Introduction Disney’s Retroprogressive Medievalisms: Where Yesterday is Tomorrow Today

  • Tison Pugh
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Disneyland proclaims itself “the happiest place on earth,” and cultural critics would do well to take this assertion seriously. Why else would millions of people visit its parks annually, not to mention the millions more who buy Disney merchandise, watch Disney films, visit Disney websites, and otherwise consume Disney products, if not to partake in some of this happiness, readily available at a price agreed upon by producer and consumer as reasonable? Success breeds suspicion, and many social theorists snipe at Disney’s homogenized presentation of mainstream American (and unabashedly imperialistic) entertainment. Jean Baudrillard posits Disney as merely a simulacrum, as “a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation….[I]t is a play of illusions and phantasms,” and in a comparison offensive in its bathos, he likens Disney’s expansive yet efficient parking lots to “veritable concentration camp[s].”1 In his study of the mythic function of utopias, Louis Marin condemns Disneyland as a dystopia: “[Disneyland] alienates the visitor by a distorted and fantasmatic representation of daily life, by a fascinating image of the past and the future, of what is estranged and what is familiar.”2 One might well wonder when Baudrillard and Marin visited Disneyland, as most patrons appear to be enthusiastically enjoying themselves, rather than staving off the exploitative effects of anti-utopic alienation.


Fairy Tale Theme Park Disney World Medieval Romance Walt Disney Company 
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© Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein 2012

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  • Tison Pugh

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