Since 1999, goths, industrial fans, and other members of “Dark Alternative Subculture” have descended on Disneyland every August for Bats Day In The Fun Park, which started as a day-long outing to the amusement park and has since evolved into a three-day event that bills itself as “the premier event on the West Coast, if not the world, for the Gothic and Industrial subculture of all ages.” We sent comedy writer Maggie Bandur to this year’s installment; her photos and recollections follow.
The first time I went to Disneyland without my parents, I ended up going in a group with a girl who claimed to be a vampire (and was living with her therapist) and a guy who wore a purple blanket as a cape and brought a knife along to whittle. I soon learned just how many hidden security cameras there are at Disneyland. You would think those cameras would have had a workout on Sunday, when goths descended upon the Happiest Place on Earth, cutting their Mickey ears into bat wings and wearing velvet, spikes, PVC, leather, and eyeliner in defiance of onlookers’ stares and the August sun. They assembled in front of the castle, overran the Haunted Mansion (a.k.a. the mothership), and stripped bare the store selling items from The Nightmare Before Christmas. But unlike my teenage acquaintances, who got their notions of rebellion from the same sources as Midwestern church ladies, Bats Day’s attendees were generally friendly, agreeing to have their pictures taken with strangers’ children as if they were Winnie-the-Pooh.
The world’s saddest people in the world’s happiest place is not as ironic a scenario as anyone would have you believe–after all, both are devoted to a heightened reality, to fantasy, to creativity, to dress up, to women with menacing names and unnaturally colored hair. The event is in August because that month holds one of the few summer weekend days when none of the annual passes are blacked out. (There are annual Disneyland passes hidden inside those corsets and Emily the Strange lunchboxes, people!) That fact has probably helped Disney discover what so many of the day’s participants stressed to me: they have jobs, they have children, they have purchasing power. Disneyland even unofficially offers bat-themed merchandise during the day, showing that it is a small world, after all–especially when you are trying to part people from their last discretionary dollar.