In celebration of Disney World’s reopening after shutting down earlier this year in response to the still ongoing coronavirus pandemic that’s killed over 130,000 people in the U.S. alone, the Disney Parks and Jobs dropped a video over the weekend enthusiastically welcoming park guests “home.” Here, “home” refers to a theme park owned by a megacorporation.
The sentiment behind Disney’s video was simple and straightforward enough: “come back, please. It’s safe now.” Beyond simply opening Disney World back up to the general public, the company’s taken certain measures to ensure the safety of its employees and guests such as requiring everyone within the park to wear masks and creating new, free hand sanitizing stations. Fewer guests overall are being let into Disney World in order to make it easier for people to socially distance within the park, and various rides and attractions have been altered in order to encourage people not to cluster.
Were we at a point in our response to the coronavirus pandemic where the spread of the virus was under control and the country as a whole was more or less on the same page about what sort of measures we need to take in order to keep new outbreaks and spikes from occurring, video’s like Disney’s might be reassuring. But that’s not at all the case here in the US where Florida just broke the national record for a single-day jump of newly-reported positive coronavirus cases.
As states like Florida forward to reopen businesses and potentially send children back to school despite the fact that we have no means of preventing people from contracting the virus or reliably curing those who have it, it’s difficult to say what the larger plan of action is, exactly. For Disney, though, the goal now seems to be simply pulling people back in, which makes sense given that it’s a company in the business of making money.
Surprising absolutely no one, people quickly responded to the video by mocking it and pointing out that with a slight tweak to the music playing in the background, it could be easily reimagined as an ad for a horror film. In these trying times, dunking on brands’ social media presences is one of the few simple joys that some people are able to hold onto, but the sentiment at the heart of all the jokes is something worth taking into consideration.
The idea of purposefully getting together with a large crowd of strangers to stand around for a few hours in order to get on rides and eat overpriced food shaped like cartoon characters is, for many people, alarming because those are the kinds of conditions in which the coronavirus can spread. For all the measures that Disney’s taken to encourage people to behave responsibly by wearing their masks, washing their hands, and keeping those hands to themselves, it’s difficult to imagine a day at Disney World where all of those good habits would be uniformly practiced.
Much as Disney may want to project the aura of safety, simply by opening Disney World’s doors, the company’s inviting people from all across the country to flock to Orlando in the middle of a pandemic that the country is handling poorly beyond belief. So long as social distancing remains our best bet at merely slowing the virus’ spread, going on destination vacations to locations where people congregate simply won’t make sense, and videos like Disney’s are going to keep feeling like disconcerting attempts at trying to downplay the gravity of the situation.
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