Bad Song, Worse Map

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 29 2012 @ 8:48am


Frank Jacobs laments the fact that the Disney ride, It’s a Small World After All (IaSWAA), teaches some pretty dismal geography:

Exiting IaSWAA, impressionable young minds have learnt a thing or two about the wide, wonderful world we live in: it is replete with a small selection of stereotypes, in three categories: architectural (France equals Eiffel Tower, no Egypt without pyramids), musical (the Spanish love flamenco dancing, bagpipes are typically Scottish), and natural (India is filled with tigers, Holland with tulips); music is the universal language; and beneath their exotic veneer, people (or at least Disney’s mechanical dolls) are really just all the same.

Oh, and Australia borders Hawaii, Holland is next to Spain, and Thailand is just across the water from Japan…

Update from a reader:

First of all, thanks a lot – now the song is stuck in my head. Secondly: Lighten up!

Of course the geography is all fucked up, but I think even small children can glean that they are viewing a "mash-up" of cultures and locations. I know I knew that, even as a kid. And it's charming that way, because anyone who knows anything about Disneyland knows that ride has been there forever and represents an idealized mid-century mindset.

But there's another thing: as I'm walking around my kitchen this morning humming that goddamned song, I'm actually getting kind of choked up. As a kid in Southern California, I'm certain the song influenced the world view of a budding liberal like me. I really did come away from the ride with the belief that, underneath it all, we are all the same, with the same hopes and dreams. And, frankly, I still believe that. Maybe that's one reason I still love Disneyland, hokey as it might be.