Knott's Berry Farm's "old west" more political than historical, author says

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

From the article:

While Ghost Town is arguably the first of its kind, since 1940 Old West theme parks have proliferated around the United States and the world. They’re more than just destinations for pleasure seekers. Like Hollywood Westerns and dime novels, these theme parks propagate a particular myth of “the West.”

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sfmmlovernomatterwhaty'allsay's avatar

You mean to tell me a *theme park* isn't a historically accurate recreation?!? SHOCK and HORROR!

HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

So did Ric Romero write this?

In other news... water is wet. More at 11.

Raven-Phile's avatar

You mean Main St. USA isn't *REALLY* Marceline, MO from the turn of the century?

I think the author's point is a little more nuanced than that. But its a political piece criticizing Knott's for being political.

In other news, the United Nations totally isn't anything like It's a Small World.

Sarcastic responses are fun but maybe let's look deeper?

First, there is no harm in looking at any form of arts or culture through an intellectual lens, theme parks included. I like these critical reviews because it forces me to consider different perspectives. Never a bad thing. And Knott's will be fine without us rushing to its defense.

In response to the topic, here's where I stand: Recreation and fun are necessary. Remembering history is necessary. When you substitute history for amusement parks, there are bound to be consequences. Put another way I once read, "When you have more clowns than cattle, it's not the rodeo anymore." I think maybe that's what the author is arguing here. I love Knott's but there is a larger context for American society to consider. I don't want Knott's to turn into a history museum. But I do want museums and libraries and classrooms to be just as well funded as appreciated as slapstick cowboy comedy and shoot 'em ups. And most important, for citizens to know and understand the difference.

Jeff's avatar

Yeah, I don't get the sarcasm responses either, because the piece has more to it than that.

Indeed, we've had a lot of discussions lately about history and context in society (and that ain't bad for a community about roller coasters). We do kind of suck at history in the United States, which is nuts considering we don't really have that much in the first place, relative to other nations. I never really thought much about the clash of actual history against the entertainment version of the "old west." This particular topic reminds me a little of some of the non-controversy around Forrest Gump, which was accused of dumbing down history with a conservative bent (I guess because of the representation of 60's counter-culture, but come on, it wasn't kind to the military-industrial complex of the same era). I think that any cursory knowledge about the American frontier includes the understanding that it was a dangerous and risky place to live.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

I don't think her issue with Knott's in terms of history is whether it portrays the West as a dangerous and risky place to live. She is more concerned about reflecting what to her is the proper role of government at the time. Which is why I said its a political piece.

HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

The sarcasm is as warranted as much as Salon wanting to be a credible news source.

All we are reading here is someone's opinion. I'm free to have my opinion, too, correct?

Jeff's avatar

Technically the piece first appeared on The Conversation, which identifies as non-partisan and frankly has some good writing. What about the piece disqualifies Salon as a legitimate news source? This isn't entirely an opinion piece... it's well supported by facts.

Of course you can have an opinion, but if you're willing to put it on the Internet, presumably you're prepared to defend it.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Citing facts doesn't take a piece out of the opinion column (and for this article the political column). Amanda didn't write the article to provide facts about an amusement park. And as a PhD candidate in the UMass history department, she could be a conservative. But I will take the under on that one.

Jeff's avatar

So what?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

I walk into amusement parks to be entertained, not to observe political under/overtones. I simply don't see any relevance to anything in her opinion piece. And for Salon to pick it up and post it shows me its nothing more than click bait.

It's funny to me because it appears the Internet has become a place where everything must be politically slanted, whether intended or not. Yet, out in the real world I don't view things through the political spectrum. When they do become political, I lose interest.

I imagine I'm not the only one like this. Which is why I responded to this article with sarcasm.

OhioStater's avatar

Salon is great.

Salon is good.

Let us thank them for their news.


And to be frank, while one may waltz into a park, hit up a movie theater, or Netflix and chill to escape and not be politically influenced, there is a good chance one is being politically influenced. In fact, I would argue the most insidious forms of political influence happen to those too naive (or simply unsuspecting) to understand that it is happening to them.

What better way to "educate" you than to entertain you at the same time?

As someone who has never been to the park, I thought it was an interesting perspective on the history of the park that most guests know little to nothing about. One thing is for sure, history is something many take for granted, leaving our minds fairly open to material to fill the void.

Last edited by OhioStater,

Theme parks aren't intended to be historical. They are intended to be fantasy worlds.

Raven-Phile's avatar

HeyIsntThatRob? said:

I imagine I'm not the only one like this. Which is why I responded to this article with sarcasm.

You're not. It's why I voted yours up.

I'm incredibly tired of everything becoming politicized, rather than it just being taken or enjoyed at face value.

Vater's avatar

OhioStater said:

In fact, I would argue the most insidious forms of political influence happen to those too naive (or simply unsuspecting) to understand that it is happening to them.

What better way to "educate" you than to entertain you at the same time?

Heh. Yep, Hollywood excels at this.

Carrie J.'s avatar

"Based on a true story..."

But yeah, chocolate and candy don't walk and dance, either, so add Hersheypark to the list of parks that got it wrong. (Sorry, had to throw my sarcasm into the pile.)

But more seriously, I don't think it's possible for any depiction not to offer a slant based on perception. As a group of people may discuss current events happening now, we will all likely come away with a slightly different idea about what happened and what it was like. Why would a historical representation be any different. Yes, there are facts. But a park experience isn't based on facts. It's an experience. As such, it's designed to be based on a perception. Expecting more seems unreasonable to me.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Might we go so far as to call it art with the interpretation strictly up to the viewer?

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