Sunday, June 28, 2009

Consuming the Mouse: Cultural Bonds Across Generations

[For some reason my last post, the greeting to the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree, did not get posted as scheduled. I apologize.]

For the past four days, I have been at Walt Disney World with my younger daughter and her best friend. My daughter had a rocky start to the trip, and her friend and I concluded that it was because she had not Consumed the Mouse as we already had -- she had not breakfasted on Mickey Waffles, thick (and quite tasty, really) waffles in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head. By this ritual, we take into ourselves the virtues of Mickey Mouse -- his optimism and his belief in himself and in others. And then we sally forth to Consume the Mouse in the economic sense. She (and we) Consumed the Mouse the next morning, and things smoothed out for her.

But what does this have to do with genealogy? It has to do with shared culture and the passing down of that culture. My mother and father, and my husband's mother and father, all must have watched Mickey Mouse cartoons in movie houses from the late 1920s onward. They were familiar with Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. I grew up watching the Mickey Mouse Club and all the other Disney productions -- Davy Crockett, the Disney series of nature films (much of which were staged, I have come to find out), Zorro (of which I just ordered the first season on DVD from Remember Spin and Marty? In 1962, not 10 years after it had been built, I went to Disneyland with relatives whom I was visiting.

Our daughters have also been raised on Disney. We live in Florida, and in the early 1970s, not long after it was built, we took them to Walt Disney World. And we have been back with them many times since. Our younger daughter became very fond of Figment, the dragon-like character of imagination. Now we have a grandson, who will be the fourth generation of the family growing up with knowledge of Mickey Mouse and all the rest. He has seen Cars, and enjoyed it. He watched Finding Nemo the other day, and went into the computer room and said to his mother, "Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine" in imitation of the sea gulls in that film. The whole family -- mommy, daddy, grandma, grandpa, and auntie -- will be taking him to Disney World for his fifth birthday this year.

There are other cultural traditions that families pass on. There are foods, though it is becoming easier to add to one's own cultural tradition in this area with the many different ethnic and national foods available in grocery stores and specialty shops. There is music, though cultural lines in music have been blurring for the past few decades, creating new sounds. There are other cultural bonds which have been passed down through generations, and there are new ones being forged, as well. Popular media give us cultural symbols and icons, from Star Trek to World of Warcraft to the X-Men. In fact, sometimes it seems as though we may suffer from cultural overload.

As communication becomes even more sophisticated and makes the world ever smaller, cultural lines may blur. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is for sure that it will be a different thing. And families will adapt, and will adopt that which they enjoy and in which they may find meaning.

And they will pass that on to their children, forming the context in which they live and move, a context their descendants will need to understand in order to understand their ancestors.

1 comment:

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

You're going to enjoy the Festival of Postcards July issue because we're linking to a post by a retired Disney artist whose work has appeared on postcards.
Evelyn in Montreal