Disneyland or Dismaland

Well-known street artist, Banksy, is at it again. He’s brought a theme park, of dismal proportions to Somerset, England, intended to be an ironic jab at Disney and the evils that corporations can bring upon society. While other parks are featured, Disneyland maintains the largest presence. The art exhibit “Dismaland Bemusement Park” is a temporary exhibition, set to be open to the public from August 21st to September 27th with 4,000 tickets available for purchase daily. As Banksy’s work was completed, the exhibit was prepared in secret under the pseudonym “Grey Fox Productions,” which was posted all over the site in an attempt to fool the public into thinking there was a crime thriller set being constructed. The park features 58 other artists along with 10 Banksy pieces.

There has been a high demand for tickets. Several celebrities like Jack Black and Russell Brand have visited the “park.” However, it may be hard for college students to be completely receptive to the position Banksy is making. He depicts a desolate world with the dark realities of what our beloved fairytales cost. But is he too late to the “evil amusement park” conversation circulating the table at the mad tea party?
Banksy is trying to take a used idea and pass it off as his own original message. For example, Dina Goldstein’s photo series, “Fallen Princesses” speaks to the same issues addressed in the Banksy “original” art in which: Snow White is trapped as a housewife, Ariel the prisoner of an aquarium, Belle undergoing plastic surgery, Jasmine as a soldier in Middle Eastern wars, Cinderella nursing a drink at a bar, the Princess and the Pea sitting upon several mattresses in a junkyard, an overweight Little Red Riding Hood, Pocahontas as a crazy cat lady in a nature-inspired log cabin, a Sleeping Beauty whose father is staying in a nursing home, and a Rapunzel with cancer. This series was produced in 2013.

There has even been a horror film shot from within Tomorrowland called “Escape from Tomorrow” that attempts to paint a darker image of what has been dubbed ‘the Happiest Place on Earth.’

The centerpiece of the park is a decrepit version of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. It looks like the remains of China’s Wonderland – the amusement park that attempted to copy Disney’s success, only to be shut down for copyright infringement. These decaying castles have already elicited analyses of their representation of corporate greed. The main difference between them and Banksy’s castle is that the Dismaland Castle began by rotting away.

Other parks and their practices were also displayed in Dismaland; most notably, Seaworld and its treatment of its orcas. Another poignant sculpture depicts a killer whale jumping out of a toilet and through a trainer’s hoop. However, it’s been two years since Blackfish premiered and began the discussion on Seaworld and its whales.
A Grim Reaper’s audio recording at the exhibit says, “Welcome to the fair, which life isn’t.” There is something to be said about the level of consumerism in our economy. But lashing out against the stories that begin with ‘Once upon a time,’ isn’t quite as new as Banksy’s making it out to be. Dismaland is simply another example of what he’s against: winning over the people with a lack of ingenuity with scary statues and the fashionable status associated with his name.

By JASMINE SPITLER / Contributing Writer

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