December 2, 2014 @ 12:07 pm
I spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Kentucky, ignoring the whole Black Friday foolishness as much as possible, although there were a couple of good social science NPR pieces on the phenomonon that I shared to the VSI page on Facebook. Instead we went to the woods and whacked dead things with sticks. We hung out with friends, old and new, and played games. Easy and cheap.
The long drive home on Sunday was much improved by a slew of old Escape Pod stories and a well-done radio documentary on the Disney theme parks fromStudio 360. They interviewed park insiders, well-known critics like Carl Hiassen, and well-known Disney afficionados like Corey Doctorow. Most of their criticisms were about the company's tendency to sanitize everything. Corey D. was more nuanced. He didn't ignore the criticisms and contradictions, but said that is was in fact the tension between light and dark, sweet and bitter, commerce and art, that makes Disney work. It led to some really good rear-view mirror conversations with my son in the back seat as we drove.
This show reminded me of a particular interaction I had with Len Testa, one of the hosts of the WDW podcast (now the Disney Dish podcast?) and my very first guest on this VSI podcast. I was being snarky, in one of my “evil control-freak corporation” moods, and he pointedly reminded me that families spent years, sometimes, saving up to visit these parks. Life is hard, he seemed to say, and who was I to say which diversions from that difficulty were good and healthy, and which were stupid and childish?
I never even tried to answer that implied question at the time, because I agree that being narrowly judgemental is rarely helpful, and because I read comics and play fantasy RPGs for fun (glass houses if ever there were any). In the car on Sunday, though, when the documentary compared Disney to a religion, a couple of things clicked. One was a CD I had picked up at the KentuckyArtisans Center in Berea, of a style of vocal-only, call-and-response singing, evolved in Old Regular Baptist churches where they generally didn't have written hymnals (and probably a lot of the people couldn't read). I'm not a church person, but I understand the need for comfort, for shelter from the storm. That CD did not inspire those feelings in me, but I could see where they might in people whose experiences differ from mine. The other thing that clicked was my Buddhist readings and practice. It's not the comfort of religion, or of Disney, that bothers me. I like comfort. It's specifically the promise of perfect and permanent comfort that bothers me. That has always struck me as simple fraud, as impossible and as irresponsible as Peter Pan's refusal to grow up.
Science fiction has that same strain of techno-utopia running through it, sometimes. These days I'm more frustrated by the opposite bias, that the future is only scary. My favorite authors and thinkers balance promise and peril in surprising ways. That's why I joined the Center for Science and the Imagination. They're trying to shift that balance towards optimism, not by eliminating critical thought about our problems, but by applying critical thought to try and solve those problems. Disney made honest (but creepy) efforts to do this. Another thing that I learned from the documentary was what EPCOT stands for, which I'd never thought about. Rather than being just a mall, the original vision was an Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, a living museum of the future, where people would live full-time. They tried again with the town of Celebration.
Personally, I'm waiting for the Disney fundamentalists to break off from the larger group and build their own walled compounds, where they stockpile weapons and snack foods. Damn. There's that snark again. That's not helpful.Share | Comments