View Full Version : Las Vegas vs. Disneyland

04-22-2002, 06:49 PM
I took my family to Vegas this past weekend. I told my 15-year-old stepson, John (on his first trip to Sin City) that the parallels between Las Vegas and Disneyland are far too close to be coincidental.

He spent the entire weekend pointing out those parallels to me.

Some of his observations were fairly mundane ("You stand in line for everything."). Others had me on the floor. At one point, we walked past a gaggle of L.A. party girls at the Bellagio. John (sotto voce), "Another parallel - everything is plastic."

Regards, Lee

04-22-2002, 09:01 PM
Okay, Lee, how's this. Both places represent utopian spaces--perhaps dystopian spaces might be more exact. Money gets changed into chips and tickets; time stands still; people from all walks of life mix freely, that is, both places strive to unite rather than to divide people based on social class. Of course, in Vegas you have various high roller sections and accomodations--as you do in Disney, but the overall effect is to create a world in which the accoutrements of "normal" life matter little.

A temporary cessation of class distinction was once provided by amusement parks in the US, and various festivals, carnivals, and other from of revelry throughout history. See Russian theorist M. Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World for a much fuller examination of these themes.


04-22-2002, 09:07 PM
Great observation by the young man. While I haven't used the word plastic in many years there would be no better word to describe Las Vegas.

04-22-2002, 09:50 PM

It's Glen, the young blond hair kid that used to play 5-10 at Foxwoods on weekends. I'm at the University of Michigan now so I've only been to Foxwoods once in the past year. Maybe I'll see you soon as I'm coming back to Boston for the summer.

In any case, nice observations on Disney. I don't know if you've heard of their "Disney's Town of Celebration," which became "Town of Celebration" after it ran into a few problems. It was a town that was open to all social classes (except the lowest of course). Robert Stern was the "master planner" and Robert Venturi did some of work there, too. Basically, it was meant to restore a strong sense of community, while Disney tightly controlled all of the major decisions, as they do at their parks. Cleanliness, maximum security through surveillance - all the Disney themes were prominent in the design. They were attempting to sell a "pre-packaged life" and people bought it. There's was an article in the New York Times Magazine called "Town-Planning is no Mickey Mouse Operation." It's worth reading. I wonder what would happen if Las Vegas followed Disney's lead? That would be a turbulent town, lol.

04-23-2002, 12:56 AM
Las Vegas is the Disneyland for adults. In both you enter the world of Fantasyland thinking you're having fun while spending $$$. Small price to pay to follow your dreams as long as you wake up on time.

04-23-2002, 09:31 AM
Hi Glen,

I been following your posts; from the writing I knew it was you. Yes, I remember reading an article about Disney's community when it was in the planning stages. (I think it was in Smithsonian.) It reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode in which a advertising executive, harried at work and at home, falls asleep on a commuter train and glimpses a perfect, Victorian town in his dreams. One day he finally decides to get off at the stop and stay in the place of his dreams.

Interesting fact: ratio of the number of rooms in the Venetian in Vegas to the number of rooms in Venice: 1 to 1.

Hope all is well at Michigan.


04-23-2002, 01:30 PM
A temporary cessation of class distinction was once provided by amusement parks in the US, and various festivals, carnivals, and other from of revelry throughout history. See Russian theorist M. Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World for a much fuller examination of these themes.

I don't know if you've read it, but The Fall of Public Man by Richard Sennet is an excellent book that discusses the cessation of class distinctions in certain situations. It's well worth checking out.

high roller sections and accomodations--as you do in Disney

Disneyland has a high-roller section? Say it ain't so.

04-23-2002, 01:43 PM
Actually, Smithsonian did a fascinating article about "night", and how, up until the advent of the streetlamp, night time essentially provided cover for all the citizens (rich/poor/gentry/common) to hang out together. Needless to say, it was particularly convenient for the gentry to get involved in things in which gentry ought not to get involved.

But apparently there was kind of an unwritten rule that after the sun went down, so did the class distinctions. But everybody was supposed to be back in the right bed come sunrise.

All that said, I think that the parallel between D-land and Vegas does not include a class-less society. D-land - sure, once you're inside the park, except for being able to afford the expensive toys or not, everybody's on the same terms. Vegas constantly reminds us who has money and who doesn't - it's evolved that way because it induces those with a small amount of money to want to parlay it into a lot because look at what you'll get if you have a lot of this stuff.

I think Vegas is one of the most socially stratified places in the U.S.

Regards, Lee

04-23-2002, 04:35 PM

I agree in principle, but I meant that casinos designers attempt to create this impression; after all, isn't my money, insignificant as it is, just as much worth losing as the next guy's?

I'm intrigued by these notions of "night."


04-23-2002, 05:20 PM
I think society tacitly endorses or at least ignores transgressive behaviour in a lot of cool ways. I guess it (we) have to, since this behaviour ain't going away.

I'm reminded of the Amish. The young men are free, mostly, to go out into the world and raise hell for a bit before returning and settling down. Two of them were busted a couple of years ago for dealing cocaine for a bike gang.

Interesting stuff.

04-23-2002, 05:30 PM
Interesting point about social stratification. I think this has become a bit more prevalent as casinos seek a certain market. People who go to the Bellagio are not very happy or comfortable at Circus Circus, and vice-versa. Binions used to be a place where there was more mixing I think, because the focus was so much on the gambling, with everything happening in a small area. No high roller villas or high-stakes salons. I have not spent much time there, but I wonder how the Palms is doing in that they seemed to be going after an unusual market mix. Some very well-to-do or famous tourists and then local players too. Unusual. There have always been nice places and cheaper places, but it seems like the places are getting more focused on a given narrower market.

04-24-2002, 05:39 AM
well, without reading the other responses, these are some that struck me.

lots of old people with hipsacks looking to be entertained at a pretty steep price.

a whole lot of people i probably wouldn't care to know socially.

the owners of the joint do everything within their power to separate fantasy from reality.

dumb themes.