A different look at a Renaissance Faire

A pretty penny for your thoughts
by Nate Carrick
Everyone needs an escape. It’s human nature. Vacations and tourism, hobbies, conventions, games-there is practically no end to the ways people distract themselves from the stresses of reality. Unfortunately, these fugitives often find out (or maybe they just accept their fate) that they are ripe prey for the green streak of human nature: greed.

Original Article Link: http://www.keystoneonline.com/story.asp?Art_id=1870

Cashing in on other people’s inability-or unwillingness-to differentiate between reality and fantasy is not only tempting, but simply rampant these days. It didn’t occur to me just how common it was until last weekend when I took a trip to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Mount Hope.

The Renaissance Faire is an amusement complex with semi-permanent vendors of period-like wares, actors and musicians performing on several stages and many other opportunities for visitors to spend money cleverly dispersed throughout the park. It’s open from mid-August to the end of October and each weekend the same acts are performed and the vendors sell all the same junk. The Faire is essentially a play and a mall rolled into one. Nothing significant changes from weekend to weekend.

I noticed that wandering around amid the costumed actors were patrons dressed in garb as well. Paying customers who felt they somehow needed to be a part of the show, who didn’t quite realize that they are just the audience. One man, draped in burlap monk robes, had shaved the crown of his head. I followed him from the pirate knives shop to the funnel cake stand, wondering the whole time, what must his co-workers think? Larry from accounting dresses up in ridiculous clothes, shaves part of his head and goes to the same play every weekend where he pretends to be part of the cast and wastes his money on overpriced, totally useless trinkets.

The Faire makes it easy to spend money, too. It sells season passes that are good for every day the Faire is open: 25 days. Can you imagine seeing the same play 25 times in a month and a half? Also, by giving the necessary elements of modern money exchanges quaint names, a disillusioned squire can buy, buy, buy all day without ever breaking “character.” In one pottery shop, I heard this conversation-both parties using fake British accents-between the clerk, a 300 pound. woman in a bonnet and bodice, and a customer with a ponytail, cape and two samurai swords crossed in an X over his back.

“Excuse me, m’lady, do you accept Lady Visa and Master Card?”

“We do, good sir. Your total will come to 89 pounds, 28 cents, including the Queen’s tax. I’m curious, do you use those swords often?”

“No, sadly, no. I don’t have the time with work and the baby.”

I almost puked from the irony.

So who is to blame for this? The monk? The ninja? No, they are just the victims here. Like I said, everyone needs an escape. The actors and vendors and the Renaissance Faire as a whole take advantage of these people (and there are a lot of them) as they walk in looking for a comfortable place to live out their dorky fantasies.

Maybe the monk has no luck with the ladies in real life, but if he buys a dozen silk roses ($4 a pop) and gives them to a maiden stuffed into a corset she may give him a kiss on the cheek and all of a sudden Larry from accounting is Casanova.

This phenomenon of cashing in on disillusionment is hardly confined to the Renaissance Faire. In Matthew J. Rhein’s article “Technology distorts a view of reality,” in the Oct. 5 issue of The Keystone, he discusses “Virtual Laguna Beach,” a video game where the player actually becomes a character in a virtual version of a television show (minus the actors) based in a real place. Of course, they have to pay to play.

The number of ways people escape into fantasy is matched only by the number of ways they are separated from their money while doing so. The deeper the daydream, the cleaner the dupe. Star Trek and anime conventions, cruise ships that create the illusion of high-luxury so passengers spend more liberally, fetish pornography… the list goes on.

No matter what example shows it best, the fact remains that greed and fantasy are both inextricably part of every man, woman and child’s psyche. The two are inevitably going to collide from time to time. So all that’s left to wonder is: how much will your fantasia cost?

Nate Carrick is a junior

English/Professional Writing major

and the A&E Editor for

The Keystone

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