Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Belated Tribute to People of the Park

People of the Park was a short-lived web site in which users posted unflattering pictures of Disney theme park guests. It was inspired by the popular People of Walmart site, which features photographs of fashionably-challenged and downright ugly customers, or "creatures," as the site's authors affectionately call them.

Links to People of the Park eventually made their way to Disney theme park fan forums. These forums were divided, with some users laughing off the site and others announcing their indignation. Other forums forbid discussion of the web site altogether. The rapidly rising popularity of the new site prompted a flood of outraged Disneyland fans to rush the site in order to register their hypocrisy for all the world to see. Here is a typical comment.
Obviously you are trying to copy Butttttt you just aren't funny, or clevor, and like people have said in your past posts, you are taking pictures of children which isn't cool. YAY lets make fun of KIDS!! NOT. Anyways, NICE TRY YA JERK
You see, People of Walmart (which does feature the ocassional child and is itself inspired by similar web sites) is, of course, funny. Obsessed Disneyland fans don't identify with Walmart shoppers, so naturally it's okay. People of the Park, however, hits a little too close to home to be funny. It shatters egos. It causes one to pause and think, "What if people are laughing at... me?" The reality is that if you are a human being, you have been judged, criticized and ridiculed at one point or another in your life, whether it was out in the open or behind your back. In fact, a useful skill to develop is the ability to take criticism in a productive or positive way. The ability to laugh at yourself, too, is valuable.

However, many of those who seek Internet enclaves such as Disneyland fan forums don't want to live in the real world. In the enclave, your massive obesity problem will never be mentioned, even though it may take decades off your life. The enclave accepts those who enjoy dressing as their favorite Disney princesses, despite the fact that it's not Halloween, and you're 45 years old. Those not necessarily seeking an enclave and possess a sense of humor must walk on eggshells to preserve peace. Acceptance is great, but speak one wrong word to the wrong person and you may cause a rift in the enclave that can never be undone, a condition known as "taking the Internet a little too seriously."

Some of the outrage directed at People of the Park is fueled by a misunderstanding over how photography in public actually works.
I can and DO laugh at myself all the time, in private or with my family/friends,co-workers. That doesn't give some stranger with $10 for a camera the right to take my photo without my permission for ALL the world to see.
In actuality, everybody, including this misinformed person, has the right to take pictures of other people without their permission in a public place as long as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Imagine you are in a drug store and decide to take pictures of people. Any pictures you take of people doing the very public things that people do in a drug store are nice and legal. There is generally no reasonable expectation of privacy here. However, you probably don't want to snap a photo of some lady's prescription, especially if she's in the corner and trying to shield it with her hand. In this case, she has a reasonable expectation of privacy and is taking steps to maintain that privacy. You'll be found in the wrong here.

Disney certainly has a right to limit photography in their parks, but any pictures you take before they ask you to leave are yours. As long as you leave, you're not breaking the law and they don't have the right to delete your photos, try as they might. The laws that govern photography protect freedom of expression, and yes, allow people to take pictures of fat people on scooters and post them on the Internet. That's why America is the great nation that it is.

The morality of this kind of photography is where we are divided. First, karma doesn't exist and if it were real, it works the opposite way that you think it does. Second, what is so threatening about taking someone's picture and posting it on the Internet? Poking fun at somebody doesn't necessarily mean you hate them and it certainly doesn't doesn't mean that the person doing the poking believes there is nothing about them that could be subjected to ridicule. Remember, the site isn't coming into your home and telling you that you look like a putz. That would be harassment.

Pictures of myself are floating around on the Internet, some that are posted with my permission and some without. One could make fun of my yellow teeth, my sausage fingers or whatever stupid thing I happen to be doing. 

But the worst element of the backlash to People of the Park is the sheer hypocrisy of the outraged. If you've ever been to a Disneyland meet, you'd know that the cattiest, bitchiest, most judgmental people in the world are Disneyland fans, and that's okay. What isn't okay is expecting others not to make fun of you when you clearly enjoy the type of humor you profess to hate, whether it's People of Walmart, mean-spirited late night talk show monologues, gossip rags (apparently, when the subject is a celebrity it's no-holds-barred) or simply talking behind another person's back.

My favorite response that came out of my very important research into People of the Park was this one, which really says it all.
Most of those were just awful and mean. Like making fun of the little girl for what she was wearing or the matching families. Isn't WDW supposed to be the place we can go and act/dress silly without anybody caring? And shouldn't people be enjoying their vacation instead of taking pictures of the way other people are dressed?

A lot of those were probably from another country.
Because funny looking = foreigner, right? Come on, let's get over ourselves. Sometimes a funny picture is just a funny picture and it's nothing to get all bent out of shape over. 

Like man, dig it.

And if all else fails, consult this helpful flowchart.


bassbone said...

This is an interesting read, given an older post in which you excoriate a MiceChatter for doing just what you praise in this post. Um... What?

Spokker said...

The difference is that the MiceChat had no problem criticizing that family for bringing food into the park, yet would flip out if their own kind were goofed on.

Sites like MiceChat were aghast that People in the Park even existed (I doubt they would allow you to mention it on their boards), yet some of their members had no problem calling out the "riff-raff" themselves.