My family and I have been loyal Disney customers for decades. We vacation at Disney World every chance we get. We take a Disney cruise every month. We tithe 10% of our paychecks directly to Disney, as all true believers do. We’ve even themed our funeral arrangements around Disney. Consequently, we spend way too much money in Orlando, and on cryonics.
Unfortunately, I am acting like I am strongly rethinking our commitment to Disney and, thus, the debilitating nostalgia that has prevented me from developing into a mature adult. The more Disney moves away from the values and vision of a man who died almost 60 years ago, and whose values and vision were already archaic at the time, the less Disney World means to me, a man who hates and fears the real world. Disney is forgetting that guest immersion is at the core of its business model, and this guest would like to continue immersing himself in the lilywhite fantasies of the 1950s. When I stand in Galaxy’s Edge or Fantasyland, I know I am in a theme park, but through immersion and my desperate need to blot out the real world, something delusional happens.
That spell is broken when the immersive experience is shattered by anything that doesn’t fit my own increasingly extreme and grievance-driven political biases. And boy, has Disney been breaking the immersion.
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, instead of forcing them to be mindless, faceless walking animatronics that look like Hollywood extras from the 1930s.
The problem is, I’m not traveling across the country and paying the average annual salary of a Disney parks employee to have to treat the people waiting on me with any respect or dignity. I am there for the immersion and the fantasy that my wealth and privilege make me a better person, not to acknowledge that people unlike me exist. I know I have to say that I don’t begrudge these people their individuality, and offer them insincere well wishes, but I don’t get to express the individuality that I don’t actually have at my place of business, which I am only employed at because society systematically favors mediocre white guys with money.
What’s next, is Disney going to end the rule barring accurate use of question marks in rhetorical questions.
More broadly, like many corporations, Disney has stopped exclusively focusing on people like me. Full disclosure: I am a Christian and a conservative Republican, two things that probably should be mutually exclusive at this point but somehow aren’t, and so the people who run Disney and I do not see eye to eye. Disney thinks people who aren’t Christians and conservative Republicans should be treated with respect, and I don’t.
Regardless, corporations usually make decisions based on not driving away potential customers. Usually, it’s due to the desire to make a profit, but very rarely it’s due to the values of the people in the corporation. Walt Disney used patriotism to keep his corporation alive when it couldn’t distribute films to most of the world during World War II, and then used that corporation to espouse his political beliefs afterward. The difference today is that the people who run Disney realize the world has maybe changed some in the last 75 years, and that it’s no longer smart business to solely appeal to one demographic—the one that I’m a part of.
Disney is in the process of removing laughably outdated racist stereotypes from the Jungle Cruise, a ride most people between the ages of 6 and 70 are bored to death by. Cartoonish parodies of African culture are being removed because they offend pretty much anybody who isn’t white. Every grown-up in the room realizes that a character like Trader Sam, a shrunken head salesman, is not a representation of reality but is a caricature that perpetuates negative depictions of other cultures and contributes, in its own small way, to systemic white supremacy. Still, I’m going to say it’s the exact same thing as Disney showing white American dads as corny idiots, because I am mortally afraid of the system that advantages people like me collapsing, and also because I am incapable of laughing at myself.
The next time I sleep through Jungle Cruise I will not be dreaming about all the other, more entertaining things I could be doing at Disney World. I will be thinking about all the bad faith arguments I can make about Disney’s attempts at making their parks more inclusive, and how I can twist everything to be about me. Although I might publicly act like that’s a mood killer today, personally I can’t wait, because complaining about stupid pop culture nonsense is the thing conservative Republicans love most.
Disney proclaims that Splash Mountain must change because of its association with the blatantly racist Song of the South. Disney owns Splash Mountain so it can do what it wants, a self-evident point that should’ve prevented me from ever even starting this idiotic article. But if Disney tries to respect people who don’t look like me by doing the bare minimum, retheming a ride that was weirdly built after the forgotten movie it’s based on was removed from circulation, now every time I look at the ride I’m thinking about how to make it entirely about me and use it to insult others in the guise of politics.
The same with Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney has made significant changes to Pirates of the Caribbean over the years, including removing that scene where pirates auction off kidnapped women to other pirates. Whether Disney caved to political pressure or really thought the alterations were necessary is irrelevant—nothing they say could prevent me from using this minor change as an outlet for my performative outrage. As a Christian and conservative Republican whose party regularly complains about the subject matter of entertainment and Hollywood’s immorality, a fun ride about lusty Pirates selling off women and burning down a town used to be one of my favorite attractions. My family would always ride it first on our first day at the Magic Kingdom, which is a really bad park strategy since the high hourly capacity of Pirates means the line rarely gets as long as the ones for other popular rides in the park. Now, sometimes we choose not to ride it, which is clearly a tragedy grave enough to merit an op-ed in a major daily newspaper. When me and my sons Roy O. and Roy E. ride Pirates now, each of the changed scenes takes us out of the illusion because they no longer make us think of sex trafficking and human slavery—two things we strongly support as Christian conservatives.
Disney World is going to lose annoying assholes like us as customers if it continues down this path. I love acting like Disney World is being taken away from us because of politics, because it lets me play the victim, which is the sole motivating force behind both my political party and my weird, twisted form of Christianity.
This should matter to the people of Orlando because, if Disney drives away customers like me, Orlando loses the business of condescending jerks who never tip as well as they could afford to and their wild, untamable children. I can take my tourist dollars elsewhere. I won’t, because I’m just a vocal hypocrite trying to get attention who inevitably won’t change anything about my purchasing habits. I’ll keep spending them in Orlando but acting like I might not, because people like me like to yell and scream about feeling threatened or excluded when institutions do the least amount possible to act respectful towards people who aren’t like me.
The parks are less fun because they’re marginally less white and thus the comfort and advantages I’ve enjoyed through white privilege are facing the slightest possible amount of pressure.
Disney, please return to the out-of-touch values and vision of the last century—or better yet, don’t, so I still have something completely irrelevant to complain about all the damn time. The customer experience should be the core of your business model, and that customer should look and think exactly like me. Ideally, that customer would only be me. And now I’m going to end this pointless diatribe by mentioning “the altar of political correctness” and “the Twitter mob,” because I haven’t squeezed in enough laughable far right drivel yet.
Note: This is satire. C’mon.