|(c) Disney Parks Blog|
I haven't written about Disney in a while, despite their being a few topics that have piqued my interest recently (like Disneyland Forward). So, as the start of a few entries on the topic, I thought I would start with a recent editorial column from the Orlando Sentinel.
In the column, self-proclaimed Disney superfan, Jonathan VanBoskerk wrote of his struggles in strongly rethinking his family's commitment to Disney (a very interesting way to put it) because of what he characterized as the company's change in values. VanBoskerk pointed to Disney's recent updating of their company keys to success in cast member training to include Inclusion, the relaxation of cast member appearance policy to include "gender-inclusive" hairstyles, jewelry, costumes, and make-up, as well as allowing some visible tattoos, the replacement of Splash Mountain with a Princess and the Frog themed flume ride, and changes to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. In perhaps his most telling quote, VanBoskerk reveals how he can not separate his enjoyment of the park from the nostalgia inherent in him experiencing the park as he believes he should. "The next time I ride Jungle Cruise I will not be thinking about the gloriously entertaining puns of the skippers, I will be thinking about Disney’s political agenda. That’s a mood killer."
Look, I'm one of the biggest Disney Parks fans that you will ever meet. I've been going to Disney parks since the early 1980s and have seen a lot of changes come and go through the parks. Some for the better and some for the worse. The original Journey Into Imagination ride has yet to be matched and the ride that exists in its place is a tragedy. I will gladly join the chorus and bemoan the loss of things like Spectromagic, Horizons, The Great Movie Ride, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
This article however, is patently ridiculous. Just because you might be blind to how something may be grossly offensive to a sizable population of the visitors of the park, does not mean it is not offensive. There are definitely cringe-worthy caricatures and stereotypes that are visible in the parks. Pirates of the Caribbean had a cringe-worthy Asian pirate caricature, addressed long before they ever removed the bride auction. The bride auction is amazing that it lasted this long and while the new scene isn't handled as deftly as the previous one, with a little adjustment, the bride auction would not be missed. The Jungle Cruise has always had imperialist, racist caricatures of natives in the ride. Again, this isn't something we should be saddened by their loss. From the concept art for the replacement scenes, they look to focus more heavily on animals, and to continue the humor that has become part and parcel of the ride experience. That's a good change. And while I've always maintained that Song of the South is more boring than it is problematic, the change to Princess and the Frog will be a welcomed one (especially in Disneyland, where it fits much better), though the animatronics may be a down-grade.
Have we become that self-centered, that narcissistic, that our nostalgia matters more than our empathy? Have we become that hardened, that we turn a blind eye to whatever doesn't offend us? VanBoskerk labels himself in the article as a Christian and conservative, making his rant even more troubling. As Christians, we should be the first to consider the feelings of others and to desire to make them feel included. To love our neighbor as ourselves and to put them before us. That is quite literally Paul's entire point in Romans 14. "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification." In that passage, Paul in his liberty knew there was no food that was unclean to eat, but put aside his freedom to make sure that his brothers and sisters did not stumble because of his actions.
And that is in a situation where Paul knew he had the freedom to do so, as did his brothers and sisters in Christ. He just wanted to protect their consciences.
How much more should we act when we know there are things out their causing our brothers and sisters real offense and hurt.
At the end of it all, it will still be a theme park. One of the best in the world. It will still be a place to escape from reality into fantasy, tomorrow, and adventure. It will still be a place that is the "happiest place on earth."
These changes can just make it a little happier for everyone who visits.