No Redemption in Disneyland

sleeping-beauty-castle-at-disneylandI love Disneyland. I love Disney World. During a recent trip I had the opportunity to visit Disneyland for the first time. Watching a street party on Main Street during which the cast member/performers sang the chorus to “Celebrate You” over and over again, my older daughter said—half out loud, half to herself—”that’s kind of selfish.” And so in the middle of the self-proclaimed “Greatest Celebration on Earth” there was slightest touch of sadness. The exhortation to celebrate in-and-of-itself is fine. Even though I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve ready about Walt and each visit to the parks, the chorus “Celebrate You” over and over again began to ring more and more false and empty. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that there’s death in every joke. Sadly, I found something akin to the same death, even if just for a moment, there on Main Street, Disneyland USA. For that moment there was no depth. The stakes of life were not high—which is what so many find so appealing about theme parks. That is to say for these the confines of the park are insular and womb-like. For most of us Disney World is a respite from the battles of life—an en hakkore of sorts. But for others, I’m afraid, it represents a permanent abdication of the great battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil to which noble hearts are called. The irony, of course, is that the great Disney animated features almost all tap into this aspect of who we are. The poet Tennyson charged us in the Ulysses: “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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