One of the top news stories of the day includes the proclamation that male ‘cast members’ at the Disney properties in Florida and California will be allowed to wear beards beginning the first week of February.
Now, before I get into my intended direction of this blog entry, I am going to step aside one moment to share my initial thought when seeing this story all over the media today. The fact that a few thousand men are allowed to grow facial hair while employed by an entertainment company makes the top headlines across our country is sad. There are many, many, many more important things going on in our country today, and a few whiskers is not really one of them. That being said, here I am writing about this topic on my blog, though I’m not really a news outlet more than a literary fart, so I guess that’s what my blog is about.
I’m not shy of the fact that I like facial hair. I have always liked looking at guys with beards and mustaches and since it naturally grows there, one would assume that it’s suppose to be there. Removal of the beard is contrary to nature, and while I find the act of shaving to be very fascinating (despite my attraction to beards and mustaches), it goes without saying that society as a whole sees a clean-shaven man as a more clean-cut man. It’s a stereotype that is not really that true but the stereotype is still there.
Back in the beginning of the ’00s, Disney started allowing men to wear mustaches. Prior to that, male employees had been required to be clean shaven since 1955. Walt Disney wanted to distance Disneyland, and later, Walt Disney World, away from the carnivals of the day, where scruffy looking men acted in shady ways. He wanted to show his parks were different, and the male grooming standards were part of that. Hence, the clean shaven rule in ’55. The mustache allowance at the beginning of the 21st century made sense in a way, since Walt himself had a mustache for the majority of his adult life. A man with a mustache can still look clean-cut in his Disney cast member uniform or costume, especially when the ‘stache is groomed to Disney’s dress code standards. (Hipsters are out as waxed handlebars aren’t allowed).
One of the beauties of visiting a Disney property is that it’s an escape. When you pass through the gates of WDW and the road signs go from green to purple-with-mouse-ears, you’ve left the real world behind and you’re about to enter a magical place where the colors all match and are even brighter, there’s music in the air everywhere you go and everyone has a smile on their face and not a care in the world. The magical land of Disney has clean cut folks doing their clean cut thing in their own little world. They’re there to help you lose yourself in their carefully constructed fantasy and accept it as your reality for as long as your wallet can support it. And in that clean cut fantasy in their clean cut world, bearded men are the villains in a cartoon plot. It could be that I’m just hypersensitive to beards because of my attraction to them, but a bearded cast member will be a stark reminder that you are in a temporary (and rather expensive) fantasy that is being painted as reality. It screams “none of this is real!!” Unfortunately, this will bring in all sorts of questions to mind; Does Snow White smoke? Is Mary Poppins really bitchy? Is Mickey REALLY smiling for the photo? You mean there’s a human head holding up the Mickey head? Is this bearded man strapping me into the Tower of Terror a good guy or a bad guy? Am I going to lose my lunch?
Having been to WDW on several occasions (thanks, sweetheart!), I like to say that I become a kid again when we’re there. I’m more outgoing, I’m a little more carefree and quite frankly I don’t give a flip as to what people think about me. It’s the fantasy atmosphere that fuels that letting go. During our last visit I noticed a few chinks in the Disney fantasy façade; the film for “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” is VERY dated, the new cash registers all over the place don’t quite fit where the old ones used to sit, creating weird holes and messy looking displays where the old customer readouts used to be and the burgers seems to be getting smaller while the tab seems to be getting bigger. (Thank god they updated the ‘O Canada!’ film on the back part of Epcot). I see the allowance of beards on men as another chink in the fantasy. The presence of facial hair says it’s just a job for the folks that used to be clean cut fantasy characters. And this makes me a little sad. It just doesn’t feel very ‘Disney’.
If I want to check out beards at Disney, I’ll check out the tourists (and probably sneak a few pictures). I don’t need to be brought back to reality when I’m trying to enjoy my little escape vacation.
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