Muslim Cultures and the Walt Disney World Theme Parks

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025036/00001

Material Information

Title: Muslim Cultures and the Walt Disney World Theme Parks The Spread of Religious Perceptions in a Global Market
Physical Description: 1 online resource (81 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Palmer, Ann
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: america, disney, florida, globalization, islam, mcdonaldization, muslim, popular, religion
Religion -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Religion thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The purpose of this study is to understand the misrepresentation of Muslim cultures and subsequent perceptions at the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney World has created its own misrepresentation of Muslims, rooted in Orientalism, by emphasizing a West versus East relationship between Muslims and the Western world. At the theme parks, Muslims are generally portrayed as individuals associated with peddler or market culture, violence, and a Bedouin lifestyle. These images are presented throughout the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney?s Hollywood Studios parks in the rides, visual attractions, costumes, architecture, art, and music. This research demonstrates how Disney has used these representations and incorporated them through theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising, and emotional labor. However, these elements are not restricted to the theme park space. Walt Disney World has become a global enterprise through its use of merchandising. On a global scale, Disney provides both a hybridized and homogenized theme park experience. Muslim cultures and their misrepresentations are a noticeable and influential part of this process. This study suggests that in order to truly understand the complexity and true nature of the Muslim cultures and Islam, it is necessary to acknowledge and critique the negative representations of Muslim culture in the theme parks. This study encourages an open discussion in the Muslim, Disney, and global community about the depiction of various Muslim cultures in popular public spaces. Future research may provide more insight into the repercussions of Disney?s representations in the Muslim community.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Ann Palmer.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Simmons, Gwendolyn Z.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0025036:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025036/00001

Material Information

Title: Muslim Cultures and the Walt Disney World Theme Parks The Spread of Religious Perceptions in a Global Market
Physical Description: 1 online resource (81 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Palmer, Ann
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: america, disney, florida, globalization, islam, mcdonaldization, muslim, popular, religion
Religion -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Religion thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The purpose of this study is to understand the misrepresentation of Muslim cultures and subsequent perceptions at the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney World has created its own misrepresentation of Muslims, rooted in Orientalism, by emphasizing a West versus East relationship between Muslims and the Western world. At the theme parks, Muslims are generally portrayed as individuals associated with peddler or market culture, violence, and a Bedouin lifestyle. These images are presented throughout the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney?s Hollywood Studios parks in the rides, visual attractions, costumes, architecture, art, and music. This research demonstrates how Disney has used these representations and incorporated them through theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising, and emotional labor. However, these elements are not restricted to the theme park space. Walt Disney World has become a global enterprise through its use of merchandising. On a global scale, Disney provides both a hybridized and homogenized theme park experience. Muslim cultures and their misrepresentations are a noticeable and influential part of this process. This study suggests that in order to truly understand the complexity and true nature of the Muslim cultures and Islam, it is necessary to acknowledge and critique the negative representations of Muslim culture in the theme parks. This study encourages an open discussion in the Muslim, Disney, and global community about the depiction of various Muslim cultures in popular public spaces. Future research may provide more insight into the repercussions of Disney?s representations in the Muslim community.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Ann Palmer.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Simmons, Gwendolyn Z.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0025036:00001

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2 2009 Ann Marie Palmer


3 To advisors, colleagues, family, and fr iends who made this milestone possible


4 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I thank the chair and m embers of my co mmittee for their support and guidance throughout this writing process. I thank my family for their encouragement and motivation.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .............................................................................................................4ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... ...............6 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................. ..82 FOUNDATIONS OF THEORY ............................................................................................. 18Islam and Orientalism ......................................................................................................... ....18Popular Culture .......................................................................................................................23McDonaldization ............................................................................................................... .....263 DISNEY BASED THEORY .................................................................................................. 30Walt Disney World as Education ........................................................................................... 30Disneyization ..........................................................................................................................324 ALADDIN ....................................................................................................................... .......385 THE THEME PARKS ............................................................................................................45The Magic Kingdom ............................................................................................................. ..46Epcot ......................................................................................................................... ..............51Disneys Hollywood Studios .................................................................................................. 606 GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS ................................................................................................677 CONCLUSIONS ................................................................................................................... .73LIST OF REFERENCES ...............................................................................................................79BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .........................................................................................................81


6 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts MUSLIM CULTURES AND THE WALT DISNEY WORLD THEME PARKS: THE SPREAD OF RELIGIOUS PERCEPTIONS IN A GLOBAL MARKET By Ann Marie Palmer August 2009 Chair: Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons Major: Religion The purpose of this study is to understand th e misrepresentation of Muslim cultures and subsequent perceptions at the Walt Disney Worl d theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney World has created its own misrep resentation of Muslims, rooted in Orientalism, by emphasizing a West versus East relationship between Muslims and the Western world. At the theme parks, Muslims are generally portrayed as individuals associated with peddler or market culture, violence, and a Bedouin lifestyle These images are presente d throughout the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disneys Hollywood Studios parks in the rides, visual attractions, costumes, architecture, art, and music. This research demonstrates how Disney has used these representations and incorpor ated them through theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising, and emotional labor. However, these elements are not restricted to the theme park space. Walt Disney World has become a global enterprise through its use of merchandising. On a global scale, Disney provides both a hybridized a nd homogenized theme park experience. Muslim cultures and their misrepresentati ons are a noticeable and influentia l part of this process. This study suggests that in order to truly understand the complexity and true nature of the Muslim cultures and Islam, it is necessa ry to acknowledge and critique the negative repr esentations of


7 Muslim culture in the theme parks. This study encourages an open discussion in the Muslim, Disney, and global community about the depiction of various Muslim cultures in popular public spaces. Future research may provide more in sight into the repercussions of Disneys representations in th e Muslim community.


8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Our heritage and ideals, our code an d sta ndards the things we live by and teach our children are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings. Walt Disney Much of the current scholarship and popular media focus on Islam in America focuses on issues of terrorism, assimilati on versus isolation, or issues of Christian-Muslim relations. Exploring these topics sometime s contributes to the general un derstanding of how Islam is changing the understanding of relig ious practice and perception in America. Many times, issues that are considered hot topics in Islamic studies, such as te rrorism, globalization, or womens issues often distort the general non-Muslims understanding of these topics in the grand scheme of the religion. The terms Islam and Muslim ar e casually used in reference to religious and cultural identities of various peoples. In popular culture scholarship, Islam and Muslim cultures have often been lumped into one general categ ory. Studies of popular cu lture show how religion is essentialized or watered down into a fixed se t of terms or images. Islam is practiced by a diverse and complex population, spanning multiple c ountries and cultures. This research is an attempt to explain how various Muslim cultures have been port rayed as one si gnal homogenized group through some of the most prominent form s of popular culture available in the United States. The Walt Disney Theme Parks, specificall y Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is a center of cultural and pop cultu ral production and exchange. In th is research, I break down the evident and obscure interpretations and stereotypes that are often associated with Middle Eastern countries, and Arab and Muslim cultures. The th eme parks at Walt Disney World represent these generalities within its pa rk attractions without clearly stati ng the origin of their images. While previous scholars have addressed misrepresentati ons of religious culture within the Disney theme parks as Middle Eastern or Arab, I focus on how th ese images and attractions also misrepresent


9 Muslim culture.1 I also explicate the broa der ramifications of such representations through the use of globalization theory as it applies to the cultural elements of the Disney market. This paper attempts to explain how Disney impacts external percep tions of Muslim or Arab cultures on a local and gl obal scale based on informati on about the Walt Disney theme parks and observations and analysis based on the theme parks. I also focus on how globalization shapes commercial and academic ventures as they pertain to the Disney franchise. If Disney continues to portray and utilize Islam in its theme parks, there should be a heightened awareness that religious perceptions may be affected and internalized beyond the park visit. Walt Disney World portrays a certain amount of informati on about Muslim culture through expressions of folklore, film, and geographical culture including food, dance, and art. These specific images and stereotypes are discussed and analyzed in or der to better understa nd how and why Disney portrays Muslim culture through these elements in each park. Information is provided about the importance of understanding popular culture studies as they relate to religious studies. Much of my research is based on the observations made by Edward Said in his groundbreaking research on Western misrepresentations of Islam and nonEuropeans in his work on Orientalism.2 The concept of Orientalism, as defined by Said, posits that Western scholars of the East created a dichotomy between the East (including Muslim culture) and the West in terms of advancemen ts in culture, technology, and efficiency in providing goods and services. The Ea st, as it is understood by those outside of it, is seen as the other that is inferior, exotic, riddled with ex cesses and violence and an authoritarian rule which prevents it from adapting to or assimilating to Western standards. Sa ids work provides the 1 See Jack G. Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Br anch Press, 2001). 2 Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (New York: Vintage Books, 1997).


10 groundwork for this study as it allows for a cleare r understanding of what Disney is representing in its attractions. In a post September 11th America, many non-Muslims have questions or misconceptions about Muslims living in the Un ited States or abroa d. Religion scholars are responsible for addressing and educ ating the public on the issues th at arise from such incidents, as they shape perceptions of religious groups. By showing that these problematic images exist within the Disney theme park space, scholars ha ve an accessible venue to educate and moderate. The Orientalist images that ar e presented through various media outlets are maintained in the Disney theme park space. This research is a valid case study of stereotypes and misinformation. However, it is also accessible beyond the loca lized research. It provides insight into how Orientalism is created and viewed on a daily ba sis. These images and their impact on park visitors become encounters of culture, where i ndividuals of various cu ltural and religious backgrounds exchange become commodities consumed by visitors. This research taps into media studies, issues of tourism, and the controversia l nature of cultural space and exchange between individuals. In the Disney theme parks I explore the significant Orientalist concepts that are evident through issues of the singular and static nature of how the East is perceived, the lack of emphasis on the individual, the exotic and fant astical nature, the gender discrimination, the underlying images of violence, and the dichotom y between images of primitivism and decadence versus the Western understa nd of wealth and luxury. I include background information on Walt Disney himself and his underlying intentions for creating the theme parks. In addi tion to drawing on my observati ons and analysis of the theme park, I ground my analysis in the film Aladdin (1992), which is represen ted in the theme parks. Disneys Aladdin has also generated controversy with rega rd to its misreprese ntation of Muslim individuals, that provides a strong framework and precedent for understanding issues within the


11 theme park. My analysis of the distortions of Ar ab/Muslim culture by Disney is also based on the work of George Ritzer and the concept of McD onaldization as it pertains to the effects that consumerism has on global relations and cultures.3 Ritzer provides significant insight into the success of the Disney theme parks by explaining McDonaldization as the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurants are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world.4 McDonaldization is the process that allows homogeneity, sameness, of commodities wherever the item is distributed and consumed. Ritzer emphasizes McDonaldization as a social proces s brought on by rationali zation, or the general control and efficiency, of cr eation and distribution of good.5 I have updated and revised Ritzers findings to suit the Disney model through the conc ept of Disneyization, as developed by Alan Bryman.6 Disneyization contributes to the explanation of why Disney is able to be successful and influential in the marketplace by distributi ng a hybridized product. In other words, Disney seeks to create variety and difference It exchanges the mundane blandness of homogenized consumption experiences with freq uently spectacular experiences. 7 This research will show that in reality, this unique experience has now been homogenized by the Disney enterprise. As Disney continues to grow in the global market place, this process will continue and repeat itself. The framework of this paper is based on a st ep-by-step analysis of the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Disney (formerly MGM studios), and EPCOT. With each individual park I analyze how Muslim/Arab culture is por trayed, the accuracy of the portrayal, and the overall message 3 George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation Into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life (Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge, 1993). 4 Ibid., 1. 5 Ibid., 16. 6 Alan Bryman, The Disneyizatoin of Society (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2004). 7 Ibid., 4.


12 being generated to park visitors. I describe each park and explain its use of theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising, emotional labor, a nd a controlled environment and how each of these represents Muslim culture.8 In my view, this framework is useful in understanding the relationship between Disney and Mu slim cultural representations on a global scale. In this paper, I also explain the underlying meaning or message about Muslims and the associated Middle East as it is demonstrated by each park. This study conc ludes with an analysis of implications based on these observations, as well as suggestions fo r future research that can be conducted by religious scholars, or scholars of other disc iplines, that may generate more accurate representations of various Muslim communities and cultures within the Disney community and beyond. This research makes a signifi cant contribution to the study of religion and popular culture because it addresses how a signature institution deeply rooted in American popular culture misrepresents a religious group. The Walt Disn ey World theme park has borrowed images, myths, and cultural artifacts from Arab/Middle Eastern cultures and orig ins and given them a Disney identity for the purpose of entertaining visitors and promoting consumerism at its theme parks. Disney blurs the lines between cultur al and religious identity in order to create a consistent and simplistic reality of an exotic and faraway land, which in this case appears to the general American public as a place where Muslim a nd Arab cultures meet and blur. Practitioners of Islam are diverse and disperse d. Most do not identify with th e stereotypical Middle Eastern identity or with the cultural images associated with the Disney representations. As Carolyn Fluer-Lobban emphasizes, There is a tendency in the West to homogenize the East and lump together Arabs, Muslims, and Middle Easterners Islam is a global faith with most of its 1.2 8 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society 2.


13 billion practitioners living in Asia.9 Generalized images of all Muslims as Arabs or Middle Easterners involve problematic re presentations of what it means to be Muslim today. In the case of these distinct Muslim culture s, Disney World provides a significant amount of fluctuating and inconsistent examples throughout its park system, which adds to a confusing image of Islam for park visitors who may have little knowledge about the divers ity of Muslim culture or the religion of Islam as it is practiced by its adherents. There are many ways in which perceptions of re ligiously associated cu ltures are developed and represented in the American public sphere. Yet, the concept of the theme park is unique from other public areas because it provides goods and serv ices that no other space offers. Walt Disney World offers guests the ability to experience its representa tions of twelve countries in a matter of several hours just by visiting a specifi c area of the park. Visitors are al so able to participate in the making of their favorite Disney movie, by le arning about the skill of animation and acting involved with the project. While these park and fi lm experiences are invented and recreated for the park visitor, they are presented as real a nd authentic. For this reason it is important to understand Disney as a driving force of popular culture and consumerism. It is important to understand Disneys role in the development of American popular cultu re since Walt Disney World is a microcosm of Americanized symbols and ideas. It is a unique company since it has the ability to combine distinct franchises, or distinct elements of culture, merchandise, and fantasy all in one established space.10 Disney is the ultimate example of the McWorld, a globalized space controlled by the market place, since it is driven by the popularity of the product it produces.11 Benjamin Barber, a prominent poli tical theorist who focuses on the 9 Carolyn Fluer-Lobban, Islamic Societies in Practice (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004), 5. 10 Benjamin Barber, Jihand vs. McWorld (New York: Times Books, 1995), 65. 11 Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld 97.


14 prominence of culture in the global and political sphere, be lieves that, McWorld is an entertainment shopping experience that brings to gether malls theme parks fast food chains, and television into a single vast enterprise that, on the way to maximizing its profits, transforms human beings.12 In the theme park experience, the re lationship between religion and culture, and the consumer experience becomes blurred, and the importance of the theme park in American culture is heightened. Barber describe s the concept of the theme park as a general space where the elements of McWorld can be ex perienced. The capitalist ideas represented by the theme park have moved beyond the actual park space, such as Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Chain companies such as Starbu cks or extensive malls such as the Mall of America can be understood as theme parks due to their business model. Th is is why the study of Disneys representations of Arab/Muslim cultu re is applicable beyond the Walt Disney theme park space, since other companies have borrowed Disneys tactics and app lied them to their own products and services. This case study of Muslim culture at Walt Di sney World is an appropriate place to start understanding how influential them e parks are in the global space. As Barber explains, Walt Disney World is McWorlds front parlor.13 While Walt Disney World will continue to be a powerful example of this phenomenon, it also inspires and creates new and reinvented theme parks, which represent and influence culture. Studying Disney theme parks in terms of religio us studies is significant since Walt Disney World is openly and actively portraying elements of Arab/M uslim culture or representing fantastical images and attractions as part of that culture. This portrayal is made available to thousands of individuals every day. In 1971, its first year, Walt Disney World welcomed ten 12 Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld 97. 13 Ibid., 134.


15 million visitors, replacing several popular vaca tion destinations including the United Kingdom, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and Gettysburg.14 By the 1980s, Walt Disney World was a more popular vacation destination than the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids in Egypt.15 It is evident just by lo oking at the number of yearly visito rs that visiting a nd experiencing the Disney Parks has become a part of the Ameri can (and global) way of life. However, how does this connect with religion? In God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture, Eric Mazur and Tara Koda tackle this issue and its impact on American culture. Both scholars believe that In contemporary America, many consider all elements of life, even intangibles, as things that can be bought, and religious leaders now find themselves financially burdened competing for congregants attention.16 As religious institutions suffe r financially due to congregant attention to tangible goods, they attempt to adopt the Disn ey market model by making the religious space an attraction to its members. Walt Disney World has become a business that has the ability to market religiously based sym bols in the United States and beyond. The Disney World experience has been compared to a cult ural mecca or hajj experience by scholars.17 These associations show the Disney theme pa rks as not only facilitators of religious representation, but also a powerful and life-changing experience or practice for park visitors. An even more powerful connect ion between religion and the theme park establishment is the relationship between Walt Di sney World and sacred space. Emile Durkheim explains the concept of sacred space and its relevance to th e individual are humanly constructed. Durkheim 14 Eric Michael Mazur and Tara K. Koda, The Ha ppiest Place on Earth: Disneys America and the Commodification of Religion, in God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture ed. Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy (New York: Routledge, 2001), 299. 15 Eric Michael Mazur and Tara K. Koda The Happiest Place on Earth, 299. 16 Ibid., 300. 17 Ibid., 301. Both the hajj and Mecca are significant in the practice of Islam. The hajj is a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia, and is experienced by most Muslims at least once in a lifetime.


16 emphasizes the sacred as the real element constr ucted by the social networks that influence the individual, meaning as society evolves, so do religious rituals and beliefs.18 The Walt Disney World parks and the experiences they orchestrat e can be understood as a religious space where the extraordinary occurs through human construction. Scholars have even compared the function and independency of the theme park as equivalent to that of Vatican City.19 While using Durkheims idea of sacred space is useful in ackno wledging the diverse role of theme parks, this concept is only the start. In this research, I ut ilize the concept of the s acred space and apply it to the relationship between the Walt Disney World theme parks, the local park setting, and the global expansion of the theme park because of Disneys use of religious elements in a nonreligious space. Jean Baudrillard has commented on the Disney model saying what attr acts the crowds the most is without a doubt the social microcosm, the religious, miniaturized pleasures of the real America, of its constraints and joys.20 The relationship between tourism and the religious experience have paralleled each othe r in the tourists search of the authentic experience. Those who make the journey to visit the Disney th eme parks are seeking out an experience that transcends the everyday practices. Disney offers a fulfilling encounter that offers a return to childhood, a element of innocence, or a space free of worry or despair. While most scholars take this idea for granted when attempting to understand what makes the theme park desirable to tourists, others have applied it to their understanding of the connection between religious sacred space and tourism. 18 Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 18. 19 Eric Michael Mazur and Tara K. Koda The Happiest Place on Earth, 305. 20 Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation trans. Sheila Faria Glaser, (Mic higan: University of Michigan, 1994),12.


17 Thomas Bremer, in Blessed with Tourists, outlines the relations hip between tourism and religious practitioners and the beha viors associated with being a t ourist in sacred and non-sacred spaces. He supports the interest tourists have in maintaining attachment to sacred space, the search for the authentic, the issue of commercia lization, and personal identity in relation to the space.21 While Bremer focuses his research on the Al amo in Texas, these elements of tourist desires are evident in my breakdow n and analysis of representati ons of Muslim culture in the Walt Disney World theme park. This study of the Disney theme park takes important elements found in the study of religion and popular culture and show s their use through commercialization, authentic versus inauthenti c representations, and the park visitors relationship to the space. Due to the condens ed and direct nature of the theme park, representations of Arab/Muslim cultures are no ticeable with in the space. Those seeking an authentic experience of Muslim cultures or of a true religious experi ence may expect to find elements of it at the theme parks, but in reality they find a misrepresenta tions of Muslim cultures which are depicted as homogenized versions of these cultures through art, architecture, food, and customs. This study identifies the false impressions Disney attracti ons create at the theme parks and provides evidence for the role these attrac tions play in the globa lization of culture. 21 Thomas Bremer, Blessed with Tourists: The Borderlands of Religion and Tourism in San Antonio (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2004), 3-6.


18 CHAPTER 2 FOUNDATIONS OF THEORY When discussing the issue of Muslim cultures and their representations at the Walt Disney World theme parks, one must start with the early misconceptions by Westerners about Islam and the people who practice this religion in the Middle East. The issue of stereotyping Muslims has been discussed in detail and included in many controversial t opics such as religion, gender, and ethnic identity. In order to understand the repercussions of Disneys representations of Muslims, there needs to be an emphasis that the stereotyping of Muslims and their culture at the parks is detrimental to non-Muslims unde rstanding of Islam and the Muslim community. Observations and analysis made by Edward Said in his Orientalism and other writings have shown his readers the problem of the misrepresentations of th e Other (non-Europeans) in popular culture and helped them understand the origins of st ereotyping. While Said offers explanation for the misrepresentation of Islam in the media, it is also essential to acknowledge the role that popular culture has also played in fostering such ideas. When one understands the versatility and role of popular culture in American societies, the relation ship between Disney and Muslim culture can become clear. Walt Disney Wo rld, as a driving force in the media, creates popular culture as a form of cu ltural representation of various people and groups. Finally, these theories come alive when they are applied to th e idea of globalization. Fo r the purpose of this research, the idea of the McDonalid ization of culture provides a cl ear insight into the relationship between globalization, the market place, and religion. Walt Disney World theme parks are a strong example of this relationship betw een Orientalism and McDonaldization. Islam and Orientalism In Covering Islam Edward Said exp licates some of the common clichs directed at the Muslim community living in the United States and Europe, including the issues surrounding


19 stereotypes of the exotic other. These miscon ceptions established by the media regarding Islam are repeated by Walt Disney World. The conceptions associated with Islam, Muslim cultures, or Arab cultures have not changed gr eatly over the years. Said makes it clear that the term Islam used today is a fictional concep t that has little relationship wi th the religious practice of over 800,000,000 followers.1 It is important to understand that any individual who uses the term Islam to vaguely describe individuals from th e Middle East or of Ar ab descent is already inaccurate. This also applies to the concept of Muslim cultu re. When I describe Disneys representations of Muslim cultures in this rese arch, I mean representations of Arab and Middle Eastern culture that is associated with Islam, since this is what Disney is portraying in the theme parks. However, Muslim culture is not a definabl e concept due to the vast array of cultures and religious divisions that make up the Muslim id entities. It would be nearly impossible and irresponsible to categorize multip le cultures and geographies under one term. However, this has been the case with Disneys representation of M uslim culture at the theme parks and in Disney films. Said explains that Islam has been a uni que case in the trend of generalizing since it has been critiqued in ways different from other cultures.2 Interpretations of Islam have been critiqued for the need to modernize, and the religion as some non-Muslims have understood it, has also been perceived as a serious threat to those outside of it. It has also been used as a scapegoat by other cultures. Said explains that, For the ri ght, Islam represents barbarism; for the left, medieval theocracy; and for the center, a kind of distasteful exoticism.3 Each of these is problematic in its own right, and each misrepresent ation is evident in the realm of the Disney theme parks. 1 Said, Covering Islam l. 2 Ibid., lii. 3 Ibid., lv.


20 Said questions the scholarship on Islam and be lieves that there is a serious need for a deeper academic discourse that goes beyond dealing with the issue of power and politics.4 In the case of Disney, there is a need to understand the relationship between the representation of Muslims and the park visitors understanding wh ich reinforces their erroneous generalized knowledge of Islam. At this point, this error is no longer a problem just within the Disney theme parks, but with the American understanding of Islam. Said suggests that in order to correct such issues there needs to be a distinction between Islam the religion and Islam the image.5 Disney is preoccupied with image, imagery, and illusion. How much of Disneys representation of Muslim culture is image and imagination and how much is religion? An explanation of this relationship is rooted in Orientalism. This unde rlying drive to divide us and the different them provides an assortment of associated im ages that are based in difference and fear.6 This division is rooted in the sheer size of them (the East or the non-Western world) and the underlying power that it possesses.7 The challenge given to Ch ristianity by the expanding other also increases conflict and misinterpreta tion that leads to a split mentality. While Said argues that the media facilitates this constant sp lit between Islam and the West, Disney is also responsible for exacerbating this divide by a llowing an Orientalist view of Arabs and a generalized Muslim culture to be a major factor in its theme park attractions. By analyzing the underlying motivations of the theme park and th e exact methods of representing Islam, clear observations can be made about Disneys exact message and stance on Orientalism in terms of Muslim culture. 4 Said., Covering Islam lviii. 5 Ibid., 4. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid.


21 Said emphasizes the issue of stereotyping; however, he also breaks down the issue of labels and the need to acknowledge the stereoty pes represented through the media. It may be easy to visit Walt Disney World and respond to th e attractions as fantasy and dispel meaning from them. However, Said warns, For that reason, we must take the labels seriously. To a Muslim who talks about the West or to an Am erican who talks about Islam, these enormous generalizations have behind them a whole history.8 Powerful emotions can either generate or extinguish the us versus them mentality. When presented by images of Muslim cultures in a space such as Walt Disney World, the individual is provided with an opportunity to hold onto any previous misperceptions or to reconsider an d shift them. This is the power of a Disney attraction and for this reason Disneys theme park system should be taken seriously. Said supports this by explaining the da ily interaction of representati ons of Islam and the American public. He qualifies by explaining that most Americans do not encounter the real Islam (multiple groups, races, ethnicities, and reli gious beliefs), and deal mostly with the image of Islam (a singular understanding).9 This suggestion supports the idea that a level of ignorance allows a distorted image of Islam to cont inue through the media. This lead s Said to the cr itique of the scholar, who, as he notes, is responsible for pr oviding insight into the real Islam, which until recently they have not done. Said also notes that even when scholars rebut these false ideals, it is often to no avail as media images travel faster than expert opinions. There was a denial of coevalness between the scholar and the media messa ge, since previously mo st scholars of Islam were still attached to the idea of classical Islam.10 What Said presents by using a denial of coevalness is to show the amount of distance and perspective betw een the scholar and the media; 8 Said, Covering Islam 10. 9 Ibid., 13. 10 Ibid., 19.


22 the two are on opposite sides of th e spectrum. Additionally, Said emphasizes that the scholar is distanced by time, since the approach to scholar ship in Islam is based on an old paradigm: the classical Islam. Thus, the de nial of coevalness adds dist ance through time and theoretical approach between scholar and the media. Howeve r, scholarship today ha s shifted and there are scholars of Islam who focus on Muslims living in America and the repercussions of media involvement. Therefore, significant responsib ility has been placed on scholars studying Islam today. Due to media involvement, political conflict, and the u s versus them divide the image of Islam today, in every place that one encounters it, is an unrestrained and immediate one.11 As Said notes there needs to be an increased level of aw areness of Islam in all of its permutations in every facet of American culture, including the Disney parks. He calls for this based on several powerful assumptions: firstly, the idea that Islam is confrontational to American values; and secondly, the perceived cultural no rms associated with Islam are also easily recognizable to the outsider, which is believed go against the Amer ican norm. Such distor ted representations of Islam and Muslims are readily available to th e American public in places like Walt Disney World. These reductive claims have lead to many i ssues that scholarship is attempting to change today. In popular culture repres entations, only one specific image of Islam is available and the general religious message of Is lam itself has been stereotyped.12 Such trends make it difficult for non-Muslims to learn about the various practices and cultural differences, since those reach beyond the scope of most media sound bites. 11 Said, Covering Islam 40. 12 Ibid., 44.


23 Islam continues to be delivered to the Amer ican public through various cultural venues such as television programs, ma gazine articles, books, and film. However, these are humanly constructed items existing beyond th e control of the individual. They are man-made and thus need to be treated in a subjective manner.13 All media representations are closely associated with popular culture. These venues will continue to shape perceptions about cultural identities, including religious ones. Thus, there needs to be a greater understanding and awareness about the interaction between religion and popular culture in the way that it shapes cultural norms and individual identity. Popular Culture John Fiske dem onstrates the impact of popular culture and its relati onship to capitalism on American identity.14 The relationship between the commerc ial and the popular is evident not only at the Disney theme parks, but in the gene ral media as well. Fiske gives the example of jeans and their impact on American identity.15 While jeans were originally identified with blue collar workers, today most individuals either wear jeans on a daily basis or own at least one pair of jeans. The role of the product and its ident ity has shifted to become more acceptable to the general public. They are a commod ity that has changed because they are no longer a generic nolabel item. Popular culture, thr ough media influence, has created a new identity for jeans which are now found in most closets, spanning cultur es, socio-economic status, age, and gender. Religion, as it has been displayed by Disney, has experienced a similar transformation. As analysis of each park will show, culture (specifi cally Muslim culture) is not treated as a generic 13 Said, Covering Islam 49. 14 John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture (Boston: Unwhin Hyman, 1989). 15 Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture 1-7.


24 entity. It is treated like a unique commodity used as a marketing tool in the effort to sell authentic artifacts that represent Islam and Muslim culture to the public. That which is connected to popular culture is also related to power. Fiske notes that popular culture is always part of power st ruggles between the dom inant and subordinate groups.16 That which becomes more popular wi ll succeed within the power struggle and become an element of everyday life. However, in order to win the power struggle, the item must also be desirable and marketable to the public. It must be a commodity that can benefit from the capitalist ideal. Disney, as a popular culture ic on and facilitator, is successful because it generates high demand in the market place. Fiske explains that, Popular culture is not consumption, it is culturethe active process of generating and circ ulating meanings and pleasures within a social syst em: culture, however industrialized, can never be adequately described in terms of the buying and selling because it is an active and changing process.17 For this reason, Disney is an expansive and viable form of popular culture. It shapes consumerism and is also driven by consumerism. Jack Shaheen highlights the sign ificance of film and its use of representation of Arab and Muslim culture. In his book, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, he argues that popular culture has the ability to shape perceptions a nd identities of a group. Shaheen analyzes over 900 films, including films by Walt Disney According to him, Hollywood and popular culture adopt an Orientalist view of the other for the purpose of creat ing a dichotomy between the hero and the villain.18 Arabs, Muslims included, are represented as murderers, religious fanatics, and rapists who are visualized in bla ck beard, headdress, dark glasses in sharp 16 Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture 19. 17 Ibid., 23. 18 Ibid., 2.


25 contrast to the Western hero.19 This portrayal of Arabs and Mus lims has been consistent in film and is evident in the Disney theme parks to a si milar extent. This image is especially focused on Muslims. Shaheen explains that, Islam, partic ularly, comes in for unjust treatment. Todays image-makers regularly link the Islamic faith with male supremacy, holy war, and acts of terror, depicting Arab Muslims as hostile alien intruders.20 While Shaheen directs the concept of image-makers to filmmakers, this also pertains to Disney creators in the theme parks since their responsibility is to create imag es that attract public attention and sell a general product to park visitors. Disney, like any form of the media, is responsible for the images it presents to the public. Shaheen notes this idea and adds that, creators of popular culture form their opinions of a people, in part based on what they read in print, hear on the radio or see on television they are inundated and influenced by a continue s flow of headlines and sound bites.21 Disney creators are individuals that ca rry the same misconceptions about Muslim culture as any other individual outside of a relevant field of study. However, they are in a position to choose to represent these images, which makes them account able for what they portray. This paper hopes to assist both park visitors a nd park creators in understandin g the self-perpetuating cycle of popular culture and its ability to reinforce powerful negative im ages and stereotypes. Since repetition is essential to educat ion, stopping this cycle can contribute to the efforts of religion scholars and others who attempt to correct misc onceptions of Muslim culture as it is often presented in the media today.22 19 Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs 2. 20 Ibid., 9. 21 Ibid., 28. 22 Ibid., 1.


26 There is no simple relationship between popular culture, religion, and consumerism. Each element contributes to the decisi ons made by individuals, and it is the individual who also shapes each of these concepts. The concept of McDonald ization provides insight into how a company such as Disney can be influential to the point where it becomes a part of the American cultural identity. It also shows how images associated wi th stereotypes of various Muslim cultures can become one homogenous cultural representation that eventually becomes a part of the American cultural understanding. Thes e theories are applicab le on the global scale, which significantly adds to the need for an understanding of Islam a nd Disney, as will be explored in this research. McDonaldization Since W alt Disney World is a global corporatio n, it is important to understand it in terms of the market place. One of th e strong starting places for this theoretical background is George Ritzers concept of McDonaldization. Ritzer uses an analogy of the assembly line mentality to explain American culture.23. He uses the example of Walt Disney World, among other popular culture icons, to support his in terpretation of the social cons truction of American culture. Ritzers The McDonaldization of Society breaks the concept down into several elements. McDonaldization, or the homogenizing of culture is made possible through the creation of efficiency, calculability, predictabi lity, and control of an entity.24 While these elements can be viewed as having positive and negative perspectives Ritzer also critiques the concept and reality of McDonaldization for its extreme rationality (w hich leads to irrationality) and its lack of meaning. 23 Eric Michael Mazur and Tara K. Koda The Happiest Place on Earth, 311. 24 George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society 9-12.


27 McDonaldization affects all elements of societ y on a global scale. It s success is visible by the availability of pr oduct around the world and by active global recognition.25 The idea of McDonalds being available around the world is the essential concept within this theory. Yet, it goes beyond the basic availability of a product. The product, the space, employees, packaging, and purpose should be similar no matter where the product is located. McDonaldization points to the homogenization of culture and the McDonalds e xperience includes reliable distribution and a uniform experience anywhere in the world wh ere McDonalds is offered. Ritzer identifies McDonalds as the basis for McDonaldization becau se of the emphasis the use of quantity of the product provided over quality of the product provided.26 Ritzer demonstrates how Walt Disney World fits within the realm of McDonaldization. For Ritzer, places of McDonald ization are essential to the idea of consumer religion. He explains that such places become sacred institutions and that Walt Disney World, has been described as the middle-class hajj, the compulsory visit to the sunbaked holy city.27 The consumer participates in the process of McDonaldization just as he or she may practice or participate in a religion or religious ritual. Ritzer applies e fficiency, calculability, predictability, and control of an entity to the theme parks and their structure since thes e qualities allow the theme parks to succeed. Efficiency allows McDonaldization to be successf ul since it provides the consumer with quick gratification and a well-organized experience. In this same vein, Walt Disney World has created a system of highways, underground tunnels, and c onveyor belts to quickly move trash, cars, and people throughout the theme parks.28 The key of efficiency is to not allow park guests to see the 25 George Ritzer, McDonaldization: The Reader (Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge, 2002), 10. 26 Ritzer, The Reader 16. 27 Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society 5. 28 Ibid., 51


28 work and manual labor that is needed to make the system function. It allows for the Disney magic to occur by allowing visitors to forget about the reality wai ting beyond park walls. The concept of predictability also significan tly shapes the success of McDonaldization. McDonald ensures that the food a consumer gets will always be identical to the previous meal. This sense of stability allows for the consumer to be comforted and secure in their purchase no matter the time of year or location of their meal.29 Walt Disney World is also able to create this sense of predictability for its visitors. The cons tant state of orderline ss and cleanliness is an expected part of the Disney experience. There is an absence of any loud speaker announcements or external stimuli. Disney also attempts to keep its employees iden tical in behavior and appearance. With the strict code of behavior and cleanliness required of every employee, Disney is able to control the actions and ap pearance of every area of the park.30 While these elements of organization, contro l, and efficiency do allow for a care free vacation environment for park visits, they are not met without critique. Each of the McDonaldized elements allow for smoother co mpany operation. However, there is detraction from basic human interaction and sincerity with in the theme park. Ritzer warns that such behavior leads to dehumanization of the employ ees, visitors, and the ultimate Disney agenda.31 Instead of being a place of creativ ity and expression of the human experience, Disney represents an, uncreative, unimaginative, and u ltimately inhuman homogenous experience.32 While most park visitors desire a safe and clean vaca tion environment, at some point these components become excessive. Yet, they continue to be a consistent draw for the consumer. Accepting the 29 Ritzer, The Reader 17. 30 Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society 93. 31 Ibid., 138. 32 Ibid.


29 underlying consumer-based motivations behind the Walt Disney parks and its relationship between religion and consumerism will aid in this paradoxical relationship. Understanding the elements that create the McDonaldization of th e theme parks allow for a critiqued understanding of the Walt Disney World phenomenon. It also allows for precise deconstruction of park elements. It is also easier to see how much of an impact the process of McDonaldization has on shaping or constructing the American identity in terms of popular culture. However, this is just the starting point. Ritzer stops short of applying Disneys true potential as a global project. Disneys predictability and homogenized nature can be questioned when Muslim culture becomes the focus of study. Updated scholarship on the theme parks provides more in-depth analysis of Walt Disney Worlds motivati ons and goals within the theme park.


30 CHAPTER 3 DISNEY BASED THEORY Walt Disney World as Education While scholarship focused on popular culture an d the m arket place attempts to show the impact companies like Disney have on the greate r community and cultural identity, it is still difficult to ascertain how and why Disney is successful. When I am approached about my decision to focus on Disney as a research topic, most individuals wonder why I chose to analyze it. The common reaction is that Disney engages in fantasy and is not to be taken seriously by educated Americans. However, popular culture st udies have shown us the exact opposite. Disney has become part of the popular discourse that shapes American cultural identity. Understanding the motivations and means behind Disneys succe ss is critical if schol ars are to understand how consumers of Disneys perceptions of Muslim cultures and globalization are affected by its representations of Arabs and/or Mu slims in the theme park system. Recognizing Disneys role in the proliferation of images and representations on various topics justifies a close analysis of the theme parks representation of Islam. Since the Walt Disney World theme parks became successful and Disney films were being viewed by generations of children, some scholars have questioned the motivations behind Disneys message. While there are many myths about Walt Di sney and his vision for the corporation, most scholars agree that the Disney enterprise shou ld be acknowledged for its impact on American identity. One such scholar, Henry Giroux, explains that media conglomer ates such as Disney are not merely producing harmless entertainment, disinterested news stories, and unlimited


31 access to the information age; nor are they re moved from the realm of power, politics and ideology.1 In other words, Disney is a viable agent for shaping images and ideas about culture. Giroux believes that in order to understand Disney one must first understand how Disney is able to draw the attention of both adults and children. He believe s that for adults, Disney is an escape from reality and an excuse to create a new sense of agen cy based on self-satisfaction and child-like appeal.2 This is especially true for baby boomers who are rediscovering the nostalgia of their youth. Giroux believes that, D isneys power lies, in part, in it s ability to tap into the lost hopes, abortive dreams, and the ut opian potential of popular culture.3 This correlates with earlier associations made by Baudr illard and Ritzer that Walt Disney World may fill the void of neglected religious practice, or may itself be a religious foundation for many individuals. While this is a fascinating approach to understandi ng the relationship between religion and cultural practices, it is only the start of understanding how Disney shapes Islam in the minds of park visitors. Not only is Disney creating an alternative real ity, it is expressing th at reality as truth. Giroux believes that Disney play s a significant role in shaping public memory, national identity, gender roles, defining the idea of an Amer ican, and shaping American consumerism.4 Significant exposure to Disney creations, such as the films and the theme parks, does have an impact on how children perceive and shape thei r world. Giroux quotes Benjamin Barber saying, It is time to recognize that the true tu tors of our children are not schoolteachers or university professors but 1 Henry Giroux, The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999), 4. 2 Giroux, The Mouse that Roared, 5. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid., 10.


32 filmmakers, advertising executives and pop cultu re purveyors. Disney does more than Duke5 While, according to Giroux, these issues are not speci fically targeted at Is lam or Muslim culture, it show how Disneys misrepresentation of Islam and various Muslim cultural practices can be stereotyped or utilized in terms of education. The way Islam is portrayed by Disney can affect the understanding non-Muslim individuals have a bout the religion and it s practitioners. Park visitors are able to see expressions of gender roles, cu ltural exchange, or th e relationship to the American identity. These individua ls are then able to draw conc lusions about Muslims and their culture in the way Said argues; this form of misrepresentation portrays Muslims as the other for Americans or non-Muslims. Disneyization W hile the Walt Disney enterprises role as an educator of the American public is apparent, it is important to understand how the Disney franch ise is able to achieve its power and influence over American identity formation. Ritzer has pr ovided an analysis of the efficiency and predictability which makes the Disney model of business functional and expandable. However, Ritzer realizes the limitations th at the concept of McDonaldizatio n: it presupposes that marketing means meaninglessness for the consumer. Because the product is almost identical at every location, there may be a level of boredom or indi fference towards the product. The latter does not offer something new and exciting for the consumer There is disagreeme nt about this issue. Mazur and Koda believe that, Disney provides a system of meaning that orients the consumeralbeit mythically, commerciall y, and with a very American pr oductto the larger world of consumer capitalism in which they live, whether or not they are Americans.6 Disney sends very 5 Giroux, The Mouse that Roared, 63. 6 Eric Michael Mazur and Tara K. Koda The Happiest Place on Earth, 311.


33 strong and specific messages to its audience. Mean ing is applied and created, which allows the consumer to experience something unique. This ar gument moves from Ritze rs original concept of McDonaldization and is picked up by Alan Bryman in his theory of Disneyization. Bryman provides an in depth analysis of th e theme park system, how it functions, how it facilitates the Disney ex perience, and how it affects globalization. Disneyizat ion is a theory that supports the relationship between the Disney them e parks and their effect on global economics and consumer culture.7 The Disney attractions, specifically the theme parks, change the social world and are a way of understanding the natur e of modern society through consumption and globalization.8 Bryman roots his ideas in the concept of the systemscape, which contributes to the idea of standardization th at is accomplished by theming, hybr id consumption, merchandising, and performative labor.9 Bryman suggests that it can be understood in terms of Arjun Appadurais scapes, or the movements of goods, peoples, and ideas.10 Appadurais focus on the movements of people, technolo gy, capital, information, and ideas.11 While Disney ideas, representations, goods, and servi ces move in each of these el ements, it is unique because it provides additional service that other scapes do not provide. Disneyizaion is considered under the term of systemscape, becau se it is a non-machine technol ogy for the delivery of goods and services, a technology that can be transferred across the globe.12 The concept of systemscape facilitates the understanding of how Disney functions successfully on a global scale. It works by 7 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society 12. 8 Ibid., vii. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., 161. 11 Arjun Appadurai, Disjuncture and difference in the global political economy, in Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity ed. Mike Featherstone (London: Sage, 1990). 12 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society 161.


34 creating an open and consistent fl ow of services that is not de pendent on borders or national identities by basing its succe ss on material consumption. The concept of Disneyization is a parallel process to McDonaldization. While McDonaldization focuses on the homogenization of its product, Disneyization focuses on consumption which provides a unique experience.13 It is this reason why de pictions of a mythical Islam or Arab/Muslim culture has proven to be a successful venture for the Disney enterprise. It thrives in the controlled and pr edictable McDonaldized environm ent, yet it provides a unique experience for Disney visitors. This unique portr ayal of the created or stereotyped Muslim culture facilitates consumer spending, which only makes Disney more successful. Brymans ideas of theming, hybrid consumption, merchandis ing, and performative labor become central to understanding how Disney accomplishes this and has enabled it to become a global phenomenon. Each of these elements is significant in unde rstanding how Disney uses its representation of Islam which can be physically experien ced by touching, tasting, purchasing, or observing. They are not theoretical concepts about the theme parks, but viable objectives for the way Disney functions as a successful corporation. The idea of themeing is based on the idea of shifting consumer drive from goods to service. Bryman explains that the idea of theming provides meaning and symbolism which makes them more attractive and interesting to the consumer.14 The focus is on allowing the underlying myths, wh ich Disney has created, to become a realistic experience at the park. While the idea of McDonaldization fo cused on the product (like the McDonalds hamburger) Disney is focused on providing a service to the consumer (the vacation experience). Thus, theming becomes essential to creating the physical environment needed to 13 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society 4. 14 Ibid., 15.


35 deliver the service. Disney us es the concept of cues througho ut the park for this purpose.15 Cues can include concepts like time, pl ace, music, film, fashion, archite cture, literature, and morals. Disney utilizes several of these cues when attempting to theme Islam throughout the park system. Overall, Disney uses th e idea of the overarc hing narrative (the magical World of Disney) and sub-themes (Tomorrowland, the Worlds Show case) to create more specific environments within the park. Finally, Disney relies on its ow n reputation and own creativ ity to make the parks successful.16 Their own creations (movie characters and their merchandise) are only available in the park, which makes them more desirable. They idea of hybrid consumption is the gener al trend whereby the forms of consumption associated with different in stitutional spheres become in terlocked with each other and increasingly difficult to distinguish.17 The idea of hybrid consumption is used for the selling of goods and services. However, it openly depict s the difference between McDonaldization and Disneyization. The idea of the hybr id enterprise is what allows Disney to provide a unique product. While it is still standardized and contro lled (homogenous) it also provides the illusion of uniqueness, which in reality is a Disney interpretation. The most e ffective example of this is the World Showcase at EPCOT. Each country is redu ced to several landmark visual representations, one or two eateries, and several shopping spaces de dicated to selling merchandise unique to that country. The items selected and the manner in wh ich they are presented are optimized for each country. The purpose of visiting ea ch country in EPCOT is to fa cilitate the shopping experience, which is unique but still based on Disney sta ndards. This concept also applies to the 15 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society, 18. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid., 57.


36 representation of Muslim culture at the Morocc o showcase in EPCOT and throughout the Disney parks. The idea of hybrid consumptions feeds dire ctly into the idea of merchandising. The merchandise available at Walt Disney World is di rectly created for park profit and vice versa.18 Films and rides are meant to instigate the purchas e of items at the gift shop; however, the items purchased are also meant to later f acilitate the desire to return to the theme park. This allows for the all-encompassing experience at Walt Disney World. Merchandise is the central element in Disneyization, since it is one of the strongest elements that exists beyond the parks boundaries. Merchandise, and the ideas and images each item ca rries with it, become part of the global space and American identity. Items that are associat ed with the religion of Islam through actual religious use (such as calligraphy and Quran cases ) and items associated with Muslim culture (such as daggers and swords) are distributed and represented in the same manner, which lead to more complex implications of the hybrid experience. The concept of emotional labor is also centr al to the all-encompassing experience at the theme park. Emotional labor is based on the display of positive emotion.19 Workers must feel good about the work they are doing at the park. While this can be seen as al ways acting for the customer, the purpose of the service is to facilitate a magical environment for guests.20 This correlates with the creation of the controlled envi ronment previously described by Ritzer since is provides a consistent experience throughout the park under a controlled environment. The idea of constant surveillance and control of workers, vis itors, and attractions is meant to facilitate the magical space, which promotes positive emotiona l reactions. This contro l is not limited to 18 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society, 82. 19 Ibid., 104. 20 Ibid.


37 workers and facilities, but also to the constant surveillance of guests. If there are no outside distractions for park visitors, th ey will easily flow within the Disney experience. Ideally, this promotes a rise in consumer consumption of f oods and merchandise while also facilitating the myth which supports all elements of consumerism at the parks. Each of these elements comes together to create the process of Disneyization. Brymans explanations for how Disney facilitates a homoge nous and hybrid experience will be useful in understanding how representations of Islam are developed and presented to visitors through the Disney theme parks. It will also be useful fo r understanding the implications behind Disneys work, including broader ramifications for the global market. These generalized implications will focus on the cycle that flows from Disney thr ough consumption, and into the global space. The concept of McDonaldization a nd Disneyization can work to gether to bring a general understanding of how the Magic Kingdom, EP COT, and Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM studios) represent Islam to the global audience.


38 CHAPTER 4 ALADDIN The basis for the portrayal of Islam in the Disney theme parks is founded on the 1992 Disney film Aladdin The film has been a popular case study for many academics attempting to understand the relationship between religion and Disney. It has also been a popular example Muslim groups have used to show the impact of stereotyping on Muslim Americans. This high profile film is controversial fo r both Disney and the Muslim comm unity. The film has significant implications for this study due to its portrayal of Islam, its roots in Orientalism, and its presence at Walt Disney World. In a post 9/11 America, im plications of this film become even more powerful. The film is a constant reminder of the lack of sensitivity and the stereotyping surrounding Muslims relations. In the early 1990s, Dinsey shifted its course in the film industry. It focused on the creation and interpretation of the exotic starting with its release of Aladdin followed by The Lion King Pocahontas, and Mulan The drive to present something ne w to film audiences was meant to boost interest in Disney as a company. The film s broke box-office records, were nominated for Academy Awards, and were considered suc cessful commercial and artistic ventures.1 Most importantly for the concept of consumerism, this undertaking was spurred on by the need to produce new films for the home video revolution.2 Disney had reached its limits in audience growth and decided to expand th eir storylines and pr oduct lines into Africa, Arabia, and Asia cultures, which lead to creat ion of exotic characters. 1 Japp Van Ginneken, Screening Difference: How Hollywoods Blockbuster Films Image Race, Ethnicity, and Culture (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), 21. 2 Ginneken, Screening Difference 21.


39 Aladdin was the first venture into creating this updated exotic storyline in a Disney film and Aladdin was the first non-white leading character created since The Jungle Book .3 Based on the story found in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights Aladdin was recreated by Disney writers.4 Disney created the tale of a young peasant boy named Aladdin (described in the film as a street rat), who finds true l ove with the runaway princess Ja smine he meets and saves in a marketplace. The princess is recaptu red, returned to her father the Sultan, and expected to marry a prince by her next birthday. In the mean time, th e Sultans advisor Jafar, is attempting to take control of the palace by overthr owing the Sultan. He can only do this by using the Genie found in the magic lamp. Jafar discovers that only Aladdi n can recover the lamp, since he is considered pure at heart. Jafar manages to lure Aladdin to the cave where the lamp is held. Aladdin successfully finds the lamp, but is trapped in the cave, when Jafar attempts to steal the lamp and leave him for dead. Aladdins monkey keeps the magic lamp which releases the Genie. The Genie grants Aladdin three wishes, the first of which is to become a prince so that he can marry Jasmine. As the disguised Prince Ali, Aladdin co urts Jasmine, but is eventually is found out by Jafar. Jafar attempts to take control of the magic lamp and the Genie, but Aladdin manages to save the day. The Sultan, seeing the error in onl y allowing a prince to marry a princess, changes the law and the two are married. Aladdin uses his final wish to set the Ge nie free and decides to go see the world on his own. While Disney supposedly hired a variety of e xpert advisors in the development of the script for the film, problems with the movie are evident from the opening scene, including the controversial opening lyrics. Desp ite claims made by Disney, ther e are significant issues of 3Ginneken, Screening Difference 23. 4 One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of folk stories that are dated to ancient and medieval Arabian, Persian, and Indian folklore.


40 misinterpretation and stereotyping evident th roughout the film. The song Arabian Nights established the storylin e of the film, facilita ted the exotic, and crea ted uproar about racial stereotyping. The original lyrics were released for the films theatre version: Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place/ Where the caravan camels roam/ Where they cut off your ear/ If they don't like your face/ It's barbaric, but hey, it's home When the wind's from the east/And the sun's from the west/And the sand in the glass is right/Come on down/Stop on by/Hop a carpet and fly/To another Arabian night Arabian nights/Like Arabian days/More often th an not/Are hotter than hot/In a lot of good ways/ Arabian nights/'Neath Arabian moons/A fool off his guard/Could fall and fall hard/Out there on the dunes5 The controversial image of cutting off a persons ear outraged the Muslim community. Due to the lyrics, the Malaysia n Muslim Youth Movement (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, or ABIM) urged the Malaysian government to ban the film within the country.6 While the film was never actually banned, many Muslim groups throughout Southeast Asia, did protest the film, the opening lyrics, and the underlying messa ge of exoticism and violence in Aladdin. Disney executives were asked by the media why they c hose to include the opening lyrics. Apparently, according to later interviews, Disney writers did not think that the lyrics would remain in the film.7 Mark Pinsky, a writer for the Orlando Sentinel, has published The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust Pinsky noted that Dick Cook, Disneys vice president for distribution, decided to change th e lyrics of the song once complaints from Arab American and Muslim American groups did not decrease.8 Subsequent theatre rel eases and video releases 5 Marvin Wingfield and Bushara Karaman, Arab Ster eotypes and American Edu cators, American-Arab AntiDiscrimination Committee, March 1995, http://www.adc.org/arab_stereo.pdf (accessed February 20, 2009). 6 Timothy R. White and J.E. Winn, Islam, An imation and Money: the Reception of Disney's Aladdin in Southeast Asia, Kinema, Spring 1995, http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/white951.htm (accessed May 1, 2009). 7 Mark Pinksy, The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 148. 8 Pinsky, The Gospel According to Disney 149.


41 changed the words to: Its flat and immense, and the heat is intense/ its barbaric, but hey, its home.9 While this was progressive for Disney, it wa s still not an adequate change. The songs lyrics provide the stereo types consistent with Orientalism, evoking a sense of the other as being barbaric, exotic, and dist ant from the Disney viewer. The singer of the song, a merchant who appears on a camel as he rides through the de sert, makes this Arabian location appear harsh and dangerous. However, the song is not the only problem with the film, although it is the one that received the most attention from Disney film viewers. Most of th e major characters in the film were stereotyped for their appearance. The films animated characters were sketched to appear Arab in appearance. While there is no defining Arab look, the characters in the film range from Caucasian in appearance to more stereotypically Arab in appearance. The hero and heroine of the film are distinctly more Caucasian in appearan ce than the villains. Disney animators openly created the character of Aladdin as a sket ch between Michael J. Fox and Tom Cruise.10 Aladdins main character has mo re common Caucasian features, ra ther than what are imaged by many Americans to be Middle Easter n features. Jasmine is given la rge dark eyes and dark hair, but otherwise appears Caucasian. Both of the main characters speak with American accents. The castle guards and background charac ters appear more like the st ereotypical Middle Easterner than these main characters, with darker complexions and some with Arab accents. Jafar, the villain of the film, is the most stereotypically Arab in appearance. Although he has a British accent in the film, he is described as being a d ark man with a dark purpose dressed in black robes and drawn with facial hair.11 9 Pinsky, The Gospel According to Disney 149. 10 Ginneken, Screening Differences, 25. 11 Eleanor Bryne and Martin McQuillan, Deconstructing Disney (London: Pluto, 1999), 76.


42 While none of the characters make direct refe rences to Islam, the Sultan makes several references to Allah. Often he is heard exclaiming : Allah forbid or Praise Allah in the same vein as the word God might be us ed as an American colloquialism.12 This film is set in a mystical and imagined Arab land called Agrabah. A village and market place, complete with sword swallowers and snake charmers, is set ag ainst the backdrop of a large palace. The large palace appears to be a cross between the Taj Mahal and Cinderellas cas tle. This city is set in the desert, complete with camels and an oasis. The imagery is a powerful portrayal of the exotic. The most powerful implications of the us versus them mentality is evident in the portrayal of Sharia, the Islamic law. While the film never directly names it Sharia, many references are made to the law as it constrains the people of Agrabah and princess Jasmine in her life in the castle. Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Genie are not able to make choices about their life because of the rules estab lished by the law. The law does not allow Jasmine to marry the person of her choice. It also de picts the punishment for stealing as the amputation of the thiefs hand without trial or conviction. This same la w does not allow Aladdin to advance from his peasant status. In order to achieve happiness, each of these characters needs to break away from the law, which is in direct conflict with their own freedom.13 This idea climaxes with the song A Whole New World which is meant to port ray the love between Aladdin and Jasmine. Aladdin takes Jasmine away on the flying carpet to see the world beyond Agrabah. She is taken to other countries to experience new customs a nd traditions. Aladdin reminders her that the new 12 Pinksy, The Gospel According to Disney 150. 13 Christopher Wise, Notes from the Aladdin Industry: Or, Middle Eastern Folklore in the Era of Multinational Capitalism in The Emperors Old Groove: Decol onizing Disneys Magic Kingdom ed. Brenda Ayres (New York: Peter Lang, 2003), 106.


43 world is a new fantastic point of view.14 It is only the new world, shown by Aladdin, that can free her from arranged marriage and the law. Once Jasmine sees her life from a global perspective, she can be liberated from the life she lives in Agrabah.15 However, according to the film, only the Sultan is able to change the law, a nd he does so only after he realizes that the law is wrong and not his daughter. This deviation for actual practices of Sharia law demonstrates how Disney creators have been able to take tr aditional religious practices and restructure them for the purpose of their storytelling. Disney ope nly reconstructed the practice of law-making and made it part of their own imagined time and sp ace, while still making it part of the non-Muslim understanding of how Muslim cultural and religious pr actices are carried out. Despite the problematic portrayal of Middle Eastern characters, their language, the judicial system, and the basic architecture and landscape, Aladdin holds the record for the best selling video of all time.16 Aladdin has also become a popular element of the Disney theme parks. However, the Muslim public has noticed the prob lems with the film and have spoken out. They facilitated change with the lyrics. Yousef Sale m, a past spokesman for the South Bay Islamic Association, made it kno wn that because of such images of Arabs in film his family was embarrassed to be called Arab.17 These images are still be ing prominently shown today throughout the parks, with little to no change. While many scholars have discussed the implications of created films like Aladdin they do not openly discuss the transition this film has made to the theme parks. While problems with the movie have been openly acknowledged by 14 Metro Lysrics, A Whole New World, http://www.metr olyrics.com/a-whole-new-world-lyrics-disney.html (accessed February 20, 2009). 15 Alan Nadel, A Whole New Disney) World Order: Aladdin, Atomic Power, and the Muslim Middle East, in Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film ed. Matthew Bernstein and Gaylyn Studlar (New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1997), 193. 16 Bryne, Deconstructing Disney 73. 17 Giroux, The Mouse that Roared 104.


44 Disney representatives, no changes that I am aware of have been made with the park representations. It is important to understand the relationship between the film and the theme parks. They share in the profit, advertisement, and success of the product. Disney is openly representing Arabs and Muslims through Aladdin everyday, through viewing of the film and daily exposure at the theme parks.


45 CHAPTER 5 THE THEME PARKS Studying the W alt Disney World theme parks can be a complex and involved process. While the theme parks present a strong message to park visitors, there are many factors that contribute to the overall meaning (theming) of each park. To simplify matt ers, I am focusing on the Walt Disney World theme parks relevant to Islam. This includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disneys Hollywood Studios. During my resear ch, in order not to invade the privacy or space of employees and guests, I did not intera ct with any individual beyond the means of a typical visitor. Employees were only asked que stions when prompted or appropriate. For example, the Treasures of Morocco tour conducted daily at the Morocco Pavilion is open to all visitors. Each visitor is given a tour of the space and allowed to ask questions about Morocco or the Disney pavilion. Employees are encouraged to answer these questions openly and choose to contribute their own outside know ledge about Morocco to facilit ate the tour experience. Unless noted, I simply observed the Disney theme parks and did not direct my attention towards guests. My interest was in the space and attraction created by Disney. Photography was taken only where photography was permitted. No compensation was provided for purchasing park admission. By visiting the park as any other tourist, I was able to immerse myself in the Disney experience in the way each park visitor experiences it through theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising, and emotional labor. My conclusions are based on my observations and the information Disney provided, and not my personal opinion of the theme parks. It is important to note that these vis its were conducted during two separa te trips. I visited the Magic Kingdom and Epcot in July 2008 and Disneys Ho llywood Studios was visited in February 2009. Walt Disney World is constantly ch anging and recreating itself to provide a service to its visitors. For this reason, the merchandise, displays, or basic attractions may vary overtime. At the time of


46 this study descriptions were provided in the most updated vers ion possible. However, it is important to acknowledge that ultimately ther e may be discrepancies with some specific attractions within the theme park. The Magic Kingdom The Magic Kingdom is the first of four Disney parks studied at Walt Disney World. It is the classic example of Walt Disney World, and is most often associated with the various Disney films for its multiple rides dedicated to classica l animation. The park is divided into several different lands, each of which has a different th eme to offer visitors. The first is Main Street U.S.A. which is the first to be experienced by park visitors as they enter. It ends with Cinderellas castle. The park then works in a circle with multiple lands branching off and returning to Main Street U.S.A. These lands include Liberty Square, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Advent ureland, and Mickeys Toontown Fair. The land of interest to the study of Muslim culture and representation is Adventureland, which is sub-themed into the Arabian village and Caribbean Plaza. While mercha ndise associated with Aladdin is available throughout this park, the highest concentration is found in this area. Adventureland develops seamlessly out of Fronteirland and brings visitors back to Main Street U.S.A., meaning that most visitors walk through this section at some point There is a seamless transition from the Arabian village into the Caribbean Plaza. The Arabian village is a circular pavilion. Half of the pavilion is dedicated to Africa and the other half to th e Middle East, based on the architecture and merchandise provided in each section. There is no definitive identification of where in Africa or the Middle East these sections are meant to re present. Walt Disney World chose to name this section of its park the Arabian Village, while cr eating a vision loosely associated with imagery recognizable to the individual as being African or Middle Eastern.


47 The center of the Arabian Village is dedica ted to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride, where visitors can board magic carpets and fly around a golde n magic lamp. The ride is based on the film, with the movies Ge nie decorating the rides main tower. Two large golden camels surround the ride, spitting water at unsuspecting guests as they walk by. Walt Disney World describes the attraction Soar around a giant genie bottle on your very ow n magic carpet! This exotic adventure is geared toward younger kids who love to ma ke their carpet go up and down, or pitch forward and back. Be sure to watch out for th e camel facing the ride who occasionally spits water at the carpets passing by. But don't worry. It's very unlikely you'll get even a little wet.1 The African section of the pavilion is dedica ted to a food court, hidden under thatched roofs and tribal masks. The Middl e Eastern portion is decorated as a market place with colorful flags, carpets, machete sword details, and gold and jeweled railings a nd ropes. There are two separate open-air markets in this pavilion, one named Zanzibar and the other Agrabah Bazaar. Both are dedicated to selling Disney souveni rs, specifically merchandise from the film Aladdin Zanzibar is geared towards sel ling clothing and safari-type plush toys and childrens items, but they also include hats, shirts, and misting fans. Agrabah Bazaar is mostly dedicated to the film. The most common items based on the film are plus h toys and figurines of Aladdin and Jasmine, along with some childrens dress up costumes base d on Jasmines character. The interior of the marketplace is decorated to look like an Arabian bazaar. It is filled with rugs, weaved baskets, golden lamps, brass goblets, leather slippers, rubber snak es, and colorful fabr ics. None of these items are for sale, and are simply meant to crea te the illusion of a nonspecific Arabian market. In the Adventureland section of th e park all Disney workers have a specific type of uniform. This includes a multicolored tunic and a pair of wide le g pants. The uniform is the same for both male 1 Walt Disney World, The Magic Kingdom Website: Attractions, http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magickingdom/attractions/magic-carpets-of-aladdin/ (accessed March 2, 2009).


48 and female employees and is a non-specific in terpretation of Middle Eastern or African traditional clothing. When seeing this display of merchandise and attraction, there are no direct representations of Islam in the Arabian village. The village is evoking a consumer driven image of a non-specific Middle Eastern city or village, which is eviden t in the dcor, name of the space, and the merchandise and attractions associated with Aladdin There are a few prayer mats displayed on walls and balconies, but the Arabian village is dedicated to selling merchandise and keeping the film of interest to viewers. Meanwhile, the imag e of Edward Saids Orientalist Middle East is more visible. This stereotype has been put thr ough the process of Disney ization and is evident through the elements of theming, merchandising, emotional labor, and controlled environment, as discussed by Bryman.2 Theming, as will become evident th rough the description of each park, is the most powerful format for Disneyization of Middle Eastern culture. There is a definitive demonstration of service as goods as visitors are able to experience the ride attraction, food, and merchandise in one small isolated space. No longer are the specific items for sale the only desirable selling point of the theme parks, the services (including these cultural demonstrations) are what brings tourists and their desire to purchase Disney merc handise. Several specific cues help accomplish this theme. The most powerful cue is architecture, since it sets the stage for the visitor. With the change in architecture from Frontierland, the visito r knows that there is a change of mood and setting. This is enhanced by the increased amount of foliage around the ride and the dramatic use of color. Red, gold, blue, a nd sandy brown prevail in th is area. The role of time and place are significant as well. As the visito r realizes that the area is based on adventure, as represented in its name, he or she is also tr ansported into a space that is vague in time. There 2 These elements of theming, merchandising, emotional labor, and controlled environment are the basis of Disneyization, as explored in-depth in Chapter 3.


49 is no evident incorporation of technology, except fo r the mechanical use of the flying carpet ride. The architecture itself is not futuristic, but something expected from the setting of Aladdin The land is also ambiguous since it blends from an African themed space to a Middle Eastern themed space. However, there is no mention of what porti ons of countries are represented in this space and Aladdin itself took place in an indistinct imagin ed land. The unknown within this theme is what drives the myth behind it. Finally, film is a significant cue within the Arabian village. Without the film Aladdin there would be no underlying theme for the Arabian Village. The ride itself is the main attraction, draw ing the visitors, and allowing them to experience the other attractions placed there. All of th ese elements placed together crea te a very specific theme for the Arabian village. It is an ambi guous place, decorated with color a nd greenery, and placed there to provide hybrid consumption rooted within film and visitor curiosity of what they might believe is a representation of the Middle East. The shopping sections of the Arabian Village are geared to sell items for adults and children, mainly based on Aladdin While most of the items that are sold in the Agrabah Bazaar and Zanzibar are available in other parts of the pa rk, they are highly concen trated in this place. The items being sold directly correlate to th e attraction being presented. While there is no specific Middle Eastern food being sold in this area, the general consumption is directed toward having an exotic experience in a small place. This includes eating American food in an exotic setting. While Disney appears to be offering some thing unique to the visi tor, it is actually a standardized experience throughout the park system since most of the food and merchandise sold in the Arabian Village is available in each them park. The merchandise is the most evident attempt to increase revenue at the park while still providing a theme that portrays th e Middle East. Jasmine is centra l to the merchandising at the


50 marketplace. Most of the items are geared toward young girls through costumes based on Jasmine, including ceramic figurines, t-shirts, and several various plush dolls. The different merchandise is also providing a hybrid experience While the articles being sold are meant to represent a Muslim and/or Middle Eastern indi vidual, they are distri buted through Americanbased and American-created merchandise. The figurines and dolls them selves are toned-down. Some barely resemble the characters in the f ilm, who were already Americanized versions of individuals meant to portray a non-specific Middle Eastern character. These changes may have been created in order to increase general appeal. Finally, the labor involved in th is area of Adventureland is also standardized. Each person who works in this section wears the same tuni c and pants set, which resembles a mens Kurta shirt. The pattern is also difficult to identify in terms of origin or theme. While it contains a colorful array of yellow, blue a nd orange, the pattern could be asso ciated with various cultures or counties. Against the backdrop of the Arabian village, costumed workers dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine often visit for autographs These Disney employees are meant to resemble the characters from the film and wear similar costumes, wigs and makeup. These workers facilitate the theme of Aladdin in this portion of the park. It is evident that the Magic Kingdom is not dedicated to accuracy. The underlying theme for this portion of Walt Disney World is to c onvey the uniqueness and exotic nature of the Disney vision of the Middle East, while still providing visitors with a comfortable setting. The flying carpet ride and the shops are meant to fa cilitate each others inte rest by connecting their purpose back to Aladdin By keeping time, place, and architecture ambiguous, Disney is able to have more creative freedom with this portion of the park. It is meant to create a fantasy


51 environment for visitors, which is propagated by the merchandise available and the setting created for employees and visitors. Epcot Epcot, derived for the acronym Experiment al Prototype Community of Tomorrow, was widely understood by the Disney community, to be a planned utopian neighborhood created by Walt Disney himself. Today, Epcot is dedicated to educating visitors about technology and international cultures. While the planned commun ity Walt Disney imagined was not created, the underlying intentions for EPCOT have been instil led in the Epcot visite d today. With a Worlds Fair theme throughout the park, it is divided in to the Future World Pavilion and the Worlds Showcase. The Future World Pavilion include s rides and attractions based on technology sponsored by companies such as General Motors and Kodak. The Worlds Showcase is dedicated to representing eleven different countries: Me xico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, a nd Canada. Both Norway and Morocco were added after the park opened, and several lots are still available to add more countries to the showcase. At this point only Morocco is a c ountry-funded attraction, while private companies sponsor all of the other showcases. Each of th e countries provides at least one dining and shopping opportunity based on the country of orig in. Some include rides, performances, or additional attractions for guests. Each showcase has employees from the countries of origin actively working at the restaura nts, shops, and attractions. For the purpose of understanding representations of Islam, Morocco is the general area of interest within this Disney Park. This pavi lion includes a high concen tration of food, music, dance, and craft inspired by or from Morocco. The Morocco pavilion is open for exploration by Disney visitors, with many employees waiting to answer questions abou t the space. Employees will inform visitors that the space is inspired by Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca. Many plants


52 from these respective regions are planted throughout the pavilion as an example of Moroccan agriculture. The space is divided into the old city and the new city with a replica of the Bab Boujeloud gate in Fez. However, the most evident symbol of Islam is the minaret, inspired by the Koutoubia in Marrakech. The prayer tower is visi ble from across the lake in the Future World Pavilion and from other countries in the showcas e. The Morocco pavilion stands apart from the other countries in Epcot because it was funded by King Hassan II of Morocco. He sent workers to keep the Islamic artistic tradition alive and evident in the building of the space. There are no artistic representations of living things within the walls, floors, and ceilings of the buildings. Authentic tiles and geometric patters are found throughout the pa vilion. Disney has also been consistent with respecting Islamic traditions in the Morocco showcase. While Disney illuminates all of the countries nightly with an event called IlluniNa tions, they have respectfully not draped the Koutoubia replica in string lights, and Morocco remains dark on the horizon. Each section of Morocco is a representation of the country and in turn, Islam. There are more evident connections to relig ion visible for park visitors at the pavilion. The minaret is visible from all directions. For those who are awar e that this is a prayer tower, it serves as a constant reminder of how central prayer (and Islam) is to the inhabitants of the country. Disney promotes the Morocco pavilion: A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way in to this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosa ics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has 2 fascinating secti ons: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.3 Disney actively portrays the exot ic nature of the space, while still connecting it to traditional experiences still associated with the attraction of something literally distant yet recreated for 3 Walt Disney World, Epcot: Attractions, http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/attractions/moroccopavilion/ (accessed March 2, 200).


53 visitor education and enjoyment. Disney emphasizes the unique nature of Morocco. However, it stresses the comfort of having familia r elements along with the exotic. Disney guests are able to experience the most exotic part of the Morocco pavilion right when they enter the showcase. A small museum, cal led the Gallery of Arts and History, is hidden behind heavy wooden doors. Inside, genuine artifacts from 17th and 18th century Morocco are on display. This includes pottery, brass items, musical instruments, and jewelry. The most interesting display case contains a silver and jewel-adorned Qu ran case, a dagger, and a sword also encased in silver and jewels. While these items are closely connected to Moroccan history, the museum display does associate these historical artifacts with religio us practice. Disneys placement of these three items in the same case is an interesting association, which becomes part of an underlying theme for the pavilion. This theme, while not opening stating a violent relationship between Morocco and modern or an cient Moroccan/Muslim practices and Quranic text, it does create an underlying image that connects back to violence, barbarianism, and Orientalism. Passing through the Bab Boujeloud ga te, visitors enter the sho pping streets. To the left, there is another gallery, designed to represent an authentic Moroccan home. Half of the home space contains a small fountain, mosaic work, and some small artifacts. The second part of the space is connected with the neighboring shop and is decorated in merchandise from the store. The elaborate dcor includes several carpets, which have been hung on the walls, jeweled and patchwork pillows, dark mahogany and carved seati ng, tea sets, and more rugs folded and ready for sale. Directly across from one shop is anothe r souvenir shop. This one prominently displays a rug, which is not for sale, in front of its entran ce. This wool rug looks like it is still being constructed on a loom, yet the image is complete. This tapestry shows the picture of, presumably


54 a Moroccan, on horseback with his right arm raising a gun. This tapestry also has a dagger, similar to the one displayed in the gallery, on the top right section of the piece. This rug is being displayed as an authentic piece of work. Once insi de the shop, some pieces for sale are made in Morocco and include brass pots, rose water, sma ll wooden chests and childrens toys. It leads out into a small walking street, which leads to another shop. This connecting shop sells clothing, including the popular red fez, womens belly da ncing tops and skirts, authentic Moroccan tshirts, and several types of tunics and leather sa ndals. A popular image on many items is that of a Moroccan dressed as a Bedouin in an indigo blue cl oth including a turban that covers everything except his eyes. There are magnets and t-shirts availa ble with his image, either as a picture of his head or of him against a desert background. Wh en asked, employees at the Morocco pavilion stated that the image was consistent with that of men found in the Sahara region. This shop also has a display case in the center of its space, which contains not-for-sale antique Moroccan guns and swords. One of the guns is almost identical to the one found on the not-for-sale tapestry. These shops provide items which come mostly from Morocco and there are no Disney souvenirs sold in the showcase. Each space sells similar or overlapping items and it displayed in a way to emphasize the feeling of an open-air marketplace. There are several Disney employees, all from Morocco, working in this space. All of the empl oyees are dressed in identical navy and white linen striped tunic tops and b illowing white linen pants. The feeling of the space in the Morocco pavi lion has an overriding theme of authenticity. While not considered a modern re presentation, it might be similar to what a visitor might expect Morocco to look like in the 1942 film Casablanca, or generally sixty years earlier. While the shops do their part in facilitating this experience, the restaurants do so as well. The pavilion has two places to eat, a small outside cafeteria and Re staurant Marrakech. This restaurant explains


55 that it serves traditional Moroccan food incl uding lamb, chicken, couscous, and Moroccan coffee, mint tea, and Moroccan wines. While th e Magic Kingdom, for example, does not serve alcohol throughout the park, the countries in the Worlds Showcas e, including Morocco, sell a variety of alcoholic beverages. Since Morocco is a Muslim country, the issue of providing alcohol would seem contradictory because Disney has attempted to respect the religious practices of the country. However, the argument could be ma de that alcohol is available in Morocco as well, theoretically only to non-Muslims. While f ood has a traditional Middle Eastern flair to it, Morocco pavilion employees say that the spiciness has been decreased over the years to meet the tastes of visiting tourists. These subtle cha nges show the relationship between the claimed authentic experience and the American/Disney interpretation of the Moroccan reality. The highlight of eating at the rest aurant is the belly dancing s how, which displays the cultural representations of Morocco during a short segment of educational belly dancing. The restaurant has an open dance floor where several women dan ce in beaded bra tops and skirts, using hand cymbals and a small orchestra for musical support Guests are invited to learn how to dance during their meals. Matching belly dancing costumes are available for purchase in children and adult sizes in several of the shops outside of the restaurant. No ot her extensive cultural demonstrations are available for visitors to participate in while at the Morocco pavilion. Even with the elements of genuine artif acts, dress, merchandi se, and food creating a Moroccan theme within the pavilion, Disney does not forget to associate it with Aladdin The pavilion makes time and space available for visitors to have autograph sessions with Aladdin and Jasmine in the same manner as in the Magic Ki ngdom. There is a special room within the intertwined shopping market dedicated to the film as well. The room includes an open storybook with pictures of the film ch aracters and quotes from the movi e. The room also has a photo


56 opportunity set up. A huge wall mural of the imaginary city of Agrabah is decorated with palms, rugs, and Moroccan pillows. Visitors can sit do wn and take a photo with the customized cartoon background. While the Disney theme is not predom inant in the Morocco pavilion, it is available if the visitor looks for it. The general theming for the Morocco pavilion is powerful in terms of its cues. Most cues are used to facilitate a sense of being in another world, one very different and exotic from the rest of Walt Disney World. The cues of place and time work together to make a realistic environment. While most people might not belie ve that the Morocco pavilion is modern-day Morocco, it is practical to say that it is a representation of Mo rocco. By surrounding visitors with no external cues such as televi sion screens, telephones, stroller parking, visible restrooms, or information counters, the visitor can focus on the space around them. Just like in the Magic Kingdom, the cue of architecture is the most significant factor in making time and place believable. With the contributions from actual Moroccan artisans, the le vel of authenticity may be validated. The use of the natural world, or the foliage set against the dry sandy brick work, also facilitates a more exotic space. Fashion in the pavilion is more consistent with traditional Moroccan clothing, and is in sharp contrast to th e colorful tunics in Magic Kingdom. The theme of the Morocco pavilion is still lavish and elaborate, but more understated by the subtle use of color and tone. The sub-themes of merchant and Bedouin cultures are prevalent with the overabundance of merchandise. The subtle display of weapons throughout the shops is surprising when found amongst the fez caps, rose water, and childrens toys. While th ese items are either displayed through and as art, or as artifacts, they are placed in visible areas and surprisingly low to the ground. When a store employee was asked about the display case of guns and daggers, he explained that they are traditiona l pieces similar to a display of Japanese samurai swords. While


57 the Japan pavilion also had a di splay of swords, it was not as abundant or available as the Moroccan antiques. Finally, the image of the Be douin dressed in blue is found on many of the souvenirs. This image, complete with desert dun es and camels, is another cue facilitating the feeling of a distant time and place. General themes of the Morocco pavilion are sti ll rooted in the Orientalist approach. There are undertones of violence, prompted by the subtle positioning of guns and swords without providing any explanation for their placement. Ne stled among other Moroccan antiquities, they represent a part of Moroccan culture and histor y. However, their placement with a Quran case and on tapestries displayed prominently where vis itors walk, seem like strange choices in the general scheme, especially against the backdrop of a family-friendly theme park. While the Magic Kingdom creates a theme of fantasy and f un with its rides and Disney merchandise, the Morocco pavilion creates the feeling of authenticity. This is mostly achieved with merchandise, since it plays the role of the en tertainment for this portion of the theme park. This pavilion does not offer rides or additional shows that may dr aw guests. Most individuals are drawn to the marketplace atmosphere and have the ability to se arch for items that are unique and not available anywhere else in the park. The overarching message fo r the visitor is that Disney is able to create an authentic experience which includes e ducation, shopping, and dining. Disney provides education through its free Treasures of Morocco tour, where I was encouraged to ask Moroccan Disney employees any question I had about the c ountry and the creation of the pavilion at Walt Disney World. While at this pavilion, Disneys goal is to have the visitor forget they are in a theme park. Since the pavilion is representing it self as an authentic creation and acknowledges Islam as a part of Moroccan culture and history, it should take responsibility for the representations of Islam and Muslim culture in the Morocco showcase.


58 Visitors leave with a new sense of understa nding about what it may be like to visit Moroccos larger cities. However, as previous ly discussed, they have experienced it through Brymans hybrid consumption. One purpose of havi ng the pavilion is to e ducate the public about various countries and how they differ from the Un ited States. It also offers visitors from other countries a perspective on how the United States in terprets or presents ot her cultures. However, an underlying motivation is to sell the merchandise being presented in th e shops. By creating an authentic Moroccan experience for th e visitor, he or she may be more likely to purchase items that come from Morocco. This situation is no diffe rent from other countries in the pavilion where Disney attempts to represent their cultures thro ugh merchandise, nor is it any different from Disneys attempt to create a unique experience an ywhere in the park that prompts the purchase of merchandise. By appearing to se ll a service (the exclusive representation of Morocco), Disney is creating a general trend to sell goods. This image of a homogenous experience masked by a unique display is inflated by the strong emotional labor. The use of employ ees in the facilitating of the authentic experience is more evident in the Morocco pavilion than any other park attraction connected to Muslim culture. The employees working in the section are mostly young Moroccans representing their country to tourists visiting Disney. They are given the task of selling items, serving food, or guiding tours of the pavilion. While they are expected to follow the conduct and expectations of Disney they are also Moroccan citizens. During the Treasure of Morocco tour they have the opportu nity to educate visitors when they explain why the galleries do not have any pictures of livi ng beings. Their ties to religious practices become more evident with they explain the use of the minaret replica and why the pavi lion is not lit at night or the presence of prayer rugs and Qura n cases in the gallery exhibits.


59 These educational moments lead to positive representations of Islam, while still maintaining the imagery of violence, Bedouin lifes tyle, and belly dancing attire for women. This is also without considering the subtle use of Disney characters and representations of Aladdin in certain areas of the pavilion. While visitors may not make direct connections between the information and the image, it provides a hybrid experience for the visitor. What information remains with a guest as fact and how much in formation can be separated from its Disney connection is only something that the individual can know. This is a significant factor to understanding the relationship betw een the Disney park visitor, the information and impressions relayed to the visitor by the par k, and the visitors overall underst anding and interpretation of this information. While I am not aware of any re search done about the impact of Disneys representations of Muslim culture on the park vi sitors understanding of Islam or Muslim culture, this is an issue I explore in the concluding chapter. The Morocco exhibit still provides a homoge nous and hybrid representation of Moroccan culture and Islam. While the spac e could be considered less ove r-the-top or dramatic that the Magic Kingdom exhibit, there are still elements of violence, gender difference, and fantasy actively shaping the experience. Visitors are pres ented an experience that is meant to be unique and exotic, something set apart from the rest of the Walt Disney World experience. The pavilion is considered a success if a visitor forgets that they are no long in Walt Disney World. However, the Morocco pavilion has a similar set up to the rest of the pavilions in the World Showcase. Three major cities in Morocco are melded together in a relatively small sp ace, and there is little reference to show the observer what makes each city unique. After walking through the shops and entertainment opportunities of eleven different countries, the experience is homogenized. Each country still has the same standardized elem ents, all of the food still comes from the same


60 catering facility, and all merchandise is still put into Disney shopping bags. In essence, the more a guest experiences each country, the more desensitized he or she becomes to the unique experience. Once the guest leaves the World Showcase they reali ze they are still on Walt Disney World property, and the journey th ey went on was controlled the entire way. Disney allows the guest to experience exactly what they presen t and nothing beyond that. Wh at this means for a visitors understanding of Islam is that he or sh e may realize that religi on has a direct connection to life of people living in Morocco. However, th e relationship between these two is confusing and never directly addressed in the galleries or by the employ ees. There is nothing directly inaccurate about Islam in the way it is portrayed by the theme park. Yet, the frame of reference due to time, place, architecture, and addition of Di sney elements may leave visitors unsure about the reality of religion and culture in Morocco today. Disneys Hollywood Studios Disneys Hollywood Studies, form erly Disney-M GM studios, is the third park built in the Walt Disney theme park franchise. This park is dedicated to unveiling the Disney magic to its visitors. It accomplishes this by setting up various behind-the-scenes and behind-the-animation attractions. The park is not fo cused on creating the fantasy or exotic experience in the same manner of Epcot or the Magic Kingdom. Disney s Hollywood Studios makes the understanding of creating the fantasy part of the attraction. The park is signi ficant for the representation of Muslim culture because of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and the Walt Disney: One Mans Dream gallery, which provid e insight into how the theme parks create the representations of culture. This theme park provides additional explanation into how th e Magic Kingdom creates its representations of the Arabian Village, and ho w these elements have been adapted into other Disney theme parks.


61 The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacula r! is a re-enactment of scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The purpose of this performance is to expl ain to the visiting au dience how many of the stunts in the movie were completed. However, the show dedicates a large portion of its time turning audience volunte ers into Arabs and demonstrati ng sword fighting skills from men dressed as Egyptian villains. The stunt show star ts with a Disney employee auditioning visitor volunteers. These individuals will be acting as extras on the imaginary Indiana Jones movie set. The show proceeds with a sequence of a stunt actor dressed as Indiana Jones escaping a rolling boulder. The scene opens to the Cairo marketplace, mimicking the Raiders of the Lost Art scene where Indiana Jones and his female compani on fight Egyptian swordsmen. There recruited audience members come on stage dressed as Egyptia ns. These visitors are dressed in oversized tunic tops which more closely resemble bath robes or bed sheets. So me of the visitors are dressed in turbans, while others have white linens tied around their heads. Men and women are dressed in identical forms of the costume. The volunteers are told to act like a cheering crowd, jumping up and down, screaming, and waiving their arms. They ar e instructed to make themselves a part of the Cairo marketplace set, which closely resemb les the Arabian village at the Magic Kingdom. The set up buildings used in the background is dr aped in colorful fabric, embellished with gold plates, rugs, and various garmen ts that hang from open windows. While the volunteers pretend to shop in the marketplace, Cairo swordsmen em erge and begin to do flips and various demonstrations with the swords. They pretend to attack Indiana Jones, who then confronts a swordsmen dressed all in black. He stands on a pile of rugs as he waves his sword in the air. The Indiana Jones actor shoots him, a di rect reenactment from the film. The theming for the stunt show is rooted in the audience participation and the facilitation of the experience by the Disney employees. While the show is meant to explain how stunts are


62 done and how movies are filmed, it still creates an illusion for th e observer. There is still a transformation of time and space, the common in fluential cues throughout the theme parks. While the element of stunt and film are demystified, the Orientalist representation of Muslims and Middle Eastern culture is not. The architectur e in the space still follows the same format as that of the Arabian Village and the Morocco pavilion since it creates the illusion of the exotic East that has no similarities to modern Middle Ea stern structure. The ma rketplace is set during WWII, when Indian Jones is escaping from Nazis w ho are seeking the same tr easure he is after. The theme of the marketplace is present with the flood of rugs, gold treasures, and vendor stands created in the background. However, the most powerful agent is th e audience participation, since they are utilized as emotional labor. By having the visitor take on the ro le of an employee (cast member) they participate and become more i nvolved in the Disney process. By having the audience members put on clothes that resemb le some form of Bedouin attire, they are transformed into Egyptian city s hoppers. There is a strong transfor mation of the individual as the volunteer is asked to act as part of the collective identity. During th e show, individuals are told to cheer on the villains in the scene. These swords men are dressed in black, red, and white draped Middle Eastern-style clothing. Each individual is wearing a turban a nd the majority of the face is not visible. While the purpose of the swordsmen is to demonstrate their stunt skills, they are still represented as the dark villain. When the Indi ana Jones actor shoots the lead swordsmen, there is a reinforcement of this dichotomy. The only ot her villains in the show are the Nazi soldiers, who Indiana Jones fights after he escapes from the Egyptian swordsmen. During the 25 minute show segment, Muslim culture is represente d through the Egyptian marketplace, a screaming crowd dressed in loose sheets, and a group of vi olent Cairo swordsmen. The stunt show appears to create a unique experience for park visitors by giving them an opportunity to participate in and


63 view a different interpretation of film. However the representation of Muslims is similar to other representations shown in the theme parks. The merchandising for the stunt show is onl y found outside of the stunt show at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost. Here, more representations of Middl e Eastern Muslims as villains are available for purchase. Several different types of children s action figures based on the swordsmen in the show are on display. Each is based off of characters from Raiders of the Lost Ark The first is called the Monkey Man, and he is a dark skinned Egyptian dressed in long stripped robes with a turban. He has an eye patch, facial hair, a dagger in one hand, and a monkey on his shoulder. Then ther e is an action figure called th e Cairo Swordsman, which is the same one who is shot in the stunt show. He is holding a machete, has dark skin, facial hair, and black clothing. There figurines have the same da rk skin, facial hair, and stereotypical Middle Eastern features of Jafar from Aladdin who has been described as th e villain in the story. These action figures are placed along the wall with seve ral different types of Indiana Jones action figures. The contrast between I ndiana Jones and the villains empha sizes the difference in race and culture by highlighting physic al features, clothing, and faci al expression. The theme of violence being associated with Muslims is str ongly evident here, and more problematic than in the Morocco pavilion, since it is actively demonstrated to park visitors. What adds to the authenticity of this space is that there is no association with Walt Disney World or Aladdin characters. This section of the pa rk is dedicated strictly to its association with the Indiana Jones franchise. By keeping the environment controlled in such a manner, Disney is able to keep a contrast between hero and villain, and prom ote the merchandise unique for the space. While the stunt show attempts to reveal the behind-the-scenes elements of filming action sequences, the Walt Disney: One Mans Dream gallery is meant to educ ate visitors about Walt


64 Disney, his intentions for the theme parks, and how his visions became reality. The gallery is located in Disneys Hollywood Studios because it is part of the behind-the-scene education that the park promotes. However, it is mostly a g limpse at the creation of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and how Walt Disney envisioned the park s. The gallery provides evidence that Disneys original vision was greatly fulfilled in these two parks, and that this vision was still rooted in an Orientalist perspective of the world. It provides some closure as to why the parks may chose to represent Muslim culture in a manner that e vokes the exotic, the past, and the dangerous elements of a culture associated with Islam. Disneys vision, as displayed at One Mans Dream, also supports the hybrid global image central to understanding the m uddling between Muslim culture, the non-specific Middle East, and Western perceptions of both. Walt Disney: One Mans Dream is a gallery of collectables, re plicas, and artistic renditions of Walt Disneys hopes for what the theme parks would look like. One of the earliest representations of Adventureland, from the Magic Kingdom is on display in this small museum. The replica was created by Fred Joerger in 1954 and represents Disneys vision for the area, which included a jungle cruise and the Arabian Village. According to information on the display, Disneys goal for Adventureland was to present the unexplored jungles of the world to park visitors. This early replica alrea dy includes the circular space for the bazaar. Even though there is no space for the Magic Carpet ride based on Aladdin (since the film did not exist at this point), the plans for an Arabian themed shopping space we re already evident in the mid 1950s. This layout from the space has not changed in over fifty years of the pa rks vision. Placing the Aladdin -themed merchandise and attraction into this space was an afterthought (or a convenience) since Disneys desi re to represent the Middle Ea st at Walt Disney World was already in place. The original re plica shows a more simplistic form of architecture. The original


65 plans included thatched roofs and some wooded beams supporting the structures. While this is still in place on the African side of Adventureland, the Arabian Village is currently more glamorized. While the general concept has not ch ange, Disney did update the vision by making a more colorful, mystical, and exotic tone for the exterior decoration. Walt Disney: One Mans Dream also includes in terpretations of Epcot. According to the gallery displays, Walt Disney explained that Epcot was, a community that will never be completed, and will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise. While Disneys original plans for Ep cot included the building of a pre-established residential community, these ideas were never fulfilled. However, his vision of the expression of multiple cultures in one space did become realized in the World Showcase. It is in this interpretation of motivations that Di sneys desire for a homogenized and hybridized community becomes clear. Many of the artistic renditions of Epcot in the gallery are of individuals from multiple cultures, dressed in th eir traditional clothing, visiting the park as a family. While this utopian image of families from different countries walking side by side and exploring the park is idealistic and part of the Disney fantasy, the reality is that Disney attempts to create this feeling by hybridizing each count ry and placing it in th e homogenized space of the theme park. The general theme of the space is cued by time and philosophy, since it evokes the original thoughts and dream s of Walt Disney. By surrounding the visitor with spec ific images of film and art (much of which most visitors ha ve grown up with) the environment is meant to evoke emotional reactions. The space is also mean t to educate the visito r on the realities behind the theme parks. It is meant to explain to visitors why they see the attractions in specific places and how the original dreams transformed into the spaces visitors see today. However, this is still a controlled environment, and visitors are only shown small elements of the larger picture.


66 The visitor leaves Disneys Hollywood Studies with the understanding that Walt Disney wanted to create a space of cultu ral encounter. He wanted to show visitors the other by experiencing it through the many spaces created in the park system. Based on original replicas, this other and the vision surrounding it has no t gone through extensive change or updating. In other words, the gallery supports the idea that visitors are experiencing the Muslim culture that was the predominant mindset of the Orientalist perspective. The Morocc o exhibit, the stunt show, and the Arabian village all revisit the imag es of the imagined Middle East, and in turn, Muslim culture as it was understood over fifty year s ago. While this image is problematic even if just understood in the realm of the Disney theme park, it beco mes even more evident once it converges with the global space. Disney is not an isolated creation, and the visitors who interact with it are part of the greater global audience. For this reason it is important to understand the broader ramifications of Disneys represen tation of Muslim culture and its effect on globalization.


67 CHAPTER 6 GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS By understanding the attractions and events provided at the Walt Disney World theme parks and by uncovering their underlying them es and motivations, I have been able to describe and evaluate the evidence of mi srepresentations of Muslim culture. These misrepresentations are most evident through the muddling of Middle Ea stern culture, Muslim culture, and Western Culture. By adding elements of Islam in places where religion may not be clearly defined or expressed, Disney provides mixed messages a bout what Muslims may practice. The undertones of violence, emphasis on the exotic and the ot her, and the general cr eation of Muslim/Arab culture being different or other from the pa rk visitor all support misrepresentation. These elements are enhanced by Disneys use of merchandising and emotional labor. However, these misrepresentations are not limited to the park system. They are expressed on a global scale and negatively affect the relationship between Mu slims and non-Muslim cultures through the merchandising and imagery provided by Disney. Gl obalization, an objective, empirical process of increasing economic and political connect ivity, a subjective process unfolding in consciousness as the collective awareness of gr owing global interconnected ness, and a host of specific globalizing projects1 shapes the relationship between Muslim culture and Disneys representation of Muslims. In other words, Disney is part of the active globalization process, due to its economic and popular nature, and cannot be excluded from an understanding of how culture is shaped and altered by goods and services. Disney is not an isolated space, but an enterprise which distributes its goods and services across the globe Individuals from all over the world travel to experience what Disney has to offer. By understanding this relationship, there is a 1 Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture: Global Melange (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), 16.


68 heightened importance in acknowledging the negative impact that the misrepresentation of Muslim cultures by the Disney theme pa rks has especially on Westerners. Bryman acknowledges the importance of unde rstanding the global ramifications behind Disneys theme parks. He expresses the relatio nship between Disneyiza tion and consumption as a globalizing force that shapes cultural expression.2 In essence, the relationship between Disneyization and consumption can shape the general publics per ceptions and create impressions of Muslim culture that extend beyon d the park, as the Disney corporation expands beyond park walls and reaches to the general populat ion through other media such as film, merchandise, and a general attitude towards the ot her in its goods and services. The nature of globalization is hybridized since it melds elements of Muslim culture and Western culture to create a unique service (the Disney franchise) that meets the interests of the public consumer as it subtly propagates these misrepresentations. Howe ver, globalization in the Disney system is still homogenous since it remains consistent throughout the Disney process. In terms of culture, hybridization is the ways in which forms b ecome separated from existing practices and recombined with new forms in new practices.3 Through Disney, elements of Western culture and Disney culture meet Muslim culture, creat ing a new representation of something understood as a form of Muslim culture. Here Muslim cultu re can easily be synthesi zed with Islam, without providing an appropriate means of educating or defining difference. This form is being expressed globally as Disney expands and e xpresses itself in various countri es. Because so many elements are coming together while still being part of the Disney franchise, some cultural forms or expressions are watered down or lost in translation. No theme park element can absolutely 2 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society, 158. 3 Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture 64.


69 present Muslim culture and Disney culture at the same time. These Disney transformations impact the larger social process because while they are linked through loos e associations in the Disney park grounds, they are later distributed globally. Disneyization is a process th at travels beyond national boundari es and provides a diffuse mode of providing goods and services on a global scale.4 Disney starts on a local level, but by providing a unique and popular experien ce, such as the theme park vi sit, it is able to create a consumer good. This consumption expands beyond the park and moves to a global scale. This process returns to Disney on a local level with the establishment of Disney services somewhere else in the world. This cycle repeatedly facili tates the drive for consumerism and expansion on the global scale. Again, this cycl e is both homogenous and hybrid. While the elements within the park are universally creating a hybridized understanding of culture, the experience is homogenous since each park or Disney serv ice is standardized across the globe. By acknowledging the flows of culture, services, and goods on a global scal e, the reality of Disneys impact across cultures and count ries becomes evident. These impressions are not limited to Orlando visitors; globalization theory has provided insight into how this process flows internationally or globally and functi ons with and for Disney theme parks. While this process is occurring within the Disney theme parks in general, it is also specifically noticeable in the way Disney represen ts Muslim and Arab culture within the theme parks. No element in the theme park system is isolated since the park itself flows from one attraction into another with little information or line of demarcation. While there is no direct research currently available on how the representati ons of Muslim culture affect or are affected by globalization, there is evidence of the Disney theme parks affecting global audiences on a 4 Bryman, The Disneyization of Society 158.


70 general scale. The Global Disney Audiences Project, as published in Dazzeled by Disney?, is a project funded for the purpose of showing the reception of Disney across the globe. The Global Disney Audiences Project focused on understand ing the implications of the expanded global distribution of cultural products by studying twel ve countries and their reception of Disney products and services.5 These scholars validate their research on the grounds that Disney is significant in terms of unders tanding global cultur e and cultural consumption. The Global Disney Audiences Project stresses that globaliz ation has tightened the interconnectedness and interdependences of social lif e, and hence significantly enco urage the growth of media and media representations of culture.6 This project emphasized the re lationship between the imperial nature of the Disney-based United States versus th e savage world (third world) that Disney often identifies in its cultural representations. In essence, Disney prides itself on being technologically superior and up-to-date on trends and current visitor desires and interests, while dedicating most of its attractions on less technologically advanced times and places. Since globalization has become significant in shaping Disney, this rela tionship between cultural imperialism and global expansion is gaining significant attention and criticism. One of the primary themes that the research identified was the portrayal of th e Third World, or the noble savage who was represented as being backward, or primitive.7 While Disney theme parks are still a powerful force within the Disney enterprise, the atten tion on the global market has become a primary focus of the Walt Disney Company. In 1999 CEO Mi chael Eisner explained that, Disney is in the ironic position of being one of the best-known br ands on the planet, but w ith too little of its 5 Janet Wasko, Mark Phillips, and Eileen R. Meehan, ed., Dazzled by Disney?: The Global Disney Audiences Project (New York: Leicester University, 2001), 6. 6 Wasko, Phillips, Meehan, Dazzled by Disney? 8. 7 Ibid., 10.


71 income being generated outside of the United States The U.S. contains only five percent of the worlds population, but it accounts for eighty percent of our companys revenues.8 Since then, Disney has worked on expanding into the global mark et and continuing to facilitate the cycle of consumerism and shaping of cultural representations across the globe. Due to current trends in global consumerism, the Global Disney Audiences Project studied twelve countries including: Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, and th e United States. While none of the countries selected were majority Muslim nations, the project still provides insight into the global Disney impact. Individuals from each of these countries answered questionnaires and participated in interviews about their attitude and interest in Disney. Genera lly, the project concluded that Disney successfully expanded internationally, with most countries having a love-hate relationship with Disney. Even re sponders who claimed they did not like the company stated that they linked Disney with childhood memories ritualized activi ties, and family.9 The project also concluded that Disney was not always associated with Americ anization, but was understood as a part of a growing global culture, often strongly influenced by American products and values, which contributed to a cultural standardization or cultural hybridity.10 This research did acknowledge the problematic attitude that Disney took towards countries perceived as barbaric or savage. The Global Disney Audiences project made some general conclusions based on the countries they included in their study. Their fi ndings supported the idea that Disneyization and the Disney theme parks were influential in sh aping how individuals pe rceived various cultural 8 Wasko, Phillips, Meehan, Dazzled by Disney? 18. 9 Ibid., 331. 10 Ibid., 339.


72 identities, including Mus lim cultural identities.11 While these individuals, living in various countries, may understand that the representations Disney su pports are stereotypical and synthesized, Disney was still influential in shapin g their general perceptions. Individuals around the world actively notice attitudes that Disney creates about vari ous cultures that Disney deems exotic or the other as part of the Disney creative enterprise. These interactions transcend the park space and shape the knowledge and attitudes of varied individuals through hybrid consumption. While the Global Disn ey Audiences Project provides evidence that Disney does influence both children and adults in their perspectives on cultural issues, there is still room for growth for this organization or any ot her researchers. As the Walt Disney theme parks expand, so should the re search accompanying their current trends and attractions. The Walt Disney World company is working diligently on expanding their market on a global level. As Disney adapts and shifts its attractions to meet the needs of visitors across the globe, it will likely maintain its cultural represen tations including that of Muslim or Arab culture. 11 Ibid.


73 CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSIONS The W alt Disney World theme parks demonstrat ed various representa tions of Orientalism as expressed through Muslim culture in the th ree parks. The image of a static culture, independent from other cultural attachments and practices, was predominant in the attractions. There was also a strong emphasis on the lack of individuality, showing that Muslim culture was an authoritarian culture rooted in the practices of a leader w ho prevented individual thoughts and actions. Fantasy was a strong theme in each of th e parks, with the emphasis on exoticism as the dominant representation of fantasy. There was al so evidence of gender discrimination with the difference in male and female clothing and ro les in the Morocco pavilion. These images and Disney representations were rooted in the Oriental understanding of a pre-modern romanticism, a primitive and decadent lifestyle. However, the st rongest image of Orient alism found in all three parks, was the overall undertone of violence wh ich was found in architecture, artifacts, roleplaying, and merchandise. When s eeing these problematic portrayals clustered in a small space, it becomes evident that Disney theme parks are s till representing Saids definition of Orientalism through the use of Muslim culture. Researching the Walt Disney World theme park s is a challenging a nd conflicting endeavor when directing it towards topics in religious studies. When analyzing the theme parks on the most basic level, most of what Disney repres ents is generally geared towards children and elements of magic and fantasy. It is only when these images and attractions are understood in terms of consumerism and globalization that mo re definitive issues surface. The Walt Disney World theme parks, each through their own met hods of theme and hybrid consumption, address the issue of Orientalism and misrep resentations of Muslim cultures. The park system started with Walt Disneys vision, which already included these basic principles in the very architecture and


74 theme of space. With the release of Aladdin in 1992, these images were given more popular and dramatized associations, which became accessibl e in the theme parks. The images that Walt Disney World produces are no longer generic popular culture items, such as the identity created with jeans as described by Fiske, but a commodi ty distributed and iden tified for its unique properties. These images not only contribute to Disneys global success, but also to the misrepresentations of Muslim culture that Mu slims are already trying to dissipate due to Hollywoods consistent attention to Arabs, terrorism, and violence. While the data provided in this study breaks down the specific products, images, characters, and buildings that contribute to th ese misconceptions, it is important to look at the general picture. The overall image of Disneys misinterpretation of Musl im cultures in the three parks presented is focused on representing Middle Eastern culture, violence, merchant and/or Bedouin lifestyle, and folklore. While specific items or themes presented in Morocco, for example, may not be factually incorrect they are not a current or encompassing representation of Muslim culture. There may be belly dancing pe rformers and handmade rugs that originate in Morocco, but these are not finite cultural representations or contributions. While Disney acknowledges that Islam is an active part of Moroccan culture and herita ge, with the prominent displays of the Minaret and prayer rugs, ther e is no additional edu cation or alternative representation of Muslim cultural or religious practices. Even in spaces meant to represent the authentic Moroccan lifestyle, fantasy is the predom inant way Disney displays these cultures to its visitors. While Muslim scholars work diligently to provide information that clarifies and reconstructs these Oriental concepts, Disney is actively exploiting them every single day. There are limits to this research based on the material, time, and accessibility. This research provides a brief glimpse into the them e park system based only on what an individual


75 can experience as a park visitor. There is no insight provided beyond data visible in the parks or data available in published texts. This was beneficial for the understanding of how an individual can gain information and access to Muslim cult ure only based in his or her exposure to the Disney theme parks and film. However, this also limits the conc lusions and connections that can be made about the impact of the theme parks on visitors. The research, due to the nature of the Disney park security and contro lled environment, was limited in terms of guest interaction or employee interaction. There were several occasions in the park when I saw Muslim visitors in the attraction areas. This provided an insightful opportunity to gain information and understanding of the theme park based on insider perspective. However, due to soliciting violations of Disney property, such interactions would not be appropriate. The same applied to in-depth interviewing of Disney employees durin g their working hours. These issues limited my project to observation, where normally surveys, questionnaires, or in terviews might have provided more definitive conclusions. However, even with park and time constraints, and the controversial nature of the topic, it was evident that misrepresent ations of Muslim culture were viewable in the three theme parks. While this research highlight s the controversial nature of Disneys representation of Muslim culture, it is important to realize the need for education and pe rsonal accountability. Disney is geared to children and adults across the globe. While it would be important for Disney to acknowledge the misrepresentations it is f acilitating, this is not the complete solution. However, it would be irresponsible to say th at Disney should keep providing these images without further explanation. Disney has alr eady experienced criticism from the global community for its portrayals of Muslims and Islam in Aladdin The company did take some steps


76 and make some acknowledgements of their inconsistencies based on this backlash.1 However, these misrepresentations in both the parks and film are still widely accessible today. It would be beneficial for educators and park creators to be aware and accountable for these images and misrepresentations. For this reason, this research is beneficial if used as a catalyst for change. Instead of having parents and educators wait for Di sney to self-correct, these individuals should reach out to their own students and childre n. The evidence presented here can promote discussion and debate about the benefits and di sadvantages of the images and ideas provided by the Disney theme parks. These are accessible examples, which most i ndividuals have some exposure to, that may provide open dialogue about the more general repercussions of misinterpreting religion, race, or gender in a global environment. Having individuals outside of the academic ci rcle interact and utilize the information presented would be beneficial to the gene ral understanding of religious and cultural representations that often beco me muddled in American popular culture. There are also many opportunities for future research based on this ma terial. This topic, based on the structure of Disneyization provided by Bryman, allows any culture or identity represented at the theme parks to be analyzed. This leads to new opportunities for research based on this t opic. Future research could focus on more specific cues in the park space, such as merchandising, costume, or architecture. Future studies could also expand th is research to other Disney theme parks and attractions, since results in different countri es may vary. Also, looking at theme parks not associated with Disney may provide some different insight about how popular American attractions portray various culture s and religious practices. It may provide in depth answers about whether this is a strong Disney phenomenon or a more general attraction-based phenomenon. 1 Pinsky, The Gospel According to Disney 152.


77 The most beneficial continuation of this research would be to engage the Muslim community for the insider and outsider role. Providing any in-dep th interviewing or surveying of Muslims who have visited the Disney theme parks or been em ployed by the theme parks in order to gauge their reaction or interaction with the park would significantly shape its purpose. It would be validating to this paper to see if Muslims are still openly offended by the Disney them e park attractions, if there is a consensus among Muslims on this topic, or if there is an apathe tic attitude towards the theme parks. This project could be directed towards Muslims in the community local to the theme park, or expand to the global community. Since the theme parks are constantly expanding, updating, and reorganizing, this research is difficu lt to complete. As new generations experience what the theme parks and films have to offer, th e popularity of certain items may fluctuate. Shifts in the current economy or shifts in globalizati on may already make some of the perceptions presented in this research outdated. However, as long as there are misrepre sentations of Muslim culture visible in the theme parks, there will be a revitalized importance to acknowledge and interpret the images and their repercussions. The Walt Disney theme parks have provided in sight into the current representations of Muslim culture based on American consumerism and production. These images are not static in time or space since they are c onstantly interacting with park visitors, movie watchers, and anyone who purchases a Disney product. As Disn ey expands into the global market, it takes these misrepresentations of Islam, leading a larger and more diverse audience to interact with it. While Disney keeps growing and updating, its representations of va rious Muslim culture as one homogenized group are still deeply rooted in Or ientalism. While various Muslim communities, and religion and cultural scholars, attempt to understand and breakdown these misconceptions, Disney continues to present them daily in the theme park space. While Disney may continue to


78 represent their version of Muslim culture in a hybridized form through the homogenized theme park space, there needs to be an acknowledge ment of the growing impact of globalization on various cultural identiti es as it is represented in popular culture.


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81 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ann Marie Palm er was born in 1986 in Ne wburgh, New York. An only child, she moved to Ponce Inlet, Florida at age fourteen and grad uated from Father Lopez Catholic High School in 2003. After high school, Ann Marie attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. There she earned her B.A., cum laude, in relig ious studies and psychology. Direct ing her interest in the area of Islam and popular culture, she entered the University of Florida to pursue her M.A. in religion. She received her M.A. from the University of Florida in the summer of 2009. Ann Marie will continue her education at the University of Florida through the M.Ed. program in Student Personnel in Higher Education in the College of Education.