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Walt Disney World is a pilgrimage site filled with utopian elements, craft, and whimsy. It's a pedestrian's world, where the streets are clean, the employees are friendly, and the trains run on time. All of its elements are themed, presented in a consistent architectural, decorative, horticultural, musical, even olfactory tone, with rides, shows, restaurants, scenery, and costumed characters coordinated to tell a consistent set of stories. It is beguiling and exasperating, a place of ambivalence and ambiguity. In Vinyl Leaves Professor Fjellman analyzes each ride and theater show of Walt Disney World and discusses the history, political economy, technical infrastructure, and urban planning of the area as well as its relationship with Metropolitan Orlando and the state of Florida. Vinyl Leaves argues that Disney, in pursuit of its own economic interests, acts as the muse for the allied transnational corporations that sponsor it as well as for the world of late capitalism, where the commodity form has colonized much of human life. With brilliant technological legerdemain, Disney puts visitors into cinematically structured stories in which pieces of American and world culture become ideological tokens in arguments in favor of commodification and techno-corporate control. Culture is construed as spirit, colonialism and entrepreneurial violence as exotic zaniness, and the Other as child.Exhaustion and cognitive overload lead visitors into the bliss of Commodity Zen—the characteristic state of postmodern life. While we were watching for Orwell, Huxley rode into town, bringing soma, cable, and charge cards—and wearing mouse ears. This book is the story of our commodity fairyland.
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Stephen M. Fjellman is professor of anthropology at Florida International University.From Publishers Weekly:
Calling Walt Disney World "the most ideologically important piece of land in the United States," anthropologist Fjellman, a respectful cynic, offers a wide-ranging, often jargon-laden analysis of "this quintessence of the American Way." Intrepid readers unwilling to take Disney World at face value may find much that is rewarding here. Fjellman argues that Disney provides a utopian antidote to everyday life, which is fragmented and confused in "late capitalist society." After academic excursions concerning culture and consumerism, Fjellman analyzes Disney's distorted approach to history ("time is defined spatially," as in Tomorrowland), the corporate ideology infusing EPCOT Center and the machinations of Disney's Orlando land grab. He tracks the daily details: the transportation system as social control, the psychology of refuse disposal and the five keys to Disney's system of managing people on line. The 10 national pavilions of World Showcase, Fjellman writes, offer the message that other countries "are essentially theme parks." He concludes that Disney World is "postmodern"--a place where the distinction between real and fake is no longer important.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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