Satire not too far from truth?

Below is a piece of satire I wrote for a creative writing assignment during my junior year of high school. At the time it was meant to be a movie reference filled spoof of 1984 using corporations instead of countries. Last week though, I had to read this article for my Organizational Behavior class at LSE and I was shocked to find a lot of the things I thought I completely made up without any research are actually pretty close to the truth. Scary.

2040: The Wonderful World of Disney

It was a dark, muggy evening in April, and the clocks were striking twenty two.  Wally Simmons slipped back into his apartment at Finding Nemo Village, but he wasn’t quick enough to prevent some of the suffocating heat from entering his air conditioned dwelling.

Inside, Wally took off his ridiculously oversized Goofy suit and tossed it onto his couch.  In the back of the room, his television was blaring out the Disney Channel, the only channel employees ever got.  Wally sighed before pouring himself a cup of bland, decaffeinated coffee.  Ordinarily, he would have been worrying about getting to sleep so he wouldn’t be late for work, but tonight, he was going to commit treason.  Sleep could wait.

Wally turned the TV all the way down, though no one except the executives could turn it off completely.  It would have to do.  He cuddled next to his reading lamp and opened the pamphlet O’Brien had given him today.  This pamphlet was forbidden material.  If the Mouseketeers found him, he would be dragged into Human Resources and “retrained.”  Wally shuddered, but quickly reassured himself that O’Brien was trustworthy and indeed part of the fabled Independent Film Industry.  He began reading:

Warning: What you are about to read is earth shattering and could potentially end your life.  But it’s the truth.  If you can’t handle the truth, then put this pamphlet down and burn it right away.  If you are willing to accept the information on the next few pages, you must also accept a vow to secrecy for the rest of your life.  Thank you.

Wally had already sworn his secrecy to O’Brien in the break room.  He kept reading:

Dear reader: I am delighted that you have seen the light and wish to join the Independent Film Industry (IFI). My name is Morpheus, and on these next few pages, I will show you the truth behind the deceptive lies of the society in which we live in and free your mind from the enslavement of Mickey Mouse.

Around the turn of the millennium, the world was still divided into numerous nations.  But many of the rulers of these nations were mere puppets of the real power brokers: the corporations.  As the third millennium progressed, these corporations merged, took over, or drove their competitors out of business.  In the mid 2020’s, there were three mega corporations left in the world that owned everything: Microsoft, Starbucks, and of course, Disney.  And by everything, I mean everything.  They purchased every single nation in the world, even Canada.  Today, there is no world anymore, only corporations.

Wally paused.  Nothing really new here.  Every Disney employee knew that corporations had displaced the cumbersome and corrupt bureaucracies of the past that had ruled the world.  Still, he kept reading:

We will now focus our attention on Disney, though all three corporations have analogous, if not identical features described below.  The Walt Disney Corporation was originally founded by a humble man named Walt Disney in the 1920s.  His original goal was to bring happiness to the children of the world and help make their fairy tale dreams come true.  After his death, the management of Disney fell into the hands of a group of greedy and power hungry men.  They shamelessly commercialized Disney into a multimedia empire that included TV stations, theme parks, straight-to-video sequels and tons of merchandise.  Worst of all, they perverted Disney’s most famous creation, Mickey Mouse, into a false, all powerful figure whom they hid behind to justify their own selfish actions.

Wally knew the concept of Mickey Mouse well.  The employee hallways were filled with posters of a mouse wearing white gloves, smiling at the viewer with the words “MICKEY MOUSE IS WATCHING YOU” written underneath it.  But thinking back, Wally never recalled actually seeing Mickey in person.  Sure, there were guys dressed up like Mickey, much like himself, who roamed the theme park.  There were also movies and TV specials about him.  But never had Wally actually seen the real Mickey Mouse.

You may also notice that Disney seems to be in a perpetual marketing campaign against Microsoft and Starbucks.  This again is a tactic used by Disney’s board of directors to solidify their authority.  Yes, there is constantly a marketing campaign against Microsoft and Starbucks, but in fact none of the three companies can ever be completely bankrupt or taken over.  They simply have too many assets and resources to be completely driven out of business.  The object of this conflict is not to win over Microsoft or Starbucks, but to keep the salaries of employees in check.  You see, if Disney used all its profits on a marketing war, they wouldn’t have enough money left to improve the standard of living for its workers.

So that’s why he never got a raise during evaluation time, thought Wally.  It was really getting good now.

Here’s another rhetorical question.  Have you ever seen a Microsoft or Starbucks employee?  Probably not, and that’s what management wants.  They want you to think Microsoft and Starbucks are home to some sort of savage sub-human race.  They are not.  In fact, the three companies are almost inherently identical.  Aside from their monopolistic leadership styles, workers for all three companies wear dull, uninspiring uniforms.  Yes, Starbucks sells coffee, but so does Disney in its restaurants.  Yes, Microsoft makes computers, but Disney publishes computer games based on its movies.  You see, we’re not that different all.  But Mickey Mouse and management want us to believe otherwise.  They deceive us with their propaganda and the invention of their own language:  Toonspeak.  This is the type of language that every Disney employee is taught during training.  Everything is said with a smile, and nothing is impossible.  Disney is where dreams come true.  Please, you’re making me sick.  Not everything ends happily ever after.  Movies like the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are lies.  No teenager ever has a midnight curfew, and kisses do not bring people out of comas, no matter how charming the prince is.  That is why the Independent Film Industry is dedicated to making realistic films with real characters and plausible plot lines.

Again, Wally found himself agreeing with the logic of this argument, and admired the author of this pamphlet for his brilliance.

So, right now you are probably ready to take up arms with the Independent Film Industry in its fight against Disney.  Here’s how you can help.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, will involve cutting work, stealing equipment, plagiarizing, pirating, sabotaging, hacking, and maybe even some swearing.  To complete this mission, you will have a basic filming crew, a director, and a laptop to do special effects.  I hope you remembered everything I just said because this message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.  5…4…3…2…1

All of a sudden, the pamphlet went up in flames and set off the smoke detector of Wally’s apartment.  At that instant, Wally knew he had fallen into a trap.  The fire department would be arriving within minutes.  Along with them would be the Mouseketeers and a full scale search and investigation of his house.  Sooner or later, they would find the diaries he had been keeping for the past few months.  Wally decided the only thing to do was to run and perhaps make it to the outskirts of the park before they found him.  But his hopes were shattered when his landlord knocked down his door and punched him right in the abdomen.  Wally then felt himself handcuffed and knocked unconscious.

When Wally finally regained consciousness, he found himself lying on his back staring into an abyss of pure darkness.  He tried moving his limbs, but there was some kind of restraining device that prevented any movement.  “Am I dead?” he thought to himself.  “How long have I been unconscious?”  For what seemed like hours, Wally laid there in absolute silence.

“Knock knock.”

The sudden voice startled him.  He tried looking for the speaker, but his eyes could not penetrate the blanket of darkness that surrounded him.  “Who’s there?” he said in panic.  He heard laughter.

“Bond, James Bond,” followed by more laughter.  After that died down, the voice started again.  “Wally, what was Piglet doing in the bathroom?”

Wally was slightly surprised at the mention of his name.  “Who are you?”

“He was looking for Pooh!” replied the voice, followed by more laughter.

Wally mustered up some strength and asked again.  “Who are you?  And where did you learn to tell jokes?  They’re horrible.  First of all, that’s not how you tell a knock-knock joke.  You have to say ‘Bond’ and wait for the listener to ask ‘Bond who’ before saying ‘James Bond.’  And that Pooh joke is so elementary.”

“Hmm, the Force is strong with this one.”

“Who are you?” Wally persisted.

“Wally, I am your father.”

“Who?”

“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

“Voldemort?”

“AH!”

“Cut it out!  Where am I?”

“The land of Mordor.”

“Dude!”

“I am darkness.  I am night.  I am Batman!”

“Now this is getting just stupid,” Wally said in disgust.

After a long silence, the voice finally replied, “Okay Wally, you’re right.  No more games.  Pay attention to the man behind the curtain Wally.”  Upon finishing his sentence, a man flipped on a light stepped out from behind a curtain.  Wally recognized the face in horror.

“O’Brien!”

“Yes Wally.  I’m glad you recognize me.  Welcome to my real job Wally.  I don’t work in marketing, but rather in human resources!”

Wally’s heart sunk at the sound of those words.  So O’Brien was on Mickey’s side after all.  He’d fallen into a trap.

“Surprised Wally?  You shouldn’t be.”

“But you!  I trusted you!”

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.  Did you really think you could get away Wally?  You, a loyal employee for all these years must know that Mickey Mouse is all powerful.  There is nothing he or his Mouseketeers can’t see or know.  Did you really think there was an Independent Film Industry?  It was all a legend cooked up by the Mouseketeers to identify dangerous minds like yours.  There is no IFI or Morpheus.  I am Morpheus, I wrote that pamphlet.”

Wally was still stunned with disbelief.  “We have been watching you for a long time Wally, and we don’t like what you’ve been up to.  You’ve broken nearly every rule in the employee manual, and like an idiot, you kept track of it all in a little diary.”

Wally’s spirits sunk again.  So they found it, all the condemning evidence they needed stored neatly in one spiral notebook.

“Let’s take a peek at this diary of yours Wally.  See if you recognize the following passage.  ‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’”

Wally was puzzled.  The words did not ring a bell at all.

“I’m sorry, that was a trick question Wally.  It wasn’t an excerpt from your journal, but rather the opening lines of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Let’s try again.  ‘If there is any hope, it lies in the janitors.’”

This time Wally did recognize the words as his own.  “It’s true O’Brien.  Janitors make up the largest class of employees at Disney.  They clean the offices, the parks, the studios, and the hotels, so they have access to everything.  Yet they work behind the scenes so they haven’t been corrupted by your brainwashing and propaganda.  In fact, most of them are Mexican immigrants and don’t know Toonspeak.  One day, they’ll realize what a sham Mickey Mouse is, and they’ll overthrow him!”

“You’re a fool Wally.  The janitors will never rise up in rebellion.  They have no leader and no power.  For centuries, janitors have been at the bottom and the corporate ladder, and never have they overthrown a company’s leadership.  Plus, Disney is introducing a brand new Spanish language channel featuring show geared towards Latino children.  Soon Wally, every man, woman and child on this planet will speak Toonspeak.”

“No!” Wally shouted.  But O’Brien continued.

“You failed your most recent employee evaluation.  When asked if you could paint with all the colors of the wind, you said no.  When asked to sing the employee theme song, you sang ‘Hardknock Life’ instead of ‘Heigh Ho.’  How can you even call yourself a Disney employee?”

“I don’t,” Wally answered defiantly.

“Now let’s take a look at another entry Wally.  This looks good.  ‘It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?  It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss.’”

Oh no, Wally thought.  They found out about Julia too.

“‘Can you feel the love tonight?’  I hope you mean the love of Mickey Mouse.”

“Sure,” Wally answered sheepishly, but he knew he was done.  Wally had been going out secretly with a woman named Julia, the daughter of a theme park manager.

“We know about your relationship with Julia.  You know from the employee manual that dates with fellow employees are strictly forbidden, unless of course, they’re part of your act.  The Beast, for example, is encouraged to be seen in public with Belle.  But Julia is not Belle and you’re not the Beast.  Imagine how traumatized a young child would be if he or she saw Goofy with another woman.  Anyway, Julia is in another room right now, being retrained just like you.”

“I hate Mickey Mouse and everything that he stands for!” Wally shouted in rage.

“Why do you hate Mickey so much when he loves you dearly?”

“If he really loved his employees, why doesn’t he pay them better wages rather than wasting it all on a pointless war?”

“The war is not pointless Wally.  We are protecting the people of Disney!  You know what’ll happen if Starbucks takes over the world?  Everyone will be running around like hyperactive maniacs!  $5 for a cup of coffee?  Come on Wally, someone has to protect the caffeine addicts.  And don’t even get me started on Microsoft.  You know how many glitches and security holes they have in their software?  We’d be sitting ducks for hackers and viruses!”

“I think you’re exaggerating, but if Disney is prosperous as the annual reports say, why can’t they raise wages?”

“Wally my boy, you don’t realize how complicated and expensive running a company can be.  I know you character actors don’t get a lot, but it/s enough for the bear necessities.”

“Seriously, stop it with the jokes.  Mickey is an evil genius bent on taking over the world and you know it.”

“You’re wrong again Wally.  All he wants to do is make the children of the world happy.”

“By making horrible, unrealistic, merchandise driven movies for kids?”  Wally felt his blood boil.  Everything he’d kept bottled up for the past year was ready to blow up in O’Brien’s face.

“Why of course.  Would you rather have them watch R rated movies filled with sex, violence, and profanity?”

“No, but the world of Disney movies isn’t real!  There’s no such place as Wonderland!”

“Ah but there is.  There’s one right here in Disney World.  Plus there’s one out in California’s Disneyland.  And in France, Japan, and Hong Kong if I recall correctly.  So you’re wrong.  You need to change your definition of reality Wally.  There is no Toonspeak word for impossible.  In Walt Disney’s world, anything is possible.  It’s the place where dreams come true!”

“Oh yeah?  I bet you can’t fly,” snapped Wally.

“But I can, and so can you.  I just don’t have the desire to.  It requires too much energy, and I might bump my head on the ceiling.  You see Wally, I can do anything I want.  In Disney World, you can be all that you can be.”

“I thought that was the army.  If you really say you can fly, prove it.”

“Why must you be so disagreeable Wally?  I already told you, I don’t have the desire to.  But there is plenty of evidence that people can fly.  Look at Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.”

“That’s not flying, that’s falling with style.  He said it himself.”

“A matter of interpretation Wally.  What about Peter Pan?  He can fly.”

“But that’s only in Neverland.”

“This IS Neverland Wally.  Neverland is anywhere and everywhere, thanks to the power of Mickey Mouse and CGI animation.”

“I don’t believe you!”

“The evidence is everywhere Wally.  Aladdin can fly on his magic carpet.  Dumbo can fly.”
“But what about the laws of physics?  What about gravity?  It’s impossible!”

“Those laws were invented by ignorant men of the past.  These were the same people who thought the world was flat and babies came from storks.  I mean, for goodness sake, Newton formulated his theory of gravity after getting hit on the head by an apple!  Today we’d refer you to a doctor to make sure you didn’t suffer permanent brain damage.”

“That’s only because of the lawyers.”

“And because Mickey Mouse cares about the well-being of his employees.  I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse Wally.  Confess your crimes now, and we won’t send you to retraining.”

“Never!”

“Then I’m sorry my friend.  It’s not personal Wally, it’s strictly business.  Free will must be destroyed.”

With those words, O’Brien left the room.  The darkness around Wally evaporated and turned into the image of Lilo and Stitch.  Wally was slightly scared at first, but then he realized it was just a movie.  Wally had seen this movie before, and he had blasted it for its stereotypical portrayal of aliens and Hawaiians.  By the end of the film, Wally felt slightly annoyed.  Then O’Brien returned.

“Enjoy the movie?  I think it’s one of our better efforts.  Yes Wally, this room is in fact an IMAX theater.  We like to remind our rogue employees what Disney is all about by showing Disney movies.  The next film is about to begin.  Are you ready to confess now?”

“No way!”

“Then enjoy our next movie, Toy Story 2.”

O’Brien left again, and once again, Wally expressed his disapproval of the film that was playing.  It was a poorly made sequel meant to milk the success of the first film.  He then watched Lilo and Stitch 2, a straight to video sequel.  O’Brien returned at the end of the credits.

“I’m giving you one last chance Wally.  There are no martyrs in Disney.  Every story ends with a happy ending.  We won’t fire you.  I’ll never let you go Wally.  You’ll be an obedient employee one way or another.”

“Go to Hades O’Brien.”

“Fine.  You leave me no choice then.  I have to use the worst torture device in our arsenal:  The Disney Channel Original Movie.”

“No!” cried Wally.  Of all the garbage Disney made, this was the worst.  These were the movies that starred no name teen actors and had plot lines weaker than the New Orleans levees.  O’Brien left the room and a Disney Channel movie marathon played out over the next 8 hours.  By the end of the final movie, Wally was absolutely mindless and broken.  O’Brien returned one last time.

“How do you feel Wally?”

“Under the sea…under…the…sea!”

“Did you like the movies?”

“Darling it’s better…down where it’s wetter, TAKE IT FROM ME!”

“Good Wally.  Now it’s time to reaffirm your loyalty to Mickey and Disney.  Repeat after me: Hakuna Matata.”

“Hakuna…Matata.”

“It’s a wonderful phrase.”

“It’s a wonderful phrase.”

“Hakuna Matata, it ain’t no passing craze.”

“Hakuna Matata, it ain’t no passing craze.”

“It means no worries for the rest of your days.  It’s a problem free philosophy.  Hakuna Matata.”

“…Hakuna Matata.” Wally finished with a stupid smile on his face.

“That’s right Wally.  Because your old job has been compromised, we’re assigning you to a new department.  You’ll have a desk job now in a cubicle.  Your job will be a proofwatcher.  You’ll spend your days watching and rewatching Disney movies and finding plot holes.  The tech guys in the Vault will then digitally alter the scenes and rerelease them in a ‘Collector’s Edition’ DVD.  Understood?”

“Yes sir!”

“Now, before you go, I want you to say ‘I’m the king of the world!’”

“I’m the king of the world!  Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go…”

And with that, Wally Simmons wasted the rest of his life away in his cubicle, watching old Disney movies and catching plot holes.

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