Thursday, August 16, 2012

Of Pirates and Princesses... and Pirate Princesses

This is a subject I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.  Two new experiences in the Disney parks have caught my eye, and not in a good way.

First, Disney Parks Blog has announced that guests between the ages of 3 and 12 can now be photographed in a way that allows their face to be reproduced on the head of a princess of their choosing, at the Downtown Disney Marketplace. 

At first glance, this seems like an original way to make a “Disney memory.”  But should you delve in deeper to this “D-Tech Me” thing, the pictures almost say it all.  The child in question can choose to become Ariel, Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, or Rapunzel.  Their skin and eyes match their own, making a pale white Tiana or a Hispanic Cinderella an easy possibility but a rather unsettling visual rendering, if I may say so myself. 

Look, even the body proportions are off!

Now I want to clarify that this is not a race thing.   This is an example of an ever pervasive trend in the Parks of souvenirs that relate to narcissism and privilege.  I’m not saying other instances of this don’t exist elsewhere in the parks.  They most certainly do, and we will explore them with time. 
No matter how unnerving many would find this, plenty of young guests with a Princess obsession (no thanks to Disney marketing, I’ll get to that in a later post) would be attracted to owning one of these.  For a mere $99.95 plus $15.95 US shipping, any kid with parents with that kind of money can be plastered onto the same doll that the next privileged child will.  Any kid with parents without that kind of money? Tough luck, sorry.
Said privileged guest will then have to wait 5-6 weeks to see the final product.  Will they still find the doll awesome, or will they be disappointed that something’s kind of off about their beloved Cinderella? 
Either way these children are having the idea that they’re special princesses reinforced, creating a sense of narcissism and when the day comes they realize the rest of the world thinks otherwise, that doll will long be packed away in an attic or box somewhere with all their other objects of privilege.
One question I have is whether this experience will be available for children of any sex or gender.  The blog article’s language does not ever assume the guests will always be female, so I wonder what the response would be should an unexpected child want to experience princess-cloning.

Secondly, something called The Pirates League will debut September 1st at Disneyland park in the quiet spot in New Orleans Square called the Court of Angels.  Thankfully this is a limited-time offer and this beautiful spot can return to sanity one day.  This experience entails a “transformation” (which seems to be a pirate version of the princess makeovers at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique,) an interactive experience of learning to “swashbuckle,” and pledging an official Pirate League Oath. 

As another experience available only to those of privilege, the packages range from $29.95 to $34.95 and can sing to the tune of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, First Mate, and Empress. 
The blog article specifies that Empress is especially for the “pirate princesses.”  Which begs the question, can female pirate fans just be pirates? Or must they partake in another Princess cloning?  Does the makeover involve mandatory hot pink as the picture suggests?

I’m just so lost on this “purchase a cookie-cutter experience within an experience” vibe that I’m getting from these new offerings that seem to be popping up everywhere.  It separates these children of privilege from the have-nots of the parks, the ones that may be there on their first and last Disney trip ever due to financial situations.  The early days of Disneyland, besides the different levels of ticketbooks, presented a level playing field, where everyone who bought an admission could experience the same magical moments as the next guy.
Additionally, the most magical Disney moments for me as a child were not the amount of things or extras purchased for me, but the little bits of attractions that spoke to me and made me feel special.   My first Jungle Cruise made me feel extremely lucky to have such a hilarious skipper, and it wasn’t until much later when I realized they were all following silly scripts!  Catching the very last private car in the Monorail made me feel like a VIP.  In my humble opinion, t’s the little bits of Disney magic, not the tacky Disney Magic (TM) that is now forever popping up to scream in our faces, that make it a golden culture.

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