Sam Hartman (hartmans) wrote,
Sam Hartman

Magic Kingdom

We're vacationing in Florida this week. Monday we went to Disney's Magic Kingdom. It was the second time in my life I had been there; the first time was many years ago. Owen and Rachel had a great time; it is always wonderful to see them having fun. I'm glad I went, but mostly because I found an interesting area to ponder. I didn't enjoy it much myself. Of course this is the busiest time of year for Disney and they're having a record season. So, the minimum wait to ride anything hovered around the maximum time I'm willing to wait to amuse myself. In many cases sitting around and doing nothing was more appealing than waiting in line. That's not really saying much; I actually rather enjoy sitting around doing nothing and don't particularly enjoy queues.

However the real problem was my strong, visceral, negative reaction to the messaging of the park and of the media presentations in the rides. There was something very wrong with the meta-levels or multiple levels of reality. I generally enjoy things that play with reality levels; a lot of really neat spiritual, mystic or introspective stuff succeeds in using reality levels as an important part of the experience. However Disney seemed all wrong/twisted. I'm not sure how to explain it; I tried explaining to Margaret but that didn't go so well. I have two concrete examples, both of which are easy to shoot holes in. That's not the point though; I can shoot holes too; what I need help with is finding out what is actually going on underneath. The first was the announcement on the parking tram; if you drop an item you Mr requested to stay on the tram until the next stop and to contact the nearest cast member. Not staff member, not character, but cast member. It's pointing at some meta-level where the show still exists, but where you are outside of it. That's a very specific and intentional emphasis—not so much specific to the specific announcement but to the entire organization that always refers to their staff as cast members. The other specific example is the lack of a role for the audience on rides. When I'm sitting back and passively experiencing something in a seat, I guess I have mechanisms for suspending belief in my own existence in a healthy way. However Disney seems to be asking me to do that all the time—while I'm on a roller coaster, while I'm ordering food, while I'm experiencing the entire show. Put another way, Disney purports to be an immersive experience, and asks me to immerse myself without giving me a role. I don't have this reaction to normal theatre perhaps because it is not trying to ask me to immerse myself; the stage is over there and I'm simply not part of it. There's something going on here at an even more complicated level that I have not teased apart that goes to explaining why I haven't really appreciated much Disney produced media over the years. Perhaps another part of this is that Disney is using tools that I generally associate with mystic experience and there simply is not any mystery or particularly sacred experience to be found. An interesting note is that I don't get the same reaction to Ren Fairs; I enjoy them.

In other news, my fear of roller coasters is growing worse. This is quite frustrating. I'm basically concerned about falling out. I think I'd be completely fine if they had five-point restraints and a roll cage. I understand the physics enough to realize this is completely irrational, but that isn't helping. This is unfortunate because I enjoy roller coasters if I can get over the fear, but that is proving harder to do. Monday it took me about 40 minutes to physically recover from the adrenaline rush. Until I come up with some clever plan I may be limited to turbulent plane rides to get the positive effects of roller coasters without the fear.

Tags: introspection

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