walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Team Rodent_, Carl Hiassen

This short (< 100 pages) collection of columns by Carl Hiassen on Disney related topics was selected for book group in Mayberry this month. Since the month started on a Monday, 3rd Monday is coming up quick! In a rare burst of productivity, I not only got my estimated taxes done, but I read the book well in advance of the day.

Of course, I'm continuing to evade the two K-1s which arrived recently. Maybe tomorrow.

The columns are old -- there's really no other way to put this. The collection dates from 2010, and they weren't all that fresh then. They are also very uneven. The beginning column is a look at Times Square well into its transition from seedy playground of vice to a place where the biggest scandal is when the costumed characters don't like the money the parents offer to have a photo taken with the kiddos. I'm not sure when Peepland actually closed, but for all Hiassen talks up its resistance to the Disneyfication of Times Square, well, Peepland lost.

Hiassen is not precisely kink-friendly. He isn't arguing in favor of bondage and pregnancy-porn as a sex positive/minority sexuality sort of thing. He's just scrounging around for _anyone_ willing to resist Disney that isn't a Southern Baptist (even he won't stoop that low, so, you know, standards). His stance on LGBT is a little more ambiguous. When talking about how Disney separates its adult commodities from its flagship branding, his description of Ellen (back when she was doing a sitcom) feels a lot off in 2014. The times have changed and in a really good way. Along the way, Ellen became inextricably intertwined with the main Disney brand (including theme park presence on Ellen's Energy Adventure).

There are brilliant moments in this book, most notably when Hiassen describes junkets the Rodent puts on for journalists. The high speed chase that led to the death of Robb Sipkema is less adroitly handled. Sipkema is not very sympathetic (fleeing enforcement after trespassing/vandalism), so the lawsuit focused instead on process issues, attempting to get at the training manuals for Disney enforcement (contracted out to Reedy Creek). A better approach would have been to contrast with best-practice policing in Real Law Enforcement, which I believe even at the time of the incident was already deprecating high speed chases in virtually all cases. Hiassen's fantasies about the escapee-lioness from an unrelated entertainment venue attacking tourons in the World or perhaps even Michael Eisner, never mind his theories about Insane Clown Posse are kind of annoying. He does have good perspective on his obsessive desire for Disney to be caught in a scandal -- but I feel like he left a ton of opportunity on the table when it came to Celebration. The coverage of Arvida was news to me.

I'm really glad I read this; I read a lot of "Disney studies" stuff, and this is a fascinating opinion piece that connects with that, albeit from a journalistic rather than an academic perspective. That academic reading meant names like Foglesong were real familiar to me, and Hiassen's descriptions of Reedy Creek and its relationship to Disney were very minimal, I remembered what I had read in Foglesong's _Married to the Mouse_.

It's hard to know whether to recommend it more generally. Certainly, if you want to learn about the dark side of Disney, you can read much more substantive treatments. If you like Hiassen, there are a ton of other collections. I may update this after book group meets and we discuss.
Tags: book review, disney

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