Disneyland: The American Hyperdream

Matthew Fulton Haxby RISD '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University, Spring 2005

Cyberspace & Critical Theory

In"Simulacra and Simulations," Jean Beaudrillard uses a variety of contemporary examples to illustrate the effect of simulation on society, not limited to Watergate, terrorism and even Disneyland. His depiction of Disneyworld serves to describe the simulation of the hyperreal, as Beaudrillard puts it, in other words the simulation of a reality that only exists in people's minds.

The objective profile of the United States, then, may be traced throughout Disneyland, even down to the morphology of individuals and the crowd. All its values are exalted here, in miniature and comic-strip form. Embalmed and pactfied. Whence the possibility of an ideological analysis of Disneyland (L. Marin does it well in Utopies, jeux d'espaces): digest of the American way of life, panegyric to American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. To be sure. But this conceals something else, and that "ideological" blanket exactly serves to cover over a third-order simulation: Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the "real" country, all of "real" America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.


1. Beaudrillard makes Disneyland out to seem like its sole purpose is to conceal the truth about the United States: that the United States, as people like to think about it, only exists in fantasy. Is this personification of Disneyland as a sinister illusionist accurate when Disneyland can also be considered simply as a business out to make a profit?

2. If Disneyland is just out to make a profit, what does it say about the American public that a reaffirming simulation of what the United States ought to be is so lucrative?

3. This form of escapism is different from mere fantasy. Do you think it is more healthy to escape into pure fantasy, or the almost-real of Disneyland?

4. Do you think Beaudrillard ever got to go to Disneyland as a child? Or is he just bitter and French?


Baudrillard, Jean. "Simulacra and Simulations" in Selected Writings Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 166-184. [Available at European Graduate School site.]

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Last modified 13 October 2006