The beginning of chapter four brings up the exact same criticisms that I mentioned in the previous blog entry. I assumed (and apparently a lot of the media did as well) that the residents of Celebration were all escapists or “nostalgia hounds”, desperate to cling to a way of life that is for the most part relegated to the silver screen. But this chapter clears those accusations—kind of. I had forgotten about the state of the art school system and medical technology in Celebration, or the fact that a lot of the people who can actually afford a house in the town did not come into their wealth through wishing and dreaming, but through hard work. It’s easy to stereotype the Celebrationites because of the uniqueness of the situation. Disney built a town—not a subdivision or a gated community or a complex of vacation time-shares… A TOWN. And these are the people who decided to move there. When something as crazy as this happens, it’s easy to assume the people involved are also a bit crazy.
So, a lot of residents refute the idea that they’re clinging to some unobtainable past… Yet, it’s also true what one resident says on page 82: “Who would have come here without the Disney name? There’s not a businessman in his right mind who would move to a community with a thousand people in the middle of a swamp.” And there, the power of the Disney name shows through again. I don’t think that if some other company or developer decided to build a town exactly like Celebration (with pretty houses and good schools, etc…) that people would have been so eager to move there. But I think it may be true that in this instance, “Disney” is not so much synonymous with “nostalgia” as it is with “quality”.
I thought it was very interesting to read about how the physical design of the town was to encourage neighborly interactions. It sounds like some sort of social experiment. You almost expect there to be secret cameras hidden all over the place…
Which brings me to the hilarious rumours that began to circulate… It’s interesting, because in a town that encourages social interaction, of course part of that is gossip. It’s only natural that since the town is so unique, the rumours about it would be just as sensational. But these rumours also show that the Celebrationites are a lot more aware of their situation than the media (or I) assumed them to be. Their jokes about the Porch Police or the paid actors walking dogs by the lake, as well as the kids who pretend to be animatronics when tourists pass by all show that they’re very aware they are living in a town where appearances are everything, to the point of extremeness. The curious tourists who visit come with certain expectations in mind; since the Disney Company has always been obsessed with a good image, they make sure that a good image is what the tourists see.
But Disney having their name on the town obviously comes with negative side effects as well. It means they have to take responsibility for both the good and bad things that happen in the town—and in this lawsuit-happy age, anything bad happening in Celebration could be cause for someone to want to take the company to court. I wonder if the company didn’t quite think it through while they were planning. Surely they must have known that running a town would not be the same as running a hotel or an amusement park attraction. This is a place where real people live their lives. And it’s not like something out of a storybook. Maybe the people of Celebration are more grounded than the company that brought them there.