The Mouse That Soared

April 18, 1992

You would think that French intellectuals, who find Jerry Lewis profound, would be tickled pink about Mickey Mouse's beachhead on the outskirts of Paris. Something, perhaps, about the existential hunger for meaningless diversion in defiance of the empty abyss that is our beingness.

Instead, the best, or worst, that the flower of French cogitation has to say about Euro Disneyland is that it is "a cultural Chernobyl" and "a terrifying giant's step toward world homogenization" and "a horror made of cardboard, plastic and appalling colors, a construction of hardened chewing gum and idiotic folklore taken straight out of comic books written for obese Americans."

Zut, alors! First Big Macs, now the Mickmeister.

Disney officials have tried to deflect the charges of cultural imperialism by pointing out the European origins of their fairy-tale characters. Sleeping Beauty is German, Peter Pan English, Cinderella French and Pinocchio Italian. But Mickey and Donald and Goofy and Pluto, and the adventure rides (Pirates of the Caribbean was Walt Disney's personal favorite) are all-American. the savants have a point. By a weird cultural reversal, this Columbus year finds bearers of New World kitsch ministering to a needy continent.

And what's wrong with innocent popular enjoyment? Tokyo Disneyland recently set an all-time one-day world attendance record of 113,000 visitors. Euro Disney will shatter that on the first warm day in May.

Great physicists, religious leaders and such thinkers as Freud and Marx have struggled for the unifying explanation that can bring the world into harmony and reason. Wouldn't it be funny if when wars cease, the key turned out to be the popularity of a cartoon mouse? That's an irony worthy of a French intellectual's homage.

Anyway, the intellectuals will have to go to Euro Disneyland in spite of themselves. Their children will insist.

"Obese Americans," indeed! C'est de trop!

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