A Day In a Theme Park

Theme park or amusement park? Have you ever wondered whether there is any difference between the two terms?

Arthur Levine (2019)

I did. So when I started this post, I found Arthur Levine’s article “What is the Difference Between a Theme Park and an Amusement Park?” and learned that I visited a theme park. Rough rule of thumb: if there is a theme, it’s a theme park. Obvious once you know that.

Theme parks show a diverse cross section of society. We can observe all ages, all genders, and most economic classes. And the theme park itself is interesting to observe. An artificial world with beautiful buildings, clean streets, and ever smiling employees in thoughtful costumes. Mostly, at least. The guy working at the river rapids ride had a dull expression on his face and barely spoke. When the park was closing, another one was extensively waving. When we tried to pass him, he gruffly asked if it’s not clear that his waving means: ‘don’t pass.’ No, it’s not. We didn’t even feel addressed by his waving. But apart from these two, everyone supported the impression of a perfect world.

Visitors had a broad variety of expressions on their faces. Excited children. Super cool teenagers on a ‘boring family trip’ who tried to hide their excitement by having annoyed expressions on their faces. Super cool teenagers with super cool teenage friends. Annoyed adults on an ‘obligatory family trip’ who hoped that this day would be over asap. Frightened adults on a ‘for the kids family trip’ who had to accompany their children on frightening rides because that is what good parents do. (Why didn’t we go to the petting zoo?) Excited adults. Technically, this would be us. Or the excited children. But definitely excited. (I checked their job openings. I want to work in a theme park!)

This day in a theme park also provided me with a few more arguments for discussions about my sexual orientation. People (usually men) sometimes ask me why I am into women. (The question is a bit unnecessary, I think—why is your hair brown?—, but I understand the need for explanations.) Negative experiences with men? Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice! But sometimes men prove that my feelings are absolutely right. There was one man who had to sneeze. Okay, that happens. But he didn’t cover his mouth and nose with anything at all. And he literally sprayed the floor. Unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating. But at least he sprayed the floor. A bit later, another man had to burp. Right in our faces. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t even seem to notice that his behavior was … unusual. Both their wives/girlfriends/partners, holding hands, surprisingly remained silent as well. Resignation? To conclude: loving women is not a choice. But, dear men, you regularly prove that my genes, hormones, or whatever is responsible made the right decision for me. Dear women, do you really like this kind of behavior?

Altogether, we enjoyed our day a lot. But I’m not a fan of some of the cultural themes though. An entire section on Africa [sic]. Without differentiation. (For a few facts, I’ll do the forbidden thing now: Wikipedia.) In comparison to the other continents, Africa is second in size (20.4% of the world’s landmass) and population (16.9%) with 62 countries and territories. It’ a very diverse continent, with hundreds of (ethnic) groups. How can a theme park expect to mirror that diversity in one single section? (And, naturally, they wouldn’t do the same for ‘America’ or ‘Europe.’ Way too diverse, huh?)

One might argue: that’s what the average visitors expect. But one could also argue: let’s teach them a bit! The only black and darker colored employees I saw were working in the Africa section. Their name tags revealed their global diversity. And I’m pretty sure that most (probably none) of them didn’t come from Africa to work in the Africa section of a theme park. Dark skin = Africa section? Please, don’t do that! It feels like racism.

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