It seems to me that a commonsense middle position has since swept the field. Men and women are very different, but neither sex is complete or better without the other. Men are from Mars; women are from Venus, blah blah blah. The trouble begins when the male psyche is taken as normative and the female psyche is looked upon as a deviation from that norm. Enormous injustice has resulted from that. Male and female psyches need to be equally respected, with no trivialization of the one, no idolization of the other. At the end of the day, is there any other goal worth taking seriously?
I see a growing acceptance of this view not only within moderate feminist ranks but also within the general culture. Is it possible we're actually learning? Look below. No one but a madman would run an ad like this today, and I dare say the men would be nearly as quick to roll their eyes as the women.
And if you think about it, the sexism at work here is implied rather than overt. It's subtle, and yet it leaps off of the page for many (most?) modern readers. This points to a transformation in the general culture. I suppose they're out there, but personally I don't know any guys who long for the good old days when "women knew their place," and I'm pretty sure men and women alike find Gaston an obnoxious and ridiculous character. Don't believe it? Just you watch, and I'll prove it.
. No one EATS like Gaston,
. Has bad FEETS like Gaston,
. No one likes to sniff bicycle SEATS like Gaston!
There, see? Gaston is a big jerk. I wrote that new verse myself. That's right, a guy wrote that!
" I can tell " ? What's THAT supposed to mean?
I am not saying sexism is dead and there's nothing left to do; I'm just saying it's time to recognize (and rejoice) that an attitude of respect and equality seems to be emerging more and more as the expected, default position in the public square, and artificial arguments that few people ever really believed are losing their punch. These days, instead of ads like the above you'll see articles about men and women and charts like this one in the same magazines, and the only gripes the editors are likely to get are from people who know there aren't three S's in "privateness."
This lengthy preamble is my preemptive strike against accusations of sexism from bitter diehards who despise the new consensus as insufficiently radical. Stop sucking on that lemon for five minutes and go read this classic Dave Barry column. I think we enter a very healthy stage when we can all laugh at ourselves, even when the topic itself is serious. Who wants to be angry all the time?
Now that the cards are all on the table, and you know where I'm coming from, on with the show.
Gendering the Mansions
I've never been to Phantom Manor in Paris, but I've read about it and seen plenty of photography and video, and I've listened to the soundtracks. It's obvious that PM represents a self-conscious departure from the Haunted Mansion formula used in Anaheim, Orlando, and Tokyo. Based on everything I've seen and heard, I have to say that I don't like PM as much, but I don't have a big problem with it either. So long as the others are still around, PM represents variety, a different take, a change of pace, and on its own terms it seems to succeed well enough.
However, here's my theory as to what really drove them to do something different: The Haunted Mansion is a boy, and Phantom Manor provides the necessary counterbalance. It's all girl.
When I say that the HM has an essentially masculine character, while Phantom Manor is essentially feminine, I have to stress that this has NOTHING to do with appeal. I have to say that because, inevitably, I get a chorus of retorts along the lines of "Well, I'm a guy and I LOVE Phantom Manor," etc. That's irrelevant. That's not what I'm talking about. Girls are interested in guy things, and vice versa, and besides that there's a little man in every woman, a little woman in every man (and they're all scrunched up and very uncomfortable), so appeal isn't the issue.
The Man in Mansion
People unconsciously reflect their outlook on life in anything creative that they do, from important projects to "trivial" ones—like building a haunted house attraction. In fact, I think one of the reasons spookhouses are perennially popular is that in their own goofy way, they are allegories of life, and it's essentially life as seen from a man's point of view, because men build them.
This is the backbone of the "Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion" script. "C'mon, let's keep going" is Mike's mantra all the way through. He takes a dominant leadership role (typical enough for 1969) and poor Karen his girlfriend is a stereotypical female, dragged along by Mike much of the time. They see frightening, threatening, and inexplicable things, and they have to make ad hoc decisions without even knowing if the decisions will make things better or worse. ("Quick, in this doorway!" "Hold the candles; I'll try to open one of these windows." "Come on! It's the only way." "Come on! Stay close.") Mike understands the situation instinctively. You do the best you can. You act. You'll only make it through if you manage to control your fear and keep going.
The spookhouse ordeal is very simple: (1) go in, (2) pass through a series of dangerous and frightening scenes without wetting your pants, (3) go out. Congratulations, you did it. Running that gauntlet is a rite of passage for boys. Admittedly, it's a rite of passage for many girls too, since it's a ticket to "older kid" status rather than "manhood" per se; nevertheless, no girl regards getting up the nerve to go on Zombie Castle as the next step toward becoming a real woman.
If all of this is true, it should not be surprising to learn that the spookhouse has been something of a testosterone spill from the start. To begin with, it's a mechanical construction, a great big jerkety-bang electric train set.
you pass through = masculine view of reality.
It should be painfully obvious that Phantom Manor is just a Female Gothic novel turned into a ride. It has all the ingredients. Imagineers say they picked the name "Phantom Manor" because it's not too different in French and English, and I believe them. That just makes coincidences like this that much more revealing:
Wonderful Worlds of Color
I'd like to take a quick look at an argument that some may find weak and subjective. Be that as it may, I think gendering is apparent even in the graphic artwork for the two rides. Look at the uses of color. The Mansions have kept to a remarkably consistent palette of greens and blues over the years, with occasional warm splashes of orange and yellow. Your mileage may vary, but it feels masculine to me. Boy's room colors.
petticoats whispers through this artwork. And *sniff* do I detect a trace of perfume?
Okay, so the HM is blue and PM is pink. Are there any significant conclusions to be drawn from that? With regard to Phantom Manor, no, not many. It's there. It works. It provides a gender balance otherwise missing. There aren't any plans to tamper with the ride. You go, girl.
With regard to the Haunted Mansions, however, the foregoing discussion may explain why many fans resist and resent the importation of "story" into the ride, whether it's Constance and her husbands or the Dread Family. It's not just that it goes against Davis's prescription; it's a lot more visceral than that. There is this inarticulate but nevertheless very real sense that the ride is being emasculated by such alterations. Possibly the foregoing discussion will be helpful for some of you Mansionites who are equally uncomfortable with those changes but haven't quite been able to put your finger on the reason. Is "castration" the word you're searching for?