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"In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions... The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular."
—"How to Write About Africa", Binyavanga Wainaina

Take a classic tale or even reality itself. Strip away all the complexities, boiling the source material down to a few tropes and a barely coherent plot. Congratulations! You now have the perfect blueprint for cashing in on the original's success. The characters are flatter than in the original, and the tropes have lost their justification, but surely the fans won't mind. Another word for this concept is a "simulacrum".

Quite often, the writers producing the Theme Park Version have entirely misread the original, and are relying on other people's interpretations.

Compare with Adaptation Decay, Adaptation Distillation, Lost in Imitation, and Popcultural Osmosis; contrast with Pragmatic Adaptation. Theme parks themselves have their own Theme Park Version - Souvenir Land.

See Also: Flynning, Fluffy Cloud Heaven, Fire and Brimstone Hell, Plot Tumor.

Examples of The Theme Park Version include:


Comic Books Edit

  • The Nineties Anti-Hero is the theme park version of the acclaimed graphic novels Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
  • The comic versions of Silent Hill, where the complexity of Silent Hill has been reduced to endless gun-battles, incoherent story lines, and hideous artwork. Arguably, the same can be said of the games past Silent Hill 4, which are designed by entirely different creative teams than the originals. However, this may also be described as a developing case of Adaptation Decay.
  • Urbanus did this to Holland in "De laatste Hollander" (the last Dutchman). And generally to Belgium itself, too (being a Belgian comic).
  • Judge Dredd has been criticised for using national stereotypes for all countries other than the United States (including Britain, interestingly). A couple, particularly Britain and Japan, have since been fleshed out somewhat due to a number of spinoffs taking place in them. Ireland takes the trope to its logical extreme, by being literally one big theme park.
  • Taken literally in Sandman. In one of the last issues, Hob Gadling visits a renaissance faire. Given that Hob is 500 years old, he is offended and depressed by the innaccurate portrayal of medieval life.
  • Animated adaptations often turn the villains into Theme Park Versions of themselves.

Films Edit

  • Propaganda films, in general, are designed precisely to do this. One famous example is Frank Capra's Why We Fight series of U.S. "Informational" films during World War II, which essentially depicts Adolf Hitler as a real-life Snidely Whiplash with trimmed ends and the Allied peoples as all being Always Lawful Good.
  • Darkest Africa is The Theme Park Version of Africa, an entire continent reduced to a few stock sets.
  • Most H.P. Lovecraft movies. Lovecraft is notoriously hard to film, so a lot of filmmakers just don't care and replace his cosmic horror and utterly alien beings with typical gore and splatter. And of course they throw in a lot of sex, even though there's barely any sex even hinted at in Lovecraft's stories (and when there is it's usually always miscegenation with nasty slimy aliens).
    • Well, also regular miscegenation. Lovecraft was kind of racist.
      • And by "kind of", we mean that he had a beloved black cat he named "Nigger Man", who made a cameo in one of his stories, and made no secret of his belief that Caucasian people of British descent were superior to all other humans.
      • Pets with names like that were common in the first half of the 20th century and beyond (my dad had cat named "Nigger" growing up in rural Ontario in the 40s and 50s; see also The Dam Busters where the hero's dog is named "Nigger," which was historically accurate). Not that it isn't racist and horrifying, but it's not in itself evidence of Lovecraft's racism (of which there is plentiful).
    • Oh, come on, orgies also get mentioned as part of terrible occult practices. Yeah, sex is part of the disgusting base nature of humans, and tied to the evil religions.
  • In the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie, the pod people came out of pods, which eventually ended up being trucked all over the place to spread the invasion. When the movie was remade in 1978, the invaders first came as spores which grew into flowers. But pods are still being trucked all over the place, because that was in the original, even though carrying around the smaller and less suspicious-looking flowers would make far more sense from the aliens' standpoint.
  • The Stepford Wives remake, where, rather than being robots programmed to obey their husbands, the wives had computer chips put in their brains to make them obedient and were then given makeovers. The fact that they are fire-resistant and have remote controls for their breast sizes is a Plot Hole that rivals the Grand Canyon.
    • Well... men! What more needs to be said?
    • It doesn't help that the remake is trying very hard to be a romantic comedy.
  • It should be noted in the film Jurassic Park, a movie about an actual themed dinosaur park with actual dinosaurs, not all the dinosaurs are from the Jurassic period; in fact most of them are from the Cretaceous period. (Cretaceous Park doesn't sound very cool, though, and the whole Jurassic-vs-Cretaceous thing is actually noted in the book: the guy bankrolling the operation says that they couldn't very well have a dinosaur theme park without a T. rex, Jurassic or not Jurassic.)
    • Lampshaded repeatedly when characters admit that their park is an exercise in idealism and does not accurately represent the period (or even the dinosaurs, for that matter). The saner characters repeatedly criticize Hammond for failing to conduct proper research, and these failures consistently lead to dangerous results.
    • One of the characters blatantly states that a lot of the dinos died in the Cretaceous period. The film averts this and seems pretty aware that Jurassic is just a cool name.
  • Film versions of The Three Musketeers are often theme park versions, most notably in reducing the complicated character of Cardinal Richelieu into a Big Bad. The four musketeers usually get reduced to archetypes as well.
  • The film The Patriot does this to a remarkable extent with the American Revolution, having the British committing Nazi war crimes and generally living on the other side of the Moral Event Horizon while wearing rather oddly colored uniforms. The dragoons HAD to wear red! You wouldn't be able to tell that they were British, otherwise!
    • It also includes plenty of supposedly historical clothing, with the result that several of the women are running around practically in the equivalent of their underwear. Oh, and with loose, flowing hair, despite the fact that infrequent bathing and dangerous (to long hair, anyway) working conditions made it necessary to bind one's hair up and wear a cap over it, just to keep it clean and away from the fire, the sickle, the ax, the animals, the gate, the hot kettle, and so on.
    • And good heavens, the public displays of affection -- the movie is chock-full of anachronistic sexy smooches and embraces in front of disapproving parents, the army regiment, or the whole town. The lead and his romantic interest start kissing in public the first time they mention their feelings for one another. There are also a few instances of modern "sex humor" that utilize words or euphemisms which didn't yet exist or were uncommon at best.
    • The young woman, romantic interest of the lead's son, is much too "modern" in her outspoken behavior towards the townsfolk. She reproaches the men of the town during a wartime meeting IN CHURCH, and yet the shock and repercussions are at a minimum. Not to mention that her impassioned speech basically boils down to "Fight for your beliefs, guys!" with very modern turns of phrase. It would seem that none of these educated, thoughtful adults who have been living during a time of war had ever once paused to grapple with the philosophical questions of life, or the practical matter of whether or not they wanted to take up arms and join the militia.
  • The live action feature film version of the Japanese manga series Great Teacher Onizuka parodied this idea by showing the abandoned remains of a (fictional) failed theme park called "Canadaland." Flashbacks to the park's glory days were... embarrassing, to say the least.
  • Westworld contains what is literally the theme park version of The Wild West, The Middle Ages, and Ancient Grome, inhabited by realistic robots that are there primarily so park visitors can "kill" them or have sex with them. All three are Ye Goode Olde Days for the park visitors, but less pleasant for the androids...
  • Most movies in the Disney Animated Canon are the Theme Park Version of whatever they're adapted from. Then when they're put into the actual Disney Theme Parks...
    • They are not only Theme Park Versions, thier localities are themselves Theme Park Versions splashed with US practices like rugby, baseball, lockers in times without lockers, division between high school and lower school, etc.
      • Um, rugby isn't really an American practice (not beyond some of our high schools, anyway). So it would seem that whoever wrote this has a Theme Park Version view of America. This American troper has never really seen anyone in his home country talk about rugby, other than on that one episode of Friends...
  • Sex and the City 2 is set in a theme park version of Abu Dhabi, which was actually filmed in Morocco.
    • Almost any Arab country in a live-action movie is actually Morocco. It has a big enough desert to build sets in (far enough away from major cities), while being secular enough that nobody will come and arrest your actresses for not wearing burqas.
  • Quest for Camelot fits the trope description perfectly; pretty much everything that happens in the movie, happens because it happens in this sort of movie. The fact that it doesn't make sense for that particular thing to happen didn't stop the writers from putting it in anyway.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean. It helps that it was originally an amusement park ride.
  • The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland is this with Wonderland, compared to the actual place in Alice in Wonderland.

Literature Edit

  “How can there be any human understanding that can persuade itself there ever was all that infinity of Amadises in the world, or all that multitude of famous knights, all those emperors of Trebizond, all those Felixmartes of Hircania, all those palfreys, and damsels-errant, and serpents, and monsters, and giants, and marvellous adventures, and enchantments of every kind, and battles, and prodigious encounters, splendid costumes, love-sick princesses, squires made counts, droll dwarfs, love letters, billings and cooings, swashbuckler women, and, in a word, all that nonsense the books of chivalry contain?

  • JRR Tolkien's works are a notable victim. In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor has a lot of fertile areas thanks to all that volcanic ash, the characters speak a wide variety of archaic accents and dialects, and victory is achieved through rejection of power. In the many books and films written "in the style of" Tolkien, their Mordor looks like Hell, characters speak Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, and victory is achieved through force of arms.
  • Brave New World applies this trope to Refuge in Audacity, in which it calls that trope "Savage Reservations". You can visit these places like a theme park. Take a moment to analyze that.
  • The novel England, England focuses on the creation of a literal Theme Park Version of well, England, on the Isle of Wright.

Live Action TV Edit

  • The Show Within a Show in Pleasantville, supposedly an archetypal 50s sitcom, actually represents The Theme Park Version of 50s sitcoms. In all fairness, not only does Pleasantville contain strong elements of satire, but the entire disbelief of the outside world in the Show Within a Show is only introduced by interaction with characters from the "real" world. Considering that many sitcoms never refer to the world outside the town in which they are set, it's not really much of a stretch. In fact, if you want to compare 50s sitcoms like Leave It to Beaver with the actual world, it could be argued that 50s sitcoms are themselves the theme park version of 1950s America.
    • Ultimately, most fiction is the theme park version of Reality
  • The American version of 10 Years Younger pretty much forgets what made the show different from other makeover type shows. The British version made a point of stressing that the treatments that people get on the show were simple and relatively cheap, that ordinary people could normally afford. The cosmetic surgery was kept to a minimum with more focus on age flattering clothes, hairstyles and (for the women) makeup. The American version however has the guests go through extensive plastic surgery and play up the emotional affect of the age polls at the start to make it pretty much the same as Extreme Makeover.

Music Edit

  • Steely Dan's song "Aja" is a parody of this approach to Asian culture.
  • The entire “Exotica” genre, popularized in the 1950s by Les Baxter, is basically the Theme Park Version of a stew of various ethnic musics (largely but not limited to Polynesian and African music).
  • During the 80's, Glam Metal became The Theme Park Version of Heavy Metal music in general (For The United States at least). The fans reacted, and formed what is know known as "Extreme Metal".

Myths and Legends Edit

  • In Middle Eastern legend, genies are powerful and independent spirit beings; stories of genies serving humans are rare, and gain part of their sense of wonder from the implication that at some point there was a human magician powerful enough to force a genie into servitude. Servant genie stories -- "Aladdin" in particular -- have circulated in the West without the relevant context, leading to a perception that serving humans is a usual thing for genies; in at least one well-known film version of the Aladdin story, the plot resolution explicitly relies on the idea that all genies are by definition required to live in lamps and grant wishes.

Real Life Edit

  • The American Revolution as taught in US Public Schools. The British villain in The Patriot was an Expy of somebody who is remembered for such lovely habits as shooting people who are surrendering to him, when he's not being politely ignored because the US & the UK are friends now.
    • Barnastre Tarleton received Historical Villain Upgrade in The Patriot (the claim about him shooting people as they surrendered is at the very least controversial). Meanwhile, the main character in that film is in part an Historical Hero Upgrade of Francis Marion, who was at least as unpleasant.
    • Moreover, the war is frequently (and wrongly) depicted in starkly black and white terms as a heroic revolt against tyranny. George III wasn't a tyrant, the colonists were extremely divided on the issue of independence and the reasons for the war were... complex.
  • The Great Depression: The stock market crash did not cause the economy to collapse. At most, it was at the time the latest in a string of worsening economical conditions. Additionally, few if any stock brokers threw themselves from windows to their deaths. We have had stock market crashes, including some rather bad (by some estimations, worse than that of 1929, depending on how you consider the numbers) since then which have come in times of both economic bust and boom.
  • Huis Ten Bosch - a Japanese theme park that recreates The Netherlands.
    • And even more so with Madurodam, the Dutch theme park version of The Netherlands (in miniature).
  • The Window of the World in Shenzhen, China contains scale models and reconstructions of the world's most famous landmarks and tourist attractions. This makes it the Theme Park Version of global tourism.
  • Similarly to Window of the World, there is Epcot's World Showcase, which features eleven pavilions, each representing the culture of one different country.
  • Many large (and usually nerdy) fandoms can be reduced to this by people outside of them.
  • Most Holidays become this.
    • In an interesting inversion, the word "Xmas" for Christmas is often wrongfully accused of being this trope. The assumption is that the X is used to remove any implications of Jesus from the holiday. In fact, it comes from the fact that X is the first letter in Jesus' title (Christos) in Greek.
    • Take Valentine's Day. It went from being a tribute to a Christian martyr, to being an occasion for romantic lovers to profess themselves to each other, to being a kitschy affair in which schoolkids in completely platonic relationships give each other goofy cards with Superman or SpongeBob SquarePants on them.
    • Or Saint Patrick's Day. Just about everyone's forgotten that it's a Catholic holiday, not just an Irish one.
    • Same with Mardi Gras. Purely Catholic, but most of the people enthused with it nowadays are probably from other religions.
  • Many large cities are frequently accused of attempting to become the theme park version of themselves for a wide variety of reasons.
    • A particularly strong example: New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The wealthier, touristy, photogenic parts of the city bounced back much faster than the poor parts of town. This effect was not totally intentional, but some accusations of sinister intent flew. The chief exhibit would be many people who openly pondered whether the storm wasn't a good excuse to tear down most (or all) public housing.
      • The opposing argument being, of course, that these touristy, photogenic parts of the city were where a huge number of the people who lived in the city *worked*, and the faster they got back on their feet, the sooner money could start coming into the city again.
  • This requires fluency in Japanese to see for yourself, but the Japanese Wikipedia article for the USA is basically this trope. Bonus points for focusing on mainly the Reagan years and up. Actually, scratch the fluency part. Just look at the pictures: stealth bombers, apple pie, football...
    • Now wait a second: if we look at the pictures without reading the text to understand the context, wouldn't that give us The Theme Park Version of that very article?
    • If you have access to Google Translator you can see they label the last part of their history section as weakening of unipolar domination. Our other wiki calls it contemporary era.
  • Most of history, especially what you're taught in high school. It would take the whole school year to get a non-Theme Park version of any one war. Either one of the World Wars could easily eat up all the time allotted to history secondary education.
    • Some wars like the War of 1812 are so complex that even the themepark version is hard to understand so they are generally just mentioned in passing and ignored.
    • Elementary and Highschool history also like to focus on the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. This might have something to do with the fact that most teachers came of age during one of these administrations.
  • Wars. All of them, especially the World Wars. Wars usually have very complex and multiple political, sociological, economical and historical causes, all the sides have their specific goals, intents, virtues and depravities. However, in movies, popular consciousness, and even in history classes they usually devolve into a theme park version of a fight between the forces of Good who only want to bring justice to the world, versus the Evil who are so evil that all they do is just for the sake of evilness.
  • In American film and literature, many Native Americans suffer from this trope. Pick any nation you like, and if you bother to do the research, you will find a complex society with all the trimmings: a working economy, clearly defined values and morals, a deep religion, a highly developed language, and a well-developed justice system. Yet some authors portray Native Americans as backward, childlike people who all talk like Tonto.

Video Games Edit

  • The Civilization games are The Theme Park Version of... Civilization. No one disagrees its an Acceptable Break From Reality, though.
  • Spore does likewise for the cycle of life. And civilization... and, umm, Dune.
  • Any open-world, free-roaming "crime-sim" that isn't Grand Theft Auto. Any at all.
    • The Saints Row series milks this trope for all it's worth, and still manages to come out on top.
      • That probably has something to do with Saints Row doing it deliberately, or serving as satire of most crime fiction (at least from the second game on).
  • MMORPGs that are very linear and/or lack many of the player-driven gameplay elements are referred to as 'themeparks' since they lack the freedom of the Quicksand Box. There is typically on emphasis on killing non-player characters compared to non-combat related activities, such as dancing, crafter-based economies, decorating, or socializing. However, even games considered 'sandboxes' tend to feature themepark elements, such as missions/quests and dropped-based loot.
    • World of Warcraft is a much smaller version of Azeroth and Outland than is generally depicted in the lore and in the previous games. While generally all the important details are there and in (mostly) the right places, all the continents are scaled down so as to not affect gameplay - creating the Theme Park Version of Warcraft. Funnily enough, it causes Sequel Displacement for the rest of the series.
      • There are other things wrong. Places are missing, as is one of Azeroth's moons (despite models of it appearing in Northrend Dungeons), Teldrassil looks like a humongous stump with a forest growing from its remains rather then the thriving tree it is in lore... The list goes on.
      • Espen Aarseth actually points out that the game's Azeroth is similar to Florida's Disney World in size and layout in addition to purpose. "Both contain different thematic zones connected by paths, roads, and rail-based transportation, which cater to differing tastes, age groups, or levels."
  • Bullfrog's Theme Park games are the theme park version of... running a theme park.
  • In-universe in Golden Sun Dark Dawn. The Psynergy Training Grounds are literally a theme park based on the story of the first two games, apparently made by Isaac fans who a) don't get the significance of the Fire Clan, b) don't get the significance of the Doom Dragon, and c) don't get that Felix was a good guy all along. Among other things.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos appears to be set in America as imagined by Japanese games developers who have only ever seen it in action movies.
  • The Ace Attorney series is pretty much the theme park version of courtroom procedures and detective work (which is not something a DA would be caught doing in real life).