Escape From Dismaland

Picture the scene. In the English resort town of Western-super-Mare is a secretly prepared temporary art exhibit called Dismaland, obviously designed to make fun of Disneyland. There is a dark castle with twisted spires, a crashed police van that rests near a pond, and some dismal looking post-apocalyptic scenes in what its designer has called a “family theme park unsuitable for children [1].” In this park, which is in the town where disgraced former British MP Jeffery Archer was based, he of the political scandals due to insider trading and the writing of novels, which are burned at the park, there is a creepy carousel, a killer whale jumping out of a toilet, the wreckage of a pumpkin carriage, and some very disturbing art that manages to combine the themes of Disney characters and franchises as well as disaster and trouble. Needless to say, the art exhibit has been a hit, but what does it say when popularity comes merely by making fun of an easy target and presenting an image of Disney as a dismal place heading towards disaster, without presenting an alternate version in its place.

Let us change the scene. Now one is a visitor of Disney World near Orlando, Florida. In the midst of one’s travels around the Magic Kingdom, one is being filmed without one’s consent for a dark fantasy movie that views Disney World as a place of horrors. In this film, a hallucinating man with a wife and two children decides to start chasing after some of the guests there, to the obvious frustration of his wife. What one had thought was merely a peaceful and ordinary trip to a tourist-oriented park instead ended up becoming part of a dark film called Escape From Tomorrow. It goes without saying that the film was done without the permission of Disney, or the other people being filmed (including children). It should also go without saying that the filmmaker has complicated views of Disney World, associating it with trips with his father after the break-up of his parents’ marriage. The film was popular when released at Sundance Movie Festival, but was unable to receive any distribution and was released direct to video with very little fanfare.

Let us change the scene again. One is watching the Disney film Tomorrowland [2] and is trying to understand why Disney made such a heavy-handed appeal for the preservation of hope when even children’s entertainment has become more and more filled with dark material. There is always a difficult balance that one has to maintain between portraying and facing reality and glamorizing that dark reality and forgetting that the reality falls short of a better ideal. We want to encourage people, but not at the price of telling them that everything is fine when it is not. We have to reach people where they are, to show empathy and compassion to others, but also present a vision of where want to go as people, as institutions, and as a society. It is hard to have a glorious vision of the wonderful World Tomorrow when we face the sort of world we live in today. And yet we do need to face the reality of life while also recognizing that where we are is not where we were meant to be, even though the gulf between hope and reality often leads to suffering and doubt and anguish and worry and concern as we fuss and fret over our slow and fitful progress towards the ideal world we see in our head long before we see it bear fruit in reality.

Let us change the scene once more. One is a child reading a six-volume set of books designed by a man whose taste in the faces of death and suffering can only be described as grotesque. These faces are the visible reminder of God’s judgment, as part of a Bible Story written seemingly for children. From visions like this, people are taught to believe in the frightening nature of God’s judgment of a wicked humanity. Yet here too, there is room for a different understanding. For those of us who reflect upon the nature of God’s judgment [3] recognize that God does not delight in causing suffering and misery, even to those who hate Him. The new heavens and new earth, or the prior Millennial kingdom of peace, are not dismal lands, but are lands of peace and of prosperity and happiness for all, where the good life is available to each and every one who walks this earth. Yet the people who enter that kingdom are likely to be intensely afraid. Years of suffering and torment, hearing the lies of how Jesus Christ and His servants will behave, and knowing the power that God and resurrected believers will possess, it will take a great deal of time and compassion to show others that God’s wish is for good, and not for evil, for light, and not for darkness. People who are afraid to hope, skeptical and cynical and mistrustful, and downright traumatized by horrors will have to be gently and patiently guided to believing what they will see, a world far greater than their wildest dreams, and greater than the visions of the artists and filmmakers who could have been trying to imagine a better world, and only succeeded in constructing the nightmarish horrors of our world, only exaggerated for effect. May that kingdom come soon.



[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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