Pinocchio is a morality play masquerading as a kids film. One of the most important symbolic metaphors in the film (and book) is that of Pleasure Island. In this article I will attempt to unpack the significance of this symbol and dissect how it applies to my life. At a very basic level, Pleasure Island is a place where the pure pursuit of hedonism is the only motive. The question that’s
asked is “What’s wrong with the pursuit of pure pleasure?” Even as children, this question can be answered. Although a full articulation of it is not always achieved. I say, what’s wrong with the pursuit of pure pleasure is the overwhelming hangover at the end of the party.
Pinocchio narrowly avoids becoming a donkey, a full blown jack ass. Taken together with Peter Pan, these stories could be an attempt to express St. Paul’s famous dictum: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” We have all been to Pleasure Island, we have all suffered the oppression of victim-hood. In this article I seek to find my way off Pleasure Island and to avoid becoming a donkey. What I discover is that to avoid being a Jackass, I need to bear the teeth of a wolf.
My great big ears are now matched by my great big eyes though. These are all the better to see and hear you with. And my great big teeth are all the better to eat you with too. So beware, be brave and most importantly of all, be honest with yourself.
THE METAPHOR OF PLEASURE ISLAND
It is definitely a place that is wonderful and strange. Pleasure Island is a land that has an aura of freedom and anarchy. It is of course the furthest thing from that. It’s a cursed placed that will turn naughty little boys and girls into donkeys. First called the Land of Toys in Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, it became Pleasure Island in Walt Disney’s 1940 film adaptation. Today,
Pleasure Island is a physical location you can visit at [Walt Disney World] in Orlando Florida. Pinocchio of course, is led astray by some wicked minded scoundrels and that’s how he wound up there. Luckily, he escapes. Jiminy Cricket sounds the alarm and Pinocchio gets out of dodge.
The Land of Toys or Pleasure Island is of course one of the embedded morality plays in Pinocchio. It is demonstrating within the tale how easily it can be to get lured into treacherous frivolity. I maintain here though that a certain amount of frivolity is necessary. Pleasure Island however, clearly shows how there can indeed be too much of a good thing. Going further, this fable becomes a metaphor for us to use as a guide. There can be many places that could be called Pleasure Island in our lives, and Jordan B Peterson suggests that Post Modernism is one such real world example of this metaphor in action.
JORDAN PETERSON SAYS Victim-hood IS PLEASURE ISLAND
RECOGNIZING PLEASURE ISLAND FOR WHAT IT IS
There is no helping someone who brays. In order to leave the island I first need to see it for what it is. The coachman who runs the island wants to create jack asses ready for slavery. That is the challenge I face: recognize the peril ensconced within the pursuit of pure pleasure. Just like
Pinocchio and Lamp-wick, we have been tricked by the glaring lights of Pleasure Island. The window to do this is very short, and the challenge to look – really look, at personal responsibility is tough. After all, the coachman banks on his axiom “give a bad boy enough rope and he’ll soon make a jackass of himself.” The danger is real.
However, the danger for slaves who retain their voice is worse. The thinking slave faces the double punishment of being a slave and knowing they’re a slave. What use is it to speak up at that point? This part of the metaphor, which neatly echo’s Plato’s allegory of the cave, perfectly encapsulates the depth of despair at Pleasure Island. As Chrissie Amphlatt once sang: There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. To experience pleasure is to immediately recognize the inverse capacity to experience pain. When I first fell in love, I knew how much it would hurt to lose my girlfriend then and there. So talking only makes it worse.
THE SCARS LINGER
Sadly Pinocchio is the only one in the film to get out “alive.” Furthermore, for the remainder of the film as a puppet, Pinocchio retains the ears and tail of a Jackass. Only when he becomes a real boy does he lose the scars of Pleasure Island. As far as we’re aware Lamp-wick didn’t survive the ordeal. This reveals how important it is to recognize pleasure island for what it is and escape as soon as (humanly possible). Even though I’ll always have these ears and tail, I and desperate to preserve my eyes and my mouth.
SO WHAT’S MY PLEASURE ISLAND?
I’d like to write this with the full benefit of hindsight. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure I’ve recognized it. I was never drawn into typical identity politics (- perhaps because I’m a white
male?). However, I was drawn into conspiracy identity politics. All the worlds a stage and we men are merely actors – and someone named Rothschild is directing? No. If the butterfly effect is anything to go off then one person or even family is directing the mess we are in.
Free thinking, being creative, pursuing art, making films and now a podcast; these are what form my pleasure island. I smoke, but I’m not spending my days swilling brandy and puffing cigars. Instead I am spending my days contemplating the great thinkers of the twentieth century. I’m searching for authentic ways to make meaning in the 21st. I can’t, or won’t, be able to do this forever – or at least that’s what society says.
Fight or flight. I eluded to the sense that my time is short. I feel as though I already have a tail and ears. Now is when I need to escape, or fight my way off this island. The fight however, is a fight against victim-hood. I lose all responsibility if I see myself as a victim, or in other words – a victim has no ability to respond. In New York in the early nineties there was a saying: “Victim’s ask for it.” Dwell on that.
Consider what “victims ask for it” means. We have, as humans, the capacity to be both predator
or prey. So the coach man victimizes us and convinces us we are prey. Yet he fears the voice. The coachman fears the teeth of the predator.
Perhaps then, the way to fight my way off Pleasure Island is not to run and hide and play the coachman’s game. Instead the flight is internal and it’s a fight between Predator and Prey Identities .Just as I needed to recognize I was in Pleasure Island and see it for what it was. I also need to see myself as a vicious monster capable of doing harm. Once I snarl, the coachman will run. Once I snarl his goons will hide. Yet, as soon as I snarl the ears and tail go from that of a donkey, to that of a wolf. In other words, I need to be prepared to inflict pain in order to accept responsibility.
Pleasure Island is not one place. Instead it is a state of mind. Anytime someone can convince you you’re ill, sick or a victim then you become susceptible to the slave trade. There is no glory in wearing the coat of the victim, only the self-induced suffering with comes from wearing Medusa’s poisoned fleece. Ironic that Medusa is now a clothing brand. Rather, there is a need to be willing to inflict pain. To bring all my resentments forward and recognize them for what they are.
The cost of any activity is paid in full when you partake. I have paid a price for spending time at Pleasure Island. That price is steep and the escape continual. Even Pinocchio found that he had no home to go to one he left the island. My great big ears are now matched by my great big eyes though. These are all the better to see and hear you with. And my great big teeth are all the better to eat you with too. So beware, be brave and most importantly of all, be honest with yourself.
You, as I did – as I do, knew instinctively that Pleasure Island was anything but. Do not be seduced by victim-hood, instead learn to tame the beast inside that is the beast you are.