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Customer Review

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars its decent reading, but uncaptivating, March 14, 2001
This review is from: Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience (Paperback)
Susan G. Davis's Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience examines Sea World from "economic, local historical, spatial, and experimental perspectives, as well as the point of view of its management and at least some of its customers. Her thesis encompasses the representation of nature and the environment by private corporations; Davis states that Sea World represents new private institutional uses for nature mainly as a product for mass consumption. Davis's primary objective is to discover a connection between public meanings, mass entertainment, and private enterprise as she tries to "understand the theme park form and its appeal to its customers, as well as critical questions about Sea World's cultural meanings and effects." Spectacular Nature makes one think more critically about their theme park experiences, specifically the place of the amusement park in society and American culture. It does this by proposing a question of intent: Is the theme park strictly here as a business enterprise with the purpose of making profit, or does it seek to be an environmental activist and educational philanthropist. Davis argues that Sea World is a combination of all three worlds; "it styles itself an urban public resource, a site of animal rehabilitation, marine conservation, research, and education." She argues that large corporations are responsible for shaping our culture by producing the locales of America's families. It is a bit disappointing when Davis reaffirms the fact that American culture is based on commercial centers funded by big corporations. One would think that there is more to our great hegemonic nation besides theme parks, movie theatres surrounded by an extremely commercial environment, shopping malls, and minors singing awful pop music. In Orange County, Davis notes that Disney has a tremendous influence and is planning on building a themed community to help demonstrate the redefining of social space. Not only are theme parks culturally relevant in our society, but also Sea World and other parks like it are replacing forest trails and lakesides as means of appreciating nature. Apparently some people believe that going to an environment with confined animals affirms their identity as caring, sensitive, and educated individuals that is possibly reinforced by the Sea World announcer saying "you show you care just by being here." She makes the point that nature has become an object for consumption and empathy. Unlike most money grubbing theme parks, Davis clarifies that Sea World at least offers educational programs to poor and unfortunate children. Although a field trip to Sea World isn't as educational as a trip to the tide pools, it provides excellent hands on experience for the hundreds of thousands of students from first grade to college. Davis states that the educational enrichment experience is slightly tainted by the Kodak moment with the children feeding and petting all the various wildlife. She also explains that despite all the parks educational efforts its first priority is to provide its parent corporation, Anheiser-Busch with a "fair rate of return." Another issue raised in Spectacular Nature is the matter of animal captivity. Of course animal rights activists want the animals in the wild ocean where they can swim freely without the constraints of their swimming pools. They also think that performing tricks and wearing props is demeaning towards the animals. Sea World has changed the whale acts and eliminated the props to make them seem more natural. Sea World wishes everyone to know that their animal performers are happy and cheerful, and if they weren't, there would not be a show. Shamu is Sea World's representative and Davis explains that the killer whale serves as a "mediator for the audience, Anheiser-Busch, and the larger corporate world. One of the most troubling factors of Spectacular Nature is that opens your eyes to the dominance of corporate America in shaping our lives and culture. There is no getting away from it because major corporations such as Proctor & Gamble and Anheiser-Busch distribute almost everything we consume. Even when we want to get away from suburbia and indulge in nature's majesty we either have to drive for hours or go to a zoo. I live in Orange County and I'm not pleased with Disney's continuous expansion because I fear one day my community will be a corporate stretch of neighborhoods. Davis doesn't intend to make us despise corporations she makes us more aware of their force in our culture.
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