D-land really like?
The rides and attractions are built upon illusions, replicas of imaginary worlds, that simulate real people and real life situations.
But it’s all fake.
Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is an amazingly life-like robot. He’s fun to look at, but he isn’t real.
In creating Disneyland, Walt Disney became a great illusionist.
So what does that say about happiness if the happiest place on Earth is just make-believe?
Myth #1 sends a subconsciousness, but definite message:
“Happiness is just a dream. It doesn’t exist in the real world. You need to come to Disneyland to experience it. But even then, it’s all made up. So good luck with life and trying to be happy.”
Do you think that’s healthy for a four-year-old mind?
The happiest place on Earth shouldn’t be an amusement park packed with cotton candy and Goofy apparel.
It should be with your loved ones. A place within your heart. Something that doesn’t need to be manufactured by one of the largest corporations in the world.
And you shouldn’t have to spend loads of money for a fun time. Yes, some of the rides can be breathtaking (especially to a four-year-old). But so can nature. It’s called going outside and exploring the wonders that are real and all around you.
Myth #2: It’s where you can be a kid again
Disneyland is supposed to be a simulation of your childhood innocence and wonder. It packages all the things that make you feel young, naive, and special. So when you go there, you’re like a kid again.
In Simulacra & Simulation, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard argues that Disneyland isn’t a simulation.
Because it’s a simulacrum — a copy without an original.
None of the rides ever existed as real places (fictional movies aren’t real).
And Disneyland doesn’t capture your lost childhood wonder because you never lost your inner child to begin with.
Myth #2 means that:
“When you become an adult, you lost your childhood innocence and wonder, and you lost your right to play and imagine. What a recipe for lifelong unhappiness.”
Therefore, the only way to recover those things is by going to a place like Disneyland.
But going to a place filled with giant puppets isn’t an authentic “recovery” of childhood characteristics inherent in every person — child or adult. It’s a money-making machine.
“This world [Disneyland] wants to be childish in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the ‘real’ world, and to conceal the fact that true childishness is everywhere — that it is that of the adults themsleves who come here to act the child in order to foster illusions as to their real childishness.”
Why would adults want to pretend that their childishness only comes out to play at places like Disneyland?
Because of another cultural myth, that Disneyland cleverly reinforces:
“Growing up means you can’t act like a child anymore. You have to get a job and take on real world responsibility. No more time for dreaming or playing or wonder, and definitely no time for being curious. Don’t question the rules, the system works fine — you need to conform to survive in desert of the real.”
Myth #3: It’s the place of dreams and making wishes come true
Disneyland is the place of dreams.
Quite literally, too. Many of the rides are darkly lit, dream-like, and make direct references to black magic.
If Disneyland is the place of dreams, this implies that the real world isn’t.
You go to Disneyland to be inspired — because it’s assumed that you can’t get inspired by your real life.
One Disney theme song, “When You Wish upon a Star,” glosses over this fact. If you’re lucky, you can hear Tinkerbell singing the words while “flying” high above against a colorful fireworks display.
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you”
Anything you want, you’ll have? Sounds a bit like The Secret. Which means it caters to a materialistic mindset.
And what about wishing for the sake of others? Can you change someone else’s life without their consent, just because your heart desires?
Making dreams a reality doesn’t just happen because you talk to balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
You make dreams come true because of hard work, sweat, and tears. And probably plenty of failure. Frilly advice from Tinkerbell won’t prepare a four-year-old to prepare for that harsh reality of growing up.
Beware of cultural icons
Cultural myths cover up, or act as euphemisms for, harsh and unpleasant truths about a particular culture and what it means to be a part of it. And sometimes they falsely instill harsh and unpleasant truths into the blind believer.
Disneyland is no exception.
The three dangerous myths of Disneyland don’t necessarily harm every park-goer.
But they sure cling in deep to those who are lost, emotionally unstable, lonely, desperate, or even just a kid who doesn’t know any better and doesn’t have parents to tell him the difference.
It’s because of these myths — inscribed all over the park — that Disneyland is much safer for adults than for children.
Adults, that is, who go to Disneyland not to:
- Be happy
- Accept their inner child
- Get inspired
But adults who already are:
- Happy with themselves and those they’re going with — and so want to spend a day to: grow closer to those they care about
- Accepting of their inner child, fully aware that they don’t need a life-sized mouse to give them permission to play
- Inspired by their own life, and actively working toward their life goals and building their life as their mindful construct
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.
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