Koehler Guest Blog: Disneyland Series
To all who come to this blog series on archetypes at Disneyland, welcome. This series is your series. Here Dr. Koehler offers insights into the presence of Dr. Pearson’s 12 archetypes at the Disneyland Resort, and here you will encounter new ways of thinking about those archetypes across the fan experience. This blog series is dedicated to the dreamers, the doers, and the lovers in The Walt Disney Company across time, with the hope that it will inspire new ways of engaging with the mythic mouse in the future. Thank you.
Dori S. Koehler, PhD
Disneyland has fascinated me since my first visit in 1979. I was two. My earliest memories are touching Pooh Bear’s paws from the safety of my father’s shoulders and being terrified of the thunder clap of the Tiki Gods. In part, my love of Disney drew me to study mythology.
When I chose my dissertation topic, I was torn. I knew I wanted to delve into pop culture analysis, but I wasn’t sure which way to go. I just didn’t see anyone in my academic field broadly researching popular culture or Disney in particular. As I began the process in 2009, it was challenging to find faculty willing to chair a dissertation on Disneyland. Thank the maker for visionary adjuncts! Regardless, like so many dreamers before me, I decided to go for it. I have now been researching Disney and archetypal theory for over a decade. The more I write, the more I realize how rich the topic truly is.
There are Disney specialists in every field, from the academy, to business, to theology, to art. Everyone contends with Disney. As Bethany Beemis notes in the introduction to her book Disney Theme Parks and America’s National Narrative: Mirror, Mirror, for Us All, “Disney theme parks are some of the foremost places where the nation consumes its collective memory of the American Experience, where they see many of the stories and cultural myths that make up the American national narrative” [i] It’s tough to deny that Disney is deeply ingrained in American identity.
When Dr. Carol S.Pearson asked me to write a blog series on Disney, I thought long and hard about which direction to take the discussion. The possibilities are legion, even within the field of archetypal theory and analysis of popular culture. I argue that these stories are filtered through the lens of Disney’s unique position in Hollywood, and that makes Disney thoroughly Californian in its culture of origin. Ultimately, I decided to go back to my roots as a researcher, because Disneyland is my place. This is a huge part of my personal cultural tradition, as a third generation Californian. I am rooted in the place that birthed a mythos that grew to be one of the most powerful media companies in the world. Disney’s myths are deeply Californian, and as such, they are my myths. And Disneyland as a place, well, it's reflective of my own sense of what it means to be American, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So, I return to the place itself, to ask questions, to give some insights on why I think people still visit The Disneyland Resort, The Happiest Place On Earth, and to present examples of how fans continue to express the archetypal power present there, both shadow and light. This blog series interprets my insights about The Disneyland Resort through the lens of Dr. Pearson’s 12-Archetype System. The next 12 blogs reflect my newest thoughts about how we might consider each of these archetypes in play (pun intended) at the park, particularly, but not limited to, the fan experience of them. Because ultimately, like any other mythic practice, it’s people that keep Disney’s myths alive. I hope you enjoy these insights, and please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts you might have. I’d love to talk with you more about this topic.
Dori Koehler, Ph.D. is a cultural mythologist and scholar of American popular culture. She is a professor of Humanities and Popular Culture at Southern New Hampshire University. Her book The Mouse and the Myth: Sacred Art and Secular Ritual at Disneyland is available on Amazon. Her latest chapter on DisneyBounding and Cosplay as sacred practice is published through Intellect in Interpreting and Experiencing Disney: Mediating the Mouse edited by fellow Disney Studies scholar, Dr. Priscilla Hobbs. Her forthcoming chapter focuses on Disneyland live streamers and the conscious creation of community through theatrical practice. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband Bruce and their cocker spaniel Sorcha.
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