‘Snoap,’ Standoffs, and Suckers

Celebration, Florida: Taking the ‘people’ out of people.

Original story: The Daily Mail

Leaving malnourished Juggalos and their world of fetal alcohol syndrome behind, let’s turn to a fresh heap of cabbage seeking togetherness, understanding, and fistful of soma.

“Celebrationists,” or residents of Celebration, Florida, are an tedious mix of ‘Merican and British dupes who purchased their homes back when openly inflated values corresponded with an equally inflated sense of entitlement to the American Dream.  And just not any old dream (play Find-the-Diversity with the town’s December 2010 newsletter if you don’t believe me), but a cozy, white, suburban 50’s dream in which a Disney-designed town just couldn’t yield to the normal rules or general ills of society: no ordinary human frustrations, crime, loneliness, panic, jealousy, or even a need for uniqueness here!  At least it was so in the beginning, when folks were hired to walk dogs around the town and autumn leaves were imported to simulate fall foliage, when Celebration was marketed as ”a place that takes you back to that time of innocence.”

More than 16 years later, there’s still fake snow (that’d be “snoap”) at Christmas, but it seems you really can’t go home again. For a number of Celebration residents that’s literally true: The number of houses in foreclosure now equals the number available on opening day (around 500). And while town leaders may have anticipated issues of logistics and environment, they probably didn’t expect to wage campaigns against rumors – from tales of audio-animatronic nature (think chirping birds in the middle of a downpour) to a nuclear reactor hidden below the post office (probably because Disney presumably does have the right to build one on their Florida property).

Disney money may have built Celebration to resemble a small town that would propagate old timey virtues in a manner that the company saw fit, much like Henry Ford’s ill-fated experiment in the Amazonian jungle back in the early 1900s.  And commercial, educational, shopping, and community facilities may have developed as flawlessly as planned – had the town truly been able to keep out murder, graffiti, armed standoffs, and suicide.  But alas, “Celebration Separation” has set in, and idyllic evenings enjoying neighborly lemonade behind uniformly white window shades have degenerated into wife swapping, alcoholism, and boredom. Must be the “new” people moving into the neighborhood.

In 2004 Disney sold the town to unknown buyers who pledged to uphold the thick book of rules and ideals, though there’s some fun speculation out there that it was actually sold to Saudi royalty. Yes, friends: welcome to King Abdullah’s USA Town! (It’s only missing “Gunslinger” from 1973’s Westworld, the Terminator-esque humanoid played by Yul Brynner that malfunctions to deadly results in a futuristic, adults-only resort. Oh wait –  maybe in Florida after all, walking a dog.).  But no matter who owns Celebration, Dumbo is still the elephant in every room in town, and they’ll never shake off that much Mickey.

In an artificial, hyper-American town where most businesses are positioned to capitalize on tourist overflow from Disney World, where houses are designed with porches and low fences, so that one can observe one’s neighbors, where the dead plants on those porches are subject to citation, and where residents are encouraged to wait patiently in their vehicles should a tourist golf-cart stop in the middle of traffic for a photo, you’d think you’d find discerning, compliant, willing residents, right?  Wrong: You’ll find a bunch of suckers.  And lately none too obedient.

But like the Juggalos, most Celebration residents still insist that their existence is neighborly, agreeable, and united. Among other party lines, Celebrationists praise the fact that their patrio-topia is safe and comfortable (as long as no more than four non-residents visit at once without approval), and that the “people who live there have the same ideals and goals” as they do. One subculture is poor, high, fat, and illiterate.  The other is affluent, presumably not huffing spray-paint, and yet still delusional enough to believe that their town is a neo-traditional amusement park that can remain impervious to both recession and, well, outsiders.

Neither group seems to think for themselves.  And both of ‘em seem just fine with that.