Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Making Peace with The Mouse

Last week I went into work and wrote up my resignation and gave two week's notice. About three hours after advising Comfortable U. that I would be leaving, I was given two weeks of paid "administrative leave" and sent home.

It was the day before my 30th birthday. There was nothing to do, said Tony and Andrew, but to pack up the family and drive to Disneyworld. Dust had just moved onto our couch here in Atlanta, so we didn't even have to find someone to look after the cats.

So we went. I took my daughter to Disneyworld, and thus confronted head-on everything I am ambivalent about regarding our consumer culture and childhood. Best to figure out my feelings early anyway.

I didn't know if we would have a good time; so much when traveling with a baby depends on their moods and stages. We managed to hit Disneyworld just right for Dot's babyhood. She was small enough to be happy riding in her stroller or to be carried, but had no need to venture off with her newly acquired crawling skills. She wasn't frightened of the fireworks or large costumed characters, instead smiling or gazing with unfazed curiosity at each new encounter. While we did have to exit a few attractions that made ear-splitting volume part of their program, overall Dot was happy with the trip.

Surprizingly, I was happy as well. Disneyworld has managed to boil Halloween down to its two baisc elements: costumes and candy. Those are two things that Disney does very well with all around the year, so it shouldn't have been such a shock that they were able to adapt and sucessfully throw amazing Halloween events.

I also loved seeing Disney's normally pastel self turned out in faux-goth glory. Starting at sunset, everything Disney became black and orange, and even the costumed characters like Mickey and Minnie aquired masks or costumes. Twice during the night there's a huge "Not So Scary" Halloween parade, complete with all the Disney villains and a band of skeletons. The whole place become awash in free candy, with trick-or-treat stations set up everywhere.

I might have had more problems with Disney's trick-or-treating in the past, but the last year has seen a fundamental change in the Disney archetype of little girl costuming. While previously all little girls were meant to emulate princesses, dressed in the outfits of Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, now they have two new options: that of the Pirate, and that of the (Incredibles) Superheroine.

For every princess waiting for her prince to rescue her along our trick-or-treat path, we saw another little girl ready to board enemy ships and hunt for treasure. Sprinkled into this mix in a smaller number were entire families dressed as The Incredibles - an outfit uniform to everyone in the group regardless of gender, even if Dad's had fake muscles sewn in.

So, Disney wasn't so bad. Dot was a pirate one night and a superhero of our own making the next. While I did run terrified of the "Princess Makeover" portion of one Disney shop, there was plenty of other stuff to enjoy. I can hold my breath and close my eyes when walking past the princess crap. It's easy to ignore while surrounded by Eyeore dressed in mummy bandages and Goofy riding a giant gumball machine that spews bubbles and sweets.

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