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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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One can finally wonder if this mixture of myth and commerce, of symbolic and functional values is not in the end the basic organizational chart of American society. 
If it is not, inexorably, the ultimate future for all American memory, whether it be the Capitol, Disneyland or the piers of San Francisco; even New York's cityscape, at first sight the antithesis of Disneyland, is organised along the same lines, with enclosed minimalls proving to be as fascinating and consumer friendly.

For malls themselves as well as shopping districts have been devised like amusement parks (or is it the other way round?), using overhead and underground music selections to lure patrons to products for sales, exactly as in Graceland. Music asks us to buy and it compels us to obey.

Obaudire, to listen in latin derived into the French obéir, to obey. At Graceland, the mass of visitors stomp about in rhythm, turned by the music into a subdued and obedient pack. Music aggregates masses. An aggregated mass consumes better and is easier to control. There would be ample scope here for a development on the function of Musak and background music in commercial projects.

The distinction is getting blurred between malls or amusement parks and places of art and of memory. 

Museums and historical sites are increasingly turned into huge shopping centers. Of this tendency, Joseph Lanza writes 'it could very much represent a diversion from (if not an antidote to), the scourges of overpopulation, escalating street crimes and collective anomy'.

He adds: 'this is because most of us, in our hearts, want a world tailored by Walt Disney's 'imagineers', an ergonomical "Main Street USA" where the buildings never make you feel small, where the act of paying admission is tantamount to a screen-test and where the music never stops' (1996, p.233). 

At a small scale, Graceland offers a frightening example of how memory can be muzzled and harnessed to serve the invisible and anonymous ambitions of corporate America.



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