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Fun and power: Experience and ideology at the Magic Kingdom

Maria-Lydia Spinelli, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The Magic Kingdom at Disneyland is a performance of Public Culture deliberately designed to appeal to culturally diverse audiences despite its highly nationalistic symbolic content. The study explores the Disneyland experience from the participants' (employees and visitors) point of view. In-depth interviews with former employees and frequent visitors, supplemented by extensive questionnaires and essays from different target populations provide diverse readings, descriptions of the Disneyland stage and personal experiences. Despite such diversity, patterns of interpretation, participation and use can be clearly discerned. Experiences which visitors describe primarily as "fun" and "feeling like a child again" have far reaching effects on individual construction of self, life-style and social and historical location. The metaphor of childhood, the organization of the stage and the engineering of the experience, however, do place constraints on the visitors' autonomy in modes of appropriation and are instrumental in the education of perception of the United States and its citizens as "authentic" leaders in the context of on-going international restructuration and emergent refeudalization.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|American studies|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Spinelli, Maria-Lydia, "Fun and power: Experience and ideology at the Magic Kingdom" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233165.