So this vacation to Florida has been a little traumatic. I broke my Wal-Mart cherry the first day we were here—yes, I managed to live a full and reasonably-priced life to the ripe old age of almost-36 without ever buying anything from Wal-Mart before—and then I spent a day in the Magic Kingdom.
It’s not just that I occupied Wall Street (er, in an occasional but passionate way) before (and after) it was cool. I’ve always been suspicious of Wal-Mart, as I grew up on K-Mart clothes and I’m conservative in my cheap polyester tastes. And I’ve always been a little uncomfortable around Mickey and his silent dog.
Mickey’s not Doggist, why his best friend’s a dog! …but he also keeps one as a pet.
But here I am, trying to raise my consciousness and be a citizen, not just a consumer… and then I willingly stepped into the heart of the consumer-centric Beast. It’s worse, I actually paid good money to meet The Mouse.
I was really not looking forward to full immersion.
Me to my sister: “It was not as bad as I’d hoped, nor as wonderful as I feared”
The Wal-Mart we visited was clean and was just a supermarket with extra wide aisles and a very small produce section. (Organic? What’s that? Look, lady, you get to have your choice between two kinds of cucumber. Be grateful and move on.) I bought my swimsuit and my salad fixings and I did not feel the pain of the soul getting sucked out of my eyeballs. Nor did the tired people around me look any different than the tired people at home. (Well, maybe on average they were ten or 15 years older, and definitely whiter…. But maybe that says more about Florida than Wal-Mart.)
It was just a place, a space that I walked through. It kind of removed the naughty edge that Wal-Mart had in my head.
It occurred to me that it isn’t special, and does not wield unnatural power over me, unless I make it so.
Then we went to Disney.
They did not make me wear ears or force me to smile to gain entry. The guy who searched our purses before we were allowed inside the Magic Kingdom called the old lady in front of me and the little girl behind me, both, “Princess” but seemed to have an excellent self-preservation instinct and just sort of silently grimaced at me.
When the boys and I accidentally got into a line that was a forced photo op with Disney Characters, I whispered “I’m sorry” into Minnie Mouse’s plastic ear. But, you know, she was in Character and so couldn’t say anything back.
There were typos on the Walt Disney quotes that were framed around the construction of the next new themed area. The ubiquitous staff were, indeed, ubiquitous—except the one time I needed one and they were hiding inside and out of sight.
So I was kind of relieved. It wasn’t a shining beacon of perfect consumption nor did I feel a constant and unmitigated wonder (that I kind of believe should really only happen in situations with much less plastic coating).
It was just another place that I occupied-- like Wal-Mart, it didn't magically (or demonically) occupy me.
And mostly, it wasn’t horrible. There were little girls in pink princess costumes and there was always a gift shop in line of sight. But there were also restrooms everywhere and Little Son got to interact with the place as much and nearly as meaningfully as Protest Kid, and I got lots of chances to sit and rest my ankle.
…and then just as we went to meet the rest of the family in the Disney version of the Revolutionary War (I am rather sorry I didn’t get to take a picture; the sun set too early. But someone has *got* to get a pic of a tiny tent set up in Disney’s Liberty Square. PLEEEEEASE!)…we passed the “It’s a small world ride” and I got my piece of deeply problematic handed to me on a plastic gold platter. England, Ireland, and Scotland each got their own discreet sections, but most of Africa (barring Egypt) was symbolized by some dancing giraffes. Also, the small worlders that danced and waved were the same doll-base throughout the ride except one part of the Central/South American area, where they turned into bobble head dolls with googly eyes. (!...?...!) And then (AND THEN) (*spoilers*) in the grand finale all the peoples returned in their national dress, but the costumes and accessories were now all white. Really.
“Look, Mommy! It’s snowing!” cooed Little Son.
Why yes, the color, the difference, the history of oppression and occupation was neatly whited out, Little Son. You're absolutely right.
My sister to me: “So, disappointing in a satisfying way?”
Tomorrow, we go to Animal Kingdom. I hope to have a smaller chip on my shoulder (you’d think all the twitching would have knocked it off by now), and will try to find opportunities to occupy the space in a meaningful and amusing way so that the mouse no longer occupies me.
Failing that, I’ll settle for seeing a real giraffe.