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ABOUT The World ...  

Par Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul Valéry à Montpellier.

 Down Memory Lane Inc. - A visit to Graceland

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For there is yet another role played by Graceland. Less intimate perhaps, less personal and certainly disquieting. Graceland is more than the symbol we have described. This is just a pretext. 
First and all, Graceland is a place of trade. This may sound like an evidence, a commonplace, I do not think the consequences are. Selling is not a by-product of Graceland, a side activity. It is the main function of the various museums, films, pictures, music, and visits. However high the entrance fee ($10 the main building, $5 each of the three museums), it is clearly not the point. The point is the gift-shop. Let us not forget that Elvis's manager, Colonel Tom Parker used to paint sparrows yellow to sell them as canaries or autograph pictures of Elvis with his own hand to sell them down the aisles.

At Graceland Enterprises Inc., everything is geared towards the gift-shops.3 For there are seven of them inside the estate, as well as three fast-food restaurants. They are called 'Good Rocking Tonight', 'Elvis Threads' or 'Gallery Elvis', they sell records, videos, books, posters, T-shirts, jackets, caps, collectibles, works of art, jewellery. And there are dozens more outside. Some of the objects on sale are as outrageous as a wine called 'Always Elvis', the wine he would have drunk if he had drunk wine, or 'E-Sweat', vials supposed to contain drops of his perspiration. In fact, buying some kind of souvenir is the main purpose of a visit to Graceland. 60% of the visitors purchase at least one item from the gift-shops. Besides, Graceland can be rented, for a high fee, for private parties, receptions, weddings to groups from 25 to 500 or more

But it is quite all right. Nothing shocking really, nothing to deplore. For Graceland is not a private home, nor even a museum. Graceland is an amusement park. From Disneyland to Graceland, there is just one step. 
They function along the same subtle and carefully devised principles of mixing and combining affective memory and historical references, sounds and images, emotion and exhilaration, passiveness and action. All this culminates into what has become the most exciting and entertaining activity of all, shopping.

The greatest audience participation show of the day has become the daily stroll to the supermarket or mall, where our predilections are stimulated by an array of gorgeous products displayed in dazzling aural and visual environments. Amusement parks and theme parks fulfill the same function. The entrance fee purchases mostly the right to purchase further. The public would feel cheated and frustrated if it was not offered this possibility.



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° Rubrique About The World