Term Paper: Disneyland the Fading Premise of Reality in a Postmodern Society

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Disneyland the fading premise of Disneyland: The Fading Premise of Reality in a Postmodern Society

Postmodern society is frequently accused of being rife with spectacle. The modern assimilation of sensationalism, mediatisation and commercialism combines to create a society in which the real and the unreal are only distinguishable by the outsider. Every popular scene is simulacrum of an idealized reality, unlike any that actually creates context in this world. The society as a whole is even marked by the symbolic representation of branding and the dramatic artistic expression of its standards. There is no greater example of this than Disneyland, as it is a place where the eye is clearly meant to be fooled along with the whole rest of the being. Baudrillard claims that as a culture we have created a world in which there is no longer a representative "real" from which the simulation or hyperreal representation is based, it is instead now the replacement and the "real " and that;

the generation by models of a real without origin or a reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory -- precession of simulacra -- it is the map that engenders the territory (Baudrillard ND).

Disneyland is an expression of just such hyperreality as even though many of the stories the characters were once based upon ("historical" characters that is) no longer exist in any real sense of historical representation so the images we see of the hyperreal, real only better are the reality. The place envelopes the spectator in a postmodern representation of the ultimate simulacrum, an alternative reality that is made from the imagination of stories and standards once realistic but now fully watered down into a collective soup of illusion.

Baudrillard actually directly discuses Disneyland and describes it as an attempt to capture the "real" world and integrate it into a synthetic world of its creation in an attempt to make the outside world, which is also simulacrum look more real;

The Disneyland imaginary is neither true nor false: it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Whence the debility, the infantile degeneration of this imaginary. It ~s meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness. (Baudrillard NP)

Disney appeals to false nostalgia, the desire to recreate a better world that never existed except in fantasy. The world of Disneyland is a false world where beautiful castles and complete lack of stress and responsibility reign supreme. If such a scene never really existed, then the images of the past that Disneyland attempts to foster as simulacra, in its most banal form. "When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a plethora of myths of origin and of signs of reality" (Baudrillard NP)

Disneyland and other theme parks create a need for escapism, idealized individuation and instant gratification that produces a universal theme among most visitors. (Wilson 26) This is also true of other theme parks and is supported by the idea that if an individual physically participates in an action inside of such a place then the place and its "reality" must be real.

Baudrillard discusses this enigma by discussing the difference between dissimulation and simulation;

To dissimulate is to feign not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one hasn't. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But the matter is more complicated, since to simulate is not simply to feign: "Someone who feigns an illness can simply go to bed and pretend he is ill. Someone who simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms" (Littre). Thus, feigning or dissimulating leaves the reality principle intact: the difference is always clear, it is only masked; whereas simulation threatens the difference between "true" and "false," between "real" and "imaginary." Since the simulator produces "true" symptoms, is he or she ill or not? The simulator cannot be treated objectively either as ill, or as not ill. Psychology and medicine stop at this point, before a thereafter undiscoverable truth of the illness. For if any symptom can be "produced," and can no longer be accepted as a fact of nature, then every illness may be considered as simulatable and simulated, and medicine loses its meaning since it only knows how to treat "true" illnesses by their objective causes. Psychosomatics evolves in a dubious way on the edge of the illness principle. As for psychoanalysis, it transfers the symptom from the organic to the unconscious order: once again, the latter is held to be real, more real than the former; but why should simulation stop at the portals of the unconscious? Why couldn't the "work" of the unconscious be "produced" in the same way as any other symptom in classical medicine? Dreams already are. (Baudrillard, NP)

It must be made clear though that Disneyland is not the only destination for the hyperreal, as many other nations contain theme amusement parks that answer the same call within the context of the culture in which they are developed. BonBonLand in Holme Olstrup, Denmark provides and excellent comparative model to the hyperreal Disneyland. Though Disneyland and BonBonLand are certainly not on the same scale in planning and development BonBonLand is the fourth largest amusement park in Denmark, the fifth biggest tourist attraction and it offers outstanding examples of hyperreality. BonBonLand is an amusement park owned by a candy manufacturer that like Disney creates multimedia stories around their very popular products including dog fart candy. The park includes some rather strange rides including a rollercoaster called 'dogfart switchback', as well as some rather risque themed rides and advertisements.

This work will compare the two parks in conjunction with the key terms hyperreality, simulation, simulacrum, representation, postmodernism and identity and according to a set of six research questions surrounding these thematic terms. Namely: How do Disneyland and Bonbon Land Differ in terms of hyperreality? Do Disneyland and Bonbon land say anything about the national identities associated with the parks? In What way to Disneyland and Bonbon land differ in terms the simulation of life? Is there any particular representation at either park that is profound for the observer? Is postmodernism a reflection of the illusion of either parks or just one? And lastly What aspect of each park most represents the simulacrum of the modern world?

How do Disneyland and Bonbon Land Differ in terms of hyperreality?

The demonstration of Disneyland as hyperreal is evident from the idea that those things which are hidden at Disneyland are those things that are intended to be hidden from reality in America, sexuality, vulgarity, disunity, racism, neglect...and so forth. Disneyland skirts even the most banal issues associated with the representative reality of the park, the bathrooms, which are exceedingly hard to find. Bonbon Land on the other hand flaunts many of these issues like a fart joke. We as a society the place is saying need to laugh at our real situation, that we humans are all sexual animals, often seeking escape that defecate regularly. The characters that flood the park through its many winding paths demonstrate pun, base human existence including sexualization and excrement, and frequent intoxication. There are themes that run the gambit of human baseness, that are completely absent at Disneyland. Can you imagine all the small children in Cinderella's castle singing "It's a small world after all" ad nauseam and then bending over and farting in the faces of the ride goers? No, this is not something we can imagine as human reality is non-existent, while at Bonbon Land this is exactly what the characters do. They make fun of humanity, the hyperreality being that we have a good thing here, fart jokes make us laugh, so lets make this reality even better by creating as rancid a representation of human baseness as possible within the rather risque characteristics of our own limits on decency. In a sense the park demonstrates less of a simulacra than Disneyland, as its illusion is a hyperreal representation of reality, in Technicolor vomit.

This brings to mind and interesting point about fashion, as within the Bonbon Land park there are many women cartoon animals in scantily clad fashion, breasts bare to the park goers. While the converse is true of Disneyland where the characters are covered nearly from head to toe, in what the American public universally considers the clothing of royalty. This sense of fashion as an extension of the unreal is universal to the Disneyland image and really the hyperreal conservatism that is characteristic of the American illusion. In the fashion of America women are objectified and the images are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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