Napoleon theme park? Dynamite idea.
Like most Europhiles, I tend to make knee-jerk assumptions about the cultural superiority of European countries. The longing to live in a more civilized nation happens with special acuity after I’ve just watched back to back episodes of Mafia Wives or Say Yes to the Dress.
Ah, to live someplace where everyone sits around quoting Goethe, spends all their free time at the Tate Gallery, and prefers plays written in the Age of Racine.
Then I come to my senses and think about the wretched oom-pah variety shows I’ve watched on German TV. (Ach du Lieber.) Recall how avidly the Brits consume smutty tabloids. And remember that the French consider one Monsieur Jerry Lewis to be a genius.
Still, it is a bit of a shock to the old system to read that the French are considering erecting a Napoleon-inspired theme park as a tourist lure that can match, or even surpass, Disneyland Paris, “the biggest employer and taxpayer in the region of Seine-et-Marne”). Source: The Economist.
Napoleonland will have the usual hotels, shops and restaurants. Harder to design are the activities and rides. This year marks the bicentenary of Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign. Even this tragic story could become an attraction, reckons Mr. [Yves] Jégo [mayor of the proposed “leisure park” site]. At Moscow’s gates, he suggested in a blog, visitors might don skis and glide down snowy battlefields and later across the Berezina river, scene of a disastrous battle, “surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses”.
I trust that with this “surrounded by frozen bodies” stuff, Mayor Jégo is pulling our
legs jambes here.
In any case, I think that a theme park built around an actual historic personage is guaranteed to do absolutely nothing so much as trivialize history. And the actual historic personage. Unless they’re some smiley-face, benevolent, quasi-mythic/quasi-real figure, like Johnny Appleseed.
And that would not be Napoleon Bonaparte, who was a bit more controversial than the guy who planted apple orchards.
Which is not to say that I don’t like visiting the homes of actual historic personages. Who doesn’t want to see the closets and indoor plumbing that Thomas Jefferson came up with at Monticello? The home where Louisa May Alcott and the other “Little Women” grew up in Concord? The Martello Tower where James Joyce roomed with “plump, stately Buck Mulligan”?
And although I’m not completely enamored of the authentic replicators at Plimouth Plantation, speaking archaic English and pretending they don’t know an iPod from an iPad, I even enjoy historic bushwa like Sturbridge Village and Williamsburg.
But a theme park around Napoleon?
Maybe Mayor Jégo’s right about what it will come down to. It’s hard to imagine otherwise, what with all the good, the bad, the ugly, and the indifferent associated with Bonaparte.
Instead of spinning teacups, maybe they can have replicas of his over the top tomb in Les Invalides.
I’m pretty sure that the actual site of Waterloo is landlocked, but the name sure is a natural for a Splash Mountain-style water ride, which would be a bit more fun than dodging cannon balls in a real-faux version of the battle scene.
Fun house mirrors are pretty corny, but one that shrunk everyone down to Napoleon size might work.
There wouldn’t be a lot of princesses hanging around. Not like Disney’s got, what with Mulan and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Ariel. But they could have women dressed up like Josephine and Maria Louisa, I suppose.
Journey into Exile rides. Wrap around 1812 Overture. Something to do with the metric system and/or the Napoleonic code.
The folks behind this park concept believe that it will be a big draw to tourists, especially those from Russia and China, who are particular fans. (Probably like young Japanese women who flock to PEI to see where Anne of Green Gables lived. Wait. Anne of Green Gables was a fictional character. Never mind.)
Mr Jégo’s team must raise some €200m ($255m) for the park, with construction planned to start in 2014. Russian and Middle Eastern investors are interested.
Kleptocracy and petrocracy money: it looks like it should be a go.
But I’m not.
I’m sure I’ll be back in France a time or two before I pass on to the Big Theme Park in the Sky, but I don’t think I’ll be up for fake freezing in my fake rag covered boots at the fake gates of Moscow.
I’d rather just stroll around Paris pretending I live there, admiring the fabulous Haussmann neighborhoods, the charming boulevards, the lovely cafes. And trying to forget that all these high-tone folks I’m envying live in a country that both worships Jerry Lewis and is thinking about building a Napoleon Bonaparte theme park.
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