CALGARY, MAY 29, 2016 — The Disney slogans say it all. It’s the “happiest place on earth”. A place “where dreams come true”. And WaltDisneyConfessions@Tumblr is providing a space for Disney fans to, according to the site, “confess their innermost Disney thoughts…and connect over shared experiences or feelings they may have had through Disney. Who knows, someone may be keeping the same dark secret as you.”
Tasha Ausman and Linda Radford of the University of Ottawa are looking at Tumblr and Disney to see what the “confessions” reveal about desire and identity. They have reviewed over 100 posts and will be presenting their study at the 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Calgary.
“There’s a real need for people to articulate their desires and fantasies without revealing themselves,” say Tasha Ausman. “There is a need to validate themselves and to find out who they are. They can do it through this Tumblr space.”
Tumblr allows for anonymity. It’s a space where people can express themselves, but without revealing who they are. Disney, a $40 billion industry, sees itself as a feel-good media. But it also has an impact on how people see themselves – creating would-be Princesses and Prince Charmings.
“This has an impact on how people live their lives,” said Radford. “We end up measuring our lives and our relationships against what is seen in Disney.” According to Ausman and Radford, the Disney confessions site exemplifies the cultural myths that “one, there is a happy ending to arrive at and two, a confession is cathartic and redemptive.”
Here are a few samples of posts on the Walt Disney Confession site:
“Whenever my anxiety feels like too much to handle, I just pause and tell myself to pretend I’m a Disney Princess. Every one of them, from Snow White to Elsa and Anna and everyone in between, had some sort of trail or major dilemma to get through, and they all survived and got a happy ending.” – Text appearing with an image of Snow White
“I always wanted to be a face character at a Disneyland and I know that I would be perfect for it if only I didn’t have a big Italian nose.”—Text appearing over a photo of a Disney employee dressed as a princess.
The blog owner is also the gatekeeper of the confessions, choosing which confessions get posted. “The lineup to get your confession posted is almost as long as the lines at Disneyland to get on a ride,” said Ausman. “Getting a confession posted is another form of validation.”
The popularity of the site speaks to the need for people to experiment with their identities and, through the confessions, reveal their desires.
But as Ausman and Radford note, Disney deals in stereotypes. And the followers of Walt Disney Confessions get “caught between their real, sometimes troubled realities” and “the fantasyland of the blog…waiting to be heard and for their identities to take public shape.”
Tasha Ausman and Linda Radford will be presenting this research on May 30 at the 2016 Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Calgary. This presentation is called “waltdisneyconfessions@tumblr: Narrative, Subjectivity, and Reading Online Spaces of Confession” and will take place on the University of Calgary campus.
About the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Congress is the largest interdisciplinary conference in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. Now in its 85th year, Congress brings together approximately 70 academic associations that represent a rich spectrum of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, including literature, history, theatre, film studies, education, music, sociology, geography, social work and many others. Congress 2016 is hosted by the University of Calgary. For more information, visit www.congress2016.ca.
About the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences promotes research and teaching for the advancement of an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. With a membership now comprising over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations, the Federation represents a diverse community of 91,000 researchers and graduate students across Canada. The Federation organizes Canada’s largest academic gathering, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, bringing together more than 8,000 participants each year. For more information about the Federation, visit ideas-idees.ca.