The Only Thing Worse Than A Disney Adult Is A Racist Disney Adult
I try not to talk about Disney Adults, I really do. Because I have really, really mean and probably unfair opinions about Disney Adults, and I am trying super hard to be a nicer person and focus my bitchier thoughts on those most deserving. So as insipid as I may find them, as long as they don't hurt me or try to force me, at gunpoint, to find them adorable, I let them be. Today, I make an exception.
Picture it. You're an adult who is super into Disney. You go to Disney World every year. You have a tower of Mickey Mouse and Snow White knick-knacks, in your home, where you live. You go on Disney cruises every year or two, on which you likely wear your Disney cruise shirt patterned with various Disney movie posters.
And you think you have room, for one minute, to judge anyone else about absolutely anything they do, ever, in their lives.
Well, then you must be Jonathan Van Boskerck, an adult human man and deputy DA in Clark County, Nevada, who is very, very disappointed in Disney's new "woke" agenda, which apparently includes changing the theme of a ride from "weird racist movie that pretty much no children today have actually seen because Disney has never released a full version of it on video and stopped showing it in theaters decades ago" to "a movie those kids have actually seen and that is not weirdly racist," because Disney World is supposed to be for kids. Kids of all colors and all races. Not grown-ups who can't feel fully "immersed" if everything doesn't stay exactly the same always.
I am strongly rethinking our commitment to Disney and, thus, Orlando. The more Disney moves away from the values and vision of Walt Disney, the less Disney World means to me. Disney is forgetting that guest immersion is at the core of its business model. When I stand in Galaxy's Edge or Fantasyland, I know I am in a theme park but through immersion and my willingness to set the real world aside, something magical happens.
That spell is broken when the immersive experience is shattered by the real world. And boy, has Disney been breaking the immersion.
Yes, he is, in fact, serious with this shit. He is specifically upset about cast members — who make, on average, $12 an hour — being allowed to display tattoos and have gender inclusive uniforms and haircuts.
Recently, Disney announced that cast members are now permitted to display tattoos, wear inclusive uniforms and display inclusive haircuts. Disney did all of this in the name of allowing cast members to express themselves.
Just to be clear, they're not talking about Cinderella here. Cinderella still can't have visible tattoos. They're talking about the person taking your ticket for the Teacups ride. They are now allowed to have tattoos as long as they are not on the face, head or neck. They are allowed to have whatever hairstyle they want so long as the color is "naturally occurring" and wear whichever of the available costumes they like. They can also paint their nails in a french manicure or in one single color. And these things threaten the immersive Disney experience of a middle-aged man from Nevada. Who, I guess, needs to pretend the Teacups are real.
The problem is, I'm not traveling across the country and paying thousands of dollars to watch someone I do not know express themselves. I am there for the immersion and the fantasy, not the reality of a stranger's self-expression. I do not begrudge these people their individuality and I wish them well in their personal lives, but I do not get to express my individuality at my place of business.
His place of business is being a district attorney. He is well-compensated for the sacrifice he makes in not wearing his Mickey Mouse Club hat with his name sewn on it to his place of work.
Additionally — has this man not seen Disney characters before? Most of them are rather flamboyantly dressed, from what I can tell. Heck, Ursula the Sea Witch was based on Divine.
And behold! The lion in The Wizard of Oz (MGM, but they have that Disney/MGM park) getting a full on makeover, which included an "inclusive" hairstyle and a manicure.
If anything, people looking super normal should take him out of his "immersive Disney experience."
What's next, is Disney going to end the rule barring on stage cellphone use by cast members as an infringement on self-expression.
Yeah, probably not. That's not quite like expecting people to rearrange their manicures and hairstyles for a $12 an hour job, but good try!
More broadly, like many corporations, Disney has been politicizing its business. Full disclosure: I am a Christian and a conservative Republican, so the people who run Disney and I do not see eye to eye.
Regardless, corporations have always made politically motivated decisions. Usually, it is due to the desire to make a profit, but sometimes it is due to the values of the people in the corporation. Walt Disney used his corporation to express his patriotism during World War II and his pro-capitalism beliefs afterward. The difference today is that the people who run Disney use social media to scream to the whole world that a decision has been made for political reasons.
Oh, so it wouldn't ruin his immersive experience if Disney just changed their policies without telling anyone that they were doing so to keep up with the times? Is it his immersive experience that he's worried about here, or is it more that he doesn't want things he doesn't like being the norm now?
Disney is in the process of taking the woke scalpel to the Jungle Cruise. Trader Sam is out because he might offend certain people. Every grown-up in the room realizes that Trader Sam is not a representation of reality and is meant as a funny and silly caricature. It is no more based in racism than every Disney caricature of an out-of-touch white American dad.
The next time I ride Jungle Cruise I will not be thinking about the gloriously entertaining puns of the skippers, I will be thinking about Disney's political agenda. That's a mood killer.
How many times can a grown-up hear the same puns and continue to find them "gloriously entertaining," is my question. Also why should it matter what the grown-ups in the room "realize" when the ride is made for children?
Our friend is also quite upset about Splash Mountain's evolution from a ride based on a racist movie that none of the kids going to the park have ever seen because Disney felt like it was too racist to release in full on VHS, to being a ride based on a not-racist movie that they have seen and enjoyed.
Disney proclaims that Splash Mountain must change because of its association with "Song of the South." Disney owns Splash Mountain so it can do what it wants. But if Disney screams at the top of its corporate voice, which is pretty loud, that it is changing it to appease a certain political point of view, now every time I look at the ride I am thinking about politics.
Honestly? That is a far more normal thing for an adult to be thinking about when looking at Splash Mountain than whatever it is he wants to be thinking about. Because again, it's a ride for children. Children of all races and colors, who should be able to go on a flume ride or whatever the hell it is without having to be confused about what the hell is going on with that ride. Splash Mountain will now be based on the charming Princess and the Frog, which features a New Orleans girl who becomes a princess (and restauranteur!) instead of on Song of the South, which features enslaved people being happy being enslaved. And guess what? Even in 1947, Song of the South was "political." It was boycotted by African Americans the year it was released; they demanded stories of ... get this! stories about democracy instead of slavery.
The same with Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney has made significant changes to Pirates of the Caribbean over the years. Whether Disney caved to political pressure or really thought the alterations were necessary is irrelevant.
Pirates used to be one of my favorite attractions. My family would always ride it first on our first day at the Magic Kingdom. Now, we do not even ride it every trip. When my family rides Pirates now, each of the changed scenes takes us out of the illusion because they remind us of reality and the politics that forced the changes.
They changed Pirates of the Caribbean because it had a slave auction, where people would buy slaves for raping. Does it take you out of the "immersive experience" to have to explain sex slaves to your kids? This guy is a weirdo.
Disney World is going to lose us as customers if it continues down this path. I do not want to have Disney World taken away from us because Disney cares more about politics than happy guests.
This should matter to the people of Orlando because, if Disney drives away customers like me, Orlando loses money. I can take my tourist dollars elsewhere. I would rather keep spending them in Orlando but people like me feel more and more excluded by Disney's decisions.
If someone feels "excluded" because a ride stopped featuring enslaved people and workers are wearing nail polish, it's going to be very difficult to keep them happy. Were Disney to bend over backwards to keep this idiot and his family happy, they would probably lose a whole lot of business from other people, as his tastes seem to be a tad specific.
The parks are less fun because immersion and thus the joy is taking a back seat to politics.
Disney, please return to the values and vision of Walt. The customer experience should be the core of your business model. Immersion should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and appeasing the Twitter mob.
There is a lesson to be learned here, and as much as I would like it to be "Adults should not have themes, especially if that theme is Disney," it's probably not that. If you have outmoded political beliefs, if you are emotionally attached to racist flume rides, eventually things will change and you will be uncomfortable everywhere.
Perhaps Jonathan VanBoskerck might find some inspiration in the words of a song from the deeply offensive and historically inaccurate Disney feature film Pocahontas.
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew, you never knew
Or something like that. There are probably a million Disney songs about not being the kind of dick who goes around getting mad because things can't stay backwards forever. Because this is the exact kind of behavior we have come to expect from cartoon villains.
*Some credit on this goes to my sister Gia, who (though not a Disney Adult) is way more familiar with this stuff than I am.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse