Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who Cares?

No, really. Who cares?

You want Tomorrowland or Future World to be bright and optimistic, but you argue that the future, the real future, is kinda dim. Hopeless. Irrevocably spiraling into a chaotic vortex of doom. Okay, maybe your not the "Armageddon", "2012", "Howard the Duck" kind of hopeless cause, but even at your most cautiously optimistic, you recognize certain truths about reality and note that mankind is somewhat reckless with resources, nature and life in general. Global warming, civil rights and economic stability are constant reminders that the future is uncertain and that humans are divided on just the existence of the questions, much less the answers.

Well you know what? Who gives a flip?

What does you thinking that Obama is either this century's answers to a Martin Luther King, Jr/John Kennedy hybrid or an evil space alien from the planet Muslim have to do with the price of Kenyan birth certificates in Australia? What I mean to say is, what do the harsh economic/sociopolitical realties of life have to do with what we put in a Disney theme park? Nothing, I say.

Granted, when Tomorrowland debuted in 1955, the general outlook of America's future was one of positive optimism. Maybe even reckless optimism. Everyone was smiley, happy and bright and there was a fully cooked chicken in every pot and a brand new Ford in every garage.

At least, from what I hear tell.

Truth is in 1955, depending on your perspective, things may not have been as all rosy as you hear. The Cold War was in full effect and that year President Eisenhower began an annual exercise to asses the United States preparedness in the event of a nuclear attack. Hurricane Diane caused flooding that claimed the lives of 200 Americans in the Northwest and caused $1 billion dollars in damage. Two subsequent plane crashes claimed the lives of around 100 additional Americans. The average life expectancy was 69. Rosa Parks was arrested that year for refusing to comply with city segregation laws and not sit in the back of the bus. Oh yeah, segregation. Remember segregation?

My point is actually quite simple. Disneyland's Tomorrowland wasn't built because the world was a rosy, happy-go-lucky utopia. It was built in spite of a world that also had an uncertain future and a present with major injustices. Tomorrowland wasn't supposed to reflect all that. It was built to see past all that. To look ahead at something optimistic, rose colored glasses required. It was supposed to foreshadow a utopia, not reflect an existing one.

As usual, don't get me wrong. I know what's going on in the world does matter. And I'm well aware that solutions to modern day problems are at the core of inventiveness and progress. But the argument that Disney's future themed Lands can't be positive because today is too bleak ignores the realities of what made those places work to begin with. Dystopian futures existed in popular fiction back then, too. But whether or not it seemed like we were going that route was not and should not now be an influence in what goes into a Disney theme park.

What should go in it? Positives don't necessarily have to be enforced by ignoring the negatives. Tomorrowland always seemed to be playful side of the future, while Future World always focused on the education side of it. Go with that. Take the cartoon characters out and put the most high minded theories on space exploration, oceanography, alternative energy, health and transportation into Future world. Take the cartoon characters out and put thrills of exploration, time travel and futuristic living back into Tomorrowland. Doing all of this acknowledges todays problems, but inspires young minds to consider avenues of studies they may have never wanted and gives us old heads something to think about, too.

It's okay, Disney. You can inspire kids to think bigger than just pop stardom. Maybe you'll even inspire them to fix something once the grow up. It's happened before.

So in reality, what's reality got to do with it when putting some of the magic back into the Future? Whether you look at it as Sci Fi or just forward thinking, the Future Lands of Disney should be putting the emphasis on a technological wonderland. America's ability to get a decent light railway network now be damned.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I was born in 1960, and so I can't speak to the time DL was opened...but I do know that the mood in the 1960's was that the sky was the limit. Literally. We used to watch those rocket launches leading up to the Apollo missions with incredible attention.

I don't see that today at all. I have relatively young kids and there is nothing grabbing their imagination the way those space missions grabbed me and my friends when I was growing up. (Well, maybe video games...)

We just don't seem to have any far reaching vision for our kids to grab onto these days. I'm not a doomsayer; I believe that we (as in humanity) will likely overcome the obstacles in our future. But still...

Good article, btw...