A viral TikTok video posted by Rachael Kevin (@shesbrewing) shows the Kardashian family enjoying an otherwise empty ride at the Mad Tea Cup attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim as other guests waited 30 minutes for their turn. It turns out that Disneyland shut down the ride for everyone but the Kardashians, who paid $2,975 for a VIP tour of the park and priority access to rides to celebrate the fourth birthday of Khloe Kardashian’s daughter, True.
While the Kardashians deserve their fair share of the blame, Disneyland has a bigger responsibility to serve its customers — who understandably may feel cheated out of their money after the company closed their rides. Unfortunately, this incident is not isolated, but part of a pattern in which Disney pursues profit while disregarding ethics.
Although the Kardashians’ desire for privacy and protection from the public is valid, there is something maddeningly ironic in making the poorer public wait for well-off celebrities. Why should those with lesser means serve those who are obscenely rich? In a perfect world, the rich would use their wealth to help the poor instead of giving themselves an advantage over the common people. The Kardashians could have easily simultaneously protected themselves and ridden alongside others had they brought along a security guard, as rapper Cardi B did.
Ultimately, despite their role as influencers, the Kardashians do not have the same duty toward the public as Disneyland does because, in giving the theme park money out of their own pockets, the public is entitled to its services. In closing rides that the public paid for and rightfully expected to enjoy without disturbances, much of the blame rests on Disney’s shoulders.
While charging nearly $3,000 seems like a good business decision, it is ethically wrong. That much money should entitle someone to extra benefits, like hotel rooms near Disneyland. However, it should not disrupt the experience of someone who specifically paid money for the same ride, and accordingly, was promised its availability. Both the customer who paid $3,000 and the customer who paid $200 deserve access to the Mad Tea Cup.
This is one of Disneyland’s more minor slip-ups. Interestingly, the “Happiest Place on Earth” has a history of not-so-happy incidents, many of which are documented in David Koenig’s book “Mouse Tales.” Whether it’s “a case on for 10 years if they have to,” cutting wages of workers in 1984 or “tirelessly work[ing] to uphold the [squeaky clean, All American, fun for the whole family] image since 1955,” Disneyland has done much to suggest that it cares more about the money than the people who help generate it.
In the most shocking example Koenig provides, 28-year-old James O’Driscoll stabbed 18-year-old Mel Yorba for harassing his girlfriend in 1981. A park nurse then rushed Yorba in a Disneyland First Aid van due to, according to Koenig, an unwritten policy prohibiting the calling of an ambulance “on stage,” because it “might detract from other guests’ enjoyment of the park.” However, the incident resulted in Yorba’s death because the van contained no lifesaving equipment, and the nurse drove to the closest hospital, even though multiple medical facilities trained in handling these types of emergencies were a mile farther.
Disneyland evidently did not care for either Yorba or the “enjoyment” of their guests. They were afraid that a gruesome accident on their property would lead to bad publicity and “shatter their image,” as Yorba’s mother put it. Evidently, their concern lay in how the incident would affect their profits rather than the life of a young man.
The park is still associated with controversy today, with the most recent one taking place in April of this year. The integrity of “The Tenaya Stone Spa” in Disneyland’s California Resort was questioned in a report suggesting that the rocks used are sacred to Indigenous people. Not only does Disneyland completely disrespect Indigenous spirituality, but it also insults the intelligence of its guests, who may be Indigenous, by tricking them into believing that the rocks have been ethically sourced. Disneyland clearly cares more about the profit that the stolen rocks provide than morals or the guests themselves; to them, guests are cash cows.
The solution is not to boycott Disney. Understandably, for many families, the park is a dream destination. However, the company should face more pushback in the form of protests or activism against Disney’s ultra-capitalistic disregard for ethics — both online and in real life. Until the park attains ethics and morals, its guests’ frustration will not stop.
Mariam Jawhar is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.