Friday, February 1, 2013

Walker, Fanon and Disney World

When I was a child, my family and I went to Disney World often. However, we never went on the “It’s a Small World” ride because my sister was so afraid of the dolls. A few years ago, I went on the ride again for the first time in a while and finally understood how she felt.

Basically, the boat ride involves a journey through a vision of dolls (that are meant to be children) of different ethnicities and cultures that sing about world peace and hold hands, since it is a small world, after all. The message is meant to be one of world peace and brotherhood, during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This reminds me of both Walker and Fanon. In her poem “For My People,” Walker calls for unification, through non-violence, as a means to overcome racial adversity, which is what this ride is supposed to be all about.

However, I am troubled by this ride. The purpose of it is to overcome stereotypes, but I feel like the ride actually reinforces them in a way. For example, there are the Hula dancers representing Hawaii, the Mexican dancers in their sombreros, etc. These are stereotypical images of these cultures, and even though they hold hands and sing about world peace, there is really nothing else that unites the different children in the ride. They are still portrayed as distinctly different.

What would Fanon think about the “It’s a Small World” ride? I had some difficulty understanding Fanon’s writing, so I’m still pondering this question. It is perplexing to analyze this ride within the scope of Fanon, since the ride involves children and therefore no violence. He would probably see it as far too pristine and innocent (although it is a children’s ride). He would also probably feel similarly to how I feel about the ride. In this scenario, at Disney World, would the tourists represent the colonizers (middle- to upper-class families) and the dolls symbolize the colonized (the “natives” of the different cultures)?


  1. Sam --- I also find this ride problematic. "It's a small world" absolutely reinforces stereotypes. It reminds me of some other ways that society likes to organize and package peoples and cultures into simple, concrete ideas (Halloween costumes and films, for example). There is something unsettling about the fact that the constantly changing complexities of cultures and ideas can be frozen in time.

    Your post is particularly relevant to mine. I wrote about how, in Fanon's writing, he mentions that colonizers often to mask racism under umbrella ideas of universalism while multiplying the nuances between people. I think that he would detest the idea of this ride which primarily emphasizes the contrasts between people, instead of the fact that they are all simply human.

    I'm intrigued by your idea that the tourists would represent the colonizers and the dolls would represent the colonized. I think this has a valid point, especially in the way that these dolls are dehumanized and used as a spectacle. They are not individuals, but rather caricatures of large and complex groups of people. They are packaged into simple objects for he purposes of allowing the tourist to marvel from afar.

    Great analogy and interesting to consider!

  2. The idea of this ride and its stereotypical portrayal seems so outdated, or as Amanda said, "frozen in time." I agree with both of you that the different dolls seem to represent the stigma's of their culture rather than the unity of mankind. Pride for one's culture is one thing, but limiting it to a specific doll and saying that this doll represents an entire people is a form of dehumanization. It is saying that if you are from Mexico (to use one of Sam's examples), then you automatically wear a sombrero. This is stereotyping at its greatest- assuming physical appearance is identical for all people of the same culture.

  3. I am relieved to hear that others feel the same way about this ride as I do. When I had this discussion with a few of my friends, they disagreed with me.

    I looked up the definition of "multiculturalism," and I found one that said that multiculturalism is "the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation." This seems to be what the Disney ride is aiming to accomplish. The ride portrays the different cultures of the children/dolls yet attempts to unify them at the same time through a message of world peace.

    Fanon's emphasis on humanism contrasts with this idea of multiculturalism. This quotation from Fanon is particularly relevant here: "Decolonization never takes place unnoticed, for it influences individuals and modifies them fundamentally. It transforms spectators crushed with their inessentiality into privileged actors, with the grandiose glare of history’s floodlights upon them. It brings a natural rhythm into existence, introduced by new men, and with it a new language and a new humanity. Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power; the “thing” which has been colonized becomes man during the same process by which it frees itself" (2). Here, to me, Fanon says that human beings are constantly changing and adapting to new environments and, overall, becoming "new" in order to survive decolonization. He seems to view human beings almost as one in the same instead of as different, since we react to change similarly despite our cultural differences?

  4. Source:


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