To The Guy Upset About Walt Disney World Being “Woke”: You Suck

Walt Disney World Pirates
HarshLight, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some guy named Jonathan VanBoskerck wrote an article called “I love Disney World, but wokeness is ruining the experience” and it really sucks.

Mr. VanBoskerck is tired of Walt Disney World changing with the times, and wishes it would go back to its old ways. You know, the ‘old ways’ when racism and sexism were permissible without any pushback from the marginalized groups they were harming. These ‘old ways’ allowed cis white men to be as offensive as they pleased without getting called out on it, and they were able to say anything and do anything without worrying about who they were hurting in the process because these other groups didn’t have enough power to push back. Mr. VanBoskerck misses when the world catered to his demographic, and everyone else had to get over their discomfort to make the world easier for him.

Mr. VanBoskerck is a clown. Let’s break down his incredibly horrible arguments.

The more Disney moves away from the values and vision of Walt Disney, the less Disney World means to me. Disney is forgetting that guest immersion is at the core of its business model.

Mr. VanBoskerck, sir, did you ever stop and think for a moment that the racism and sexism that were so casually included in these attractions might be ruining the immersion for other people? Did you stop to think that seeing women getting auctioned off or seeing offensive racist caricatures might be a bit alarming to them, and thus rips them out of the fantasy world these parks are meant to create? People from marginalized groups are also guests and deserve immersion, too. They pay for entrance to these parks just like you do. They are guests looking for a fun and immersive experience, just like you. For just one moment, please think beyond yourself.

Or is your thesis that Walt Disney World is only there to cater to white men and that people from these groups should just ignore the issues present throughout the park? Why does everyone else have to cater to your comfort? Or do you think that the comfort of marginalized people is not equal to yours? Honestly, that seems to be what you’re going for here, and I should just stop right here and save myself the effort of arguing with someone who is clearly so self-centered and lacking in empathy. But picking apart your terrible arguments is cathartic, so let’s go.

Disney announced that cast members are now permitted to display tattoos, wear inclusive uniforms and display inclusive haircuts. Disney did all of this in the name of allowing cast members to express themselves. […] I’m not traveling across the country and paying thousands of dollars to watch someone I do not know express themselves. I am there for the immersion and the fantasy, not the reality of a stranger’s self-expression.

Before we even get to the real racist or sexist bits, we get a bit of classism and elitism to get the ball rolling. Because why not? Let’s just start this hate-fest by crapping all over the working class people who are trying to make sure you have a nice vacation. Alright then, Mr. VanBoskerck, let’s talk about it.

First of all, the fact that you are offended by ‘inclusive uniforms’ and ‘inclusive haircuts’ really just boils down to you not wanting to be inclusive of people who aren’t like you. It seems the word ‘inclusive’ is offensive to you, and I just have to wonder why? Are you threatened by not being the only demographic that matters anymore? Does sharing space with people who aren’t like you make you feel so icky that you’re going to pitch a fit about haircuts and jewelry? That’s pretty weak, dude. And yet we are supposedly the ‘snowflakes.’

The rules and standards against jewelry, tattoos, and certain hairstyles for Disney park cast members come from the 1950s when Disneyland first opened. This highly uniformed look was pushed in media constantly, and the expectation was that everyone was striving towards one certain specific aesthetic and nothing else was permissible. But this is not the reality of the world anymore. The individuality of your fellow man is more easily expressed in public now, and the fact that that bothers you says more about you than it does the rest of us. It’s 2021 and a haircut should not be sending you into this much of a tizzy.

I understand the need to keep things rated G, but nothing they are allowing will remotely push those types of boundaries. Offensive tattoos still won’t be permitted and the costumes they are wearing are still modest. They still have rules about the size and placement of tattoos, anyway, so it’s not like it’s an ‘anything goes’ type of situation. The rules are just being relaxed to allow the cast members to be people. They are people with tattoos, jewelry, and different hairstyles. They are people with personalities, and not just blank slates meant to blend into the background.

Unfortunately, Mr. VanBoskerck doesn’t seem to want to think of them as people, but rather bland uniformed worker bees promoting the clean-cut values of 70 years ago. I think this starting point really informs us about where this guy is coming from, and it’s not at all pretty. He doesn’t like the shifting power dynamics in society and wants to go back to the good old days where the working class was invisible to people like him.

This criticism of Mr. VanBoskerck’s dehumanizing attitude towards Walt Disney World employees is also reflected by fellow Geekiary writer and native Floridian, Khai:

“So apparently this guy thinks Disney was better when the cast members weren’t treated as humans with feelings?” Khai said. “I’m not surprised to hear that from a Conservative- but I AM surprised to see this published by the Orlando Sentinel. It really lowers the Sentinel’s standard.”

I agree. This is a pretty poorly thought out op/ed to be published in the Sentinel. But maybe there’s just no good argument for his point of view and this was the best they could find. The best argument against inclusivity is this hot mess of a letter, and it’s laughably terrible.

Disney is in the process of taking the woke scalpel to the Jungle Cruise. Trader Sam is out because he might offend certain people. Every grown-up in the room realizes that Trader Sam is not a representation of reality and is meant as a funny and silly caricature. It is no more based in racism than every Disney caricature of an out-of-touch white American dad.

And here we go. Racism. Didn’t take long to get to the racist bits.

Belittling people by saying everyone who is a ‘grown-up’ understands that this is a ‘caricature’ completely dismisses the actual harm these caricatures have on society. These caricatures are used to belittle people, both by the nature of their very existence and as a weapon by those who wish these communities harm. You can’t deny that racist humor is being used by people who mean very real harm to people. Racist jokes and violent hate crimes often go hand-in-hand. They are used as a cover by people who want to hurt others, and often used as a rallying cry for violence

Besides, even without the actual physical violence, it’s just, you know, mean to make fun of people different from you and make offensive insinuations about them. Why is being mean so important to you? Why can’t you just, I don’t know, be nice and have some empathy? The entire argument for keeping Trader Sam seems to be “I want to laugh at people without consequences,” and that’s just super awful, dude. The fact that you want POC to put aside their discomfort with these awful caricatures, but you don’t think you should have to put aside your nostalgia for the time when racism was commonly accepted without any pushback… that is really telling.

And, oh my God, comparing this to the caricature of an out-of-touch white American dad is almost too ridiculous to address, but I’m going to try. Out-of-touch American dads aren’t being systemically marginalized, and being ‘out-of-touch’ is not at all comparable to being depicted as a headhunter. But honestly, your inability to grasp these issues hints that maybe these depictions of ‘out-of-touch white American dads’ isn’t too far from reality. It’s certainly a lot more accurate than Trader Sam.

The next time I ride Jungle Cruise I will not be thinking about the gloriously entertaining puns of the skippers, I will be thinking about Disney’s political agenda. That’s a mood killer.

Splash Mountain

Racism is a bigger mood killer, my dude. The fact that removing racism from a boat ride is killing your mood is a You Problem.

Mr. VanBoskerck also touches on the upcoming changes to Splash Mountain, but I already covered that here: Splash Mountain, Song of the South, and Moving Disney Forward. So I’m not going to waste my time reiterating that point. I’ve been down that road already. I’m already exhausted, but there’s still more to cover in this article.

The crux of the issue here is that Disney is allowed to make changes to their parks so they don’t trigger people with racist imagery. That’s the market speaking. That’s Capitalism, which Mr. VanBoskerck praised as a value of Walt Disney in his article. 

Right now the market is saying we should maybe not be racist, and corporations are acting accordingly. 

Are you just upset that Capitalism is no longer catering to you anymore? How do you think the rest of us have felt for, like, forever? You can’t sing the praises of Capitalism in one sentence, then get upset when Capitalism doesn’t place you at the top anymore. Other people besides Republican white men are gaining power in the marketplace, and that seems to bother you a lot.

Pirates used to be one of my favorite attractions. My family would always ride it first on our first day at the Magic Kingdom. Now, we do not even ride it every trip. When my family rides Pirates now, each of the changed scenes takes us out of the illusion because they remind us of reality and the politics that forced the changes.

Okay, but let’s talk about these changes and examine why they make you so upset. 

One of the changes is removing the auction of women as ‘brides’. Even as a child this part made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t have the words to explain why as a child. When I got older I realized it was, you know, misogyny, and it doesn’t really have to be this way. We can have better. We can speak up about how uncomfortable this makes us, and our voices are actually being heard now.

When the ride was created, the people who planned it thought along the lines of Mr. VanBoskerck. These scenes don’t make him, a middle-to-upper class white man, uncomfortable, and he finds them amusing. Therefore those of us who are uncomfortable must suck it up and accommodate his needs. Unfortunately for Mr. VanBoskerck, the world is changing and other points of view are being valued, too. Those of us who don’t like the depiction of women being treated as property have been heard, and changes were made.

Disney, please return to the values and vision of Walt.

Sir, we can’t stay in the 1950s forever. Walt Disney has passed away and the world is moving in a more accommodating and empathetic direction. I’m sorry, but also very much NOT sorry that the thought of empathizing with people bothers you so much. I genuinely don’t know why it’s so hard for you to care about other people.

The customer experience should be the core of your business model.

Customers include women and POC who don’t deserve to have to be triggered to accommodate your racist, sexist, and classist ideals. Disney is a corporation, and their business model is adapting to accommodate everyone. You aren’t their only customer. Your experience is not the only experience that matters.

Immersion should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and appeasing the Twitter mob.

Your immersion relies on racism, sexism, and classism, so frankly I don’t give a hoot about it. The rest of us deserve a fun Walt Disney World vacation, too.

Mr. VanBoskerck, if racism and sexism are so important to you that you can’t enjoy a Disney park without these elements being present, that is very much, again, a You Problem. The rest of us don’t have to accommodate your outdated nonsense. The free market is speaking, Mr. VanBoskerck. And the free market doesn’t like your bigotry anymore.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.


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1 thought on “To The Guy Upset About Walt Disney World Being “Woke”: You Suck

  1. Woke sucks on all ends, I’m not even white myself. Everyone should be professional at places of business, even entertainment, it’s not a biker bar or the halls of high school. It’s not what you believe is woke (it isn’t) that it scares people, it’s that it looks trashy af. and it gives off a lack of maturity and experience. I’m in my 20s and won’t see doctors who seem too juvenile based on some criteria above.

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