Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Sorry, but big corporate Disney really did give us fairytale memories

Childhood icon: Buzz Lightyear is a big hit with youngsters
Childhood icon: Buzz Lightyear is a big hit with youngsters

I went to Disneyland Paris yesterday. I felt the emptiness of its premise before I arrived. After years of having infants tug at my sleeves squealing "Look mummy, children under seven go free!" in response to the TV adverts placed throughout popular kids' TV shows featuring young people with dancing eyes perched on the peak of a joy so sublime it seems almost preternatural, to say I was reluctant to become a financial contributor to the Disney Corporation is understating it.

How vulgar, to goad tiny innocents with the promise of bringing to life a fairytale fantasy – one primarily shaped by your own hand – and charging their parents hundreds of pounds to fulfil it. How mercenary, to use the vocabulary of romance and magic, hitching a ride on a pink cloud of unsullied purity, to make mums and dads who struggle to pay for a trip to the cinema feel like cold-blooded killjoys for repeatedly saying no.

Sure, the movies are great, sometimes (especially now that Disney had bought Pixar) exceptional, but that almost makes it worse – that there are no qualms about tarnishing the brilliance of Bambi, Peter Pan, Frozen, Wall-E or Toy Story by hijacking their appeal for such starkly monetary ends.

But still, after years of putting it off, I finally capitulated.

Dear reader, I loved it.

I saw my daughter almost burst into tears at the sight of the vast sugar-candy palace which shimmered in the centre of our horizon as we walked through the golden gates. I felt my arm being yanked from its socket by a wee boy unable to contain his excitement at being told he could shoot lasers from a moving spaceship under the tutelage of Buzz Lightyear. It was immediately clear that Disney could make memories for my family that we would hold on to for the rest of our lives. All for the snitch of just £200.

Recent research has suggested that, within normal context, the human brain tends to hang on to positive memories more strongly than negative ones. Since I watched Alzheimer's steal my granny's identity with all the ceremony of a lion nabbing a baby antelope, I've given a lot of thought to how much memory makes us who we are. And this research strikes me as very good news.

My pondering has probably been intensified by close access (via my sister) to years of academic investigation into how much popular culture mutates childhood memory. How it emphasises some events (usually those shared through TV, games and music), reimagines others, and entirely invents a few more. The question which seems to me most important is, if we have happy memories of childhood which make us feel close as a family, does it matter if they're fake?

I've always been one for recording; for taking photographs, making little films, writing down things that make me laugh or that I can't bear the thought of losing to time. There are times when my kids do or say something so disarmingly lovely that my first response is panic that I won't be able to summon its memory one day. So I make notes.

Even more urgent is the instinct to make a memory bank out of their childhood so gladdening and comforting it will serve as a permanent basis for a secure adulthood, a bonded family, and, of course, an idealised version of their wonderful mother who – look at this photo, see how tightly she clings me to her chest in the famous Ballymena tornado of 2013! – never let them down.

So thank you Disney, you big old grabby corporation, you; you done good.

Phone firms fail to ring real changes

One illuminating thing I've discovered since going away is that, despite EU reforms signed to give customers a better deal abroad, the mobile phone companies are still the brutal screw-tightening masters of exploitation they always were.

My own company still offers me internet access via a pre-paid 'booster' – expensive but as my masters regularly post, what price peace of mind? Now though, these boosters run out after 24 hours whether you've used up your allowance or not. Why?

The only reason I can find is that this way you need to buy more of them, while simultaneously losing out on the service you just bought the day before. Cheers.

Could you really do better than George?

A made-up piece of toss in the Daily Mail is as remarkable as a dandelion in an untended lawn, and thus usually goes un-noted.

This week however, fuss met an especially unpleasant tale with an obvious flaw, a story regarding a religious mother supposedly running around disapprovingly telling "half of Beirut" that her daughter was engaged to a high profile chap who wasn't up to scratch.

The man named questioned the article and quickly got a retraction.

But really – if you're trying to invent a believable angry mum who insists her daughter "could do better", don't make the groom-to-be George Clooney. There's no better than George.

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