NEITHER REAL NOR NOT

Adventure without risk is Disneyland.”
— Douglas Coupland, Canadian novelist and artist.

You still want the fairytale castle, a metaphor of what you wished for) and the good old small town mainstreet vibes, the what you think you remember you think you had long ago. You want to live in a magic kingdom—even for a day or two—where everyone is happy and safe, where everything is clean, and the trains, monorails actually, run on time. 

There’s a place they’ll “give” all that to you … for a price.

Disneyland/world is that place. It is the brainchild of Walt Disney, a former cartoonist (now just a corporation, sad that, yes?) who created a surreal space where you exchange hours of boredom for minutes of distraction. You leave weeks of salary and take home souvenirs of the disappointment. And be glad you did.

Disney said of his creation, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park. I want to feel they’re in another world.” 

Postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard believed it to be less magical and more deceitful. “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real.” And believe we do: Disneyland is imaginary, we know this to be true. The rest, therefore, must be real.

The attractions on our small screens that we “ride” the other 51 weeks a year are becoming our new “reality.” First hand experiences are becoming a smaller and smaller part of our lives and second hand fantasies forced upon us are taking their place.

Our whole world has become a theme park, a simulation. Baudrillard divides the slide from reality to simulacrum in several stages. First there’s the simulation, it’s a faithful copy of the real and we know it as such. That’s replaced by a subversive version of the original. We may still feel it’s a fake but never why. In the final stage the fake defines the real, but we don’t know the difference any more.

Disneyland/world is a mix of stages one and two it’s a comforting but uncanny version of the original that we know isn’t real. We feel the subversion, but we don’t care. Now we are in stage three most of the time where, per Baudrillard, “Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible” These days we don’t want to—or are not allowed to—get off the rides . . . 

In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned; and this abandonment, of the book to the fire or to the public, whether due to weariness or to a need to deliver it for publication, is a sort of accident, comparable to the letting-go of an idea that has become so tiring or annoying that one has lost all interest in it.
—Poet Paul Valéry, 1933

. . . I give up. This far from perfect effort is an idea, while still interesting, has become both annoying and tiring. The image is the third complete redraw and still not right. Only the princess remains from the original sketch. And if one tenth of the first draft remains in the current state of the essay I’d be surprised. Not that I’ve gotten closer to proving a point, it’s all still a jumble of unrelated thoughts.

One good thing, though. When the topic was gonna involve The Matrix’s red pill and blue pill as well as Alice’s Wonderland I found out that Grace Slick (White Rabbit) was inspired by Miles Davis (Concierto de Aranjuez, adagio) two of my favorite tunes from back in the sixties. Cool or what? 

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