Sunday, Aug. 10, 2003

Disneyland Resort Paris, France: 1992

I used the phrase cultural Chernobyl back in 1992 for Disneyland Resort Paris in a private conversation with Robert Fitzpatrick, who became its first chairman. He’s the one who made it public, not me.

But there’s no question that we are experiencing a cultural Chernobyl in Europe today. If you want to see it, just turn on your television: rank commercial garbage across the board. It’s not just from America; the ideas wouldn’t emanate if there were no accomplices.

We Europeans are imitating the American idea that culture is just one more product in the marketplace. Many French intellectuals will tell you that the ‘cultural exception’ is a nuisance. Yet so many American artists have come to Europe to bloom precisely because here we still think the state is in a way responsible for finding the means for culture to exist.

But we’re losing ground. Little by little, there’s less money for culture, which is being treated less as an educational obligation than as a luxury for the élite. It’s up to Europe not to sell out.

We have to guard our languages, our theaters, ballet and music. Disneyland Resort Paris isn’t the half of it.

Ariane Mnouchkine is the French theater director