Disney and the Destiny of the Liberal Artist
Why do they want me so badly?Lately, on my periodic forays to class, I’ve been seeing these flyers for Disney internships. Now, say what you will about the possibility of spending a summer working for Disney, but how many things have you seen advertised on the wall of a class building that you would actually put any time into? I’ve been here for four years, and I’ve never met anyone who decided to go on a spring break trip, take a part-time job, or participate in a psychological study based on something they read on one of these ubiquitous glossy handbills.
Inevitably, these things have pictures of squeaky-clean, college-age students with faces suspiciously free of acne scars and worry. They wear business-casual clothes and look like they have this great time at Disney—just sitting around, developing new cute characters to populate Pixar movies and going to lunch in the Epcot Center with Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg.
I don’t know for sure what goes on at the Disney internship program, but I’m reasonably certain that that’s not it.
See, I have this theory that people in Orlando don’t actually work for Disney—it’s an anathema to native Floridians in general—they have a big love-hate relationship with it. The fact that it makes a giant amount of money for the state just adds another stereotype to a place already burdened with an overabundance of negative images. Psychotic drug dealers, alligator-hunting rednecks on fan boats, Christian zealots, stolen elections, somnalescent geriatrics, Janet Reno, expansion sports franchises that completely suck—these comprise the multi-faceted legacy of Florida. The majority of Florida’s population is already devoted to perpetuating one or more of these, and the ones that aren’t busy clubbing ‘gators or being Katherine Harris don’t have any interest in working for the newest stereotype on the block. So Disney has to hire out to get even its most menial positions filled. You know the guy behind you who follows you around, sweeping up your cigarette butts and stray kernels of popcorn as you walk from mind-numbing show to mind-numbing show at the Happiest Place on Earth? There’s a reason that he’s the shiniest, perkiest person you’ve ever seen working for $6.50/hour. He’s not from Florida—he doesn’t have to use that money to pay for his kid’s dentist bills or bail his common-law wife out of jail. He’s working in the Epcot food court selling Norwegian hot dogs because…? It’s kind of hard to figure, but I’ll give you a leg up.
Disney is targeting liberal arts majors.
Don’t believe me? Look where the flyers are. They put these things up in buildings like Parlin, Garrison, and Batts—strongholds of literature, history and foreign languages. They’re purposefully nebulous about what exactly one would do at Disney because they know that they’re going to stick you in some crappy job that you’ll hate—but they couch all their initial information in oblique rhetoric about valuable “experience.”
Everyone knows that people from the liberal arts don’t get jobs that are cut and dried for us before we get there like engineers and financiers do. It’s expected that the jobs we apply for will probably be completely unrelated to our field of college study, and often, it’s a good bet that our first jobs out of college will be pretty menial. But does Disney really have to rub our faces in it? It really feels like they’re saying, “Hey liberal arts major! Come work for us and gain valuable experience in your future field—unskilled labor!”
Maybe I’m overreacting—Disney could just be playing the role that they’ve had for millions of children for decades: the gentle tutor of obvious truths. In that case, it might behoove me to take a closer look at one of those flyers the next time I’m in Garrison. I’m going to do everything I can to get a real job after college, but during the off-hours I think I’ll practice singing “It’s a Small World” and flipping burgers. You never know.