Disney’s Pedagogies of Pleasure and the Eternal Recurrence of Whiteness

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Journal of Consumer Culture




In this article, we examine how Disney participates in an affective economy through an analysis of how it engages with pleasure, and ask questions about what Disney’s manufacturing and selling of pleasure does, pedagogically. We posit that Disney’s pedagogies of pleasure, which operate from the notion that escape is attainable via the pleasurable experiences offered at Disney parks, teach us how to be particular kinds of Disney subjects who escape into safe and controlled forms of pleasure – these escape fantasies offer a way for consumers to disavow the racism and white supremacy that characterize Western humanist and colonialist projects. Then, through a reading of Escape From Tomorrow, a recent surrealist horror film that explores the “dark side” of the “Happiest Place on Earth,” we analyze how pleasure and the false promise of escape from conflict are illustrated in the film. We take up Nietzsche’s concept of “eternal recurrence” to explore the inescapability of our own complicity in the perpetuation of white, heteropatriarchal narratives through our repetitive affective engagements with Disney. Finally, we explore how an acceptance of inescapability demands that we acknowledge how we are complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy through our engagements with Disney’s pedagogies of pleasure. We argue that this acceptance is not a nihilistic trap that suggests only an unbearable despair but an active choice that holds productive potential for acknowledging and exposing the racist myths of Western humanism perpetuated through Disney’s pedagogies of pleasure.