Disney’s Influence on the Modern Theme Park and the Codification of Colorblind Racism in the American Amusement Industry
Walt Disney opened Disneyland park in 1955 amidst a sea of social unrest that soon led to race riots at other parks across the country. Disneyland was never officially segregated, like many northern parks (and especially those in the west), and never had to be integrated. However, it began a period of development, expansion, and change in American amusement that was underwritten by racial unrest, the closure of many traditional parks, and the development of “theme parks” away from urban centers. In this essay Jill Morris argues that Disney profited off an economic system that valorized the white dollar and gaze and would forever codify the American theme park as much a colorblind white space as the traditional American amusement park that came before it. The essay especially focuses on the introduction of the single, flat entrance fee and asserts that the institution of pay-one-price and gated park models in the 1960s, beginning with Disneyland, codified the tourist gaze as white and middle class, while being able to claim to support desegregation. This sort of colorblind racism continues in the design of parks today, creating many spaces that are supposedly socially progressive while upholding the morals of an earlier America.
KeywordsDisneyland Class Race Theme parks Economics
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