Universal Studios and Their Need to Get You Psyched!

I spent Saturday with my boyfriend at Universal Studios. I dragged him there for the “Buy a Day Get a Year Free” special. Sort of a rip-off. I don’t know why I’d go back, just pop in there. The parking would still be another $10 and just a hassle. I could take an out-of-town visitor and watch them stand in line to pay while I hustled through the turnstile for “free.”

But I had to go. I hadn’t been in years. And I’m a sucker for the animal planet show. I think the jokes are funny. I like when the host asks a kid from the audience to come on stage. Then he/she brings out a well-trained dog. The host asks the kid to think real hard, think of a piece of clothing and the “psychic dog” will go backstage to get it. The kid says, “okay.” The dog runs offstage and comes back on with a bra in it’s mouth. The kid goes red. The host playfully scolds the dog and the boy. But wait! There’s more! Then the music kicks in, that old-timey strip tease music, you know the tune. And an orangatang struts onstage in underwear, covering her “breasts” with her long arms and shaking her head as if to say, “That dog stole my bra!”

I mean, it’s brilliant. Why not? Why not laugh at this.

I like too that the host is a n animal trainer, has a profession and can speak clearly and recite some jokes that were written years ago. (They haven’t changed since at least 2002.) Unlike the hosts on the Special Effects stages or the Studio Tour. The STudio Tour host that I had talked really fast. He clearly couldn’t read the monitor very well and he made all of the cheesy jokes as if a gun were to his head. It probably is in some corporate big brother is watching sense, but he got no laughs. But he’d comment on it over and over. Not in a funny self-depricating way, not in a geniunely hurt way so that you could enjoy him as an emotional train-wreck. Just this route, “Come on. No response.” It was tedious.

The girl who hosted the Special Effects stages was a nightmare. I know she didn’t write her copy but she delivered it like a num-nut. Clearly an actress doing this for extra money. Which is fine but not only should she stop pursing acting, she needs to quit her day job, since it involves “acting.” She did that thing of constantly trying to pump us up. Ladies you yell “Wheee!” Come on ladies! Don’t let the men yell louder! Why? Why can’t I just let the men yell louder. I didn’t come in here for a pep rally. I just want to see how you make monsters move.

Then she gets a child to volunteer and she does this thing of giving the girl intsrtuctions on how to operate this fake monster prop. And then she does the old “close to the microphone punchline” and says to the audience, “Yeah. She’s gonna die.” Ha ha ha. Why does everything have to be funny? I know. Since we’re in here viewing scary special effects, why don’t you make it scary? These jokes are frightening the children. And condescedning to them.

I will never understand that some person, some 2% of the population that is charge of any form of entertainment, thinks that people need to be pumped up. Ever try to excite a sleeping person with your loud voice and promises to them of how the day is going to be great? Or how they are going to miss the bus? That sleeping person will kick your ass. Now try to pump up a sleeping person simply by putting a steaming cup of coffee next to the night table or kissing their forehead or just turning up the radio a little louder. Ahhh. What a relaxing comfort. I’m ready to start the day. I’m pumped. Thank God the people who write copy for Universal are not OB/GYN’s. There would be so many traumatized births. “Let’s do it! Mom! Scream real loud! Here it comes! Let me see that kid! Whoooooooo! Whooooooooo! Oh wait! We made a wrong turn! The kid isn’t supposed to be orange, just kidding!”

Every ride and experience (except Animal Planet) is based on the same plot. Oh no! We got off track! Wait! This wasn’t supposed to happen. You would think you were at a kindgarten play and not a major movie studio. A studio that is capable of putting plots and twists, suspense and drama together in ways that we can’t see coming and that we believe when it’s come.

Oh no! We are stuck in a Mexican village and here is how we make rain on set. Uh oh! The sprinklers won’t shut off. Well, California is the state of landslides, but don’t worry folks that won’t happen. Wait. What’s that? Oh no! A controlled rollling stream of water! Splash! Tee hee!

Folks, we have special permission to go to a closed movie set. Oh oh! The lights are off. Oh no! A subway car is coming at us. I hope it doesn’t hit us. Oh no! It’s going to make another controlled stop in front of us and we’ll divert on to another track.

Uh oh! This old Mummy set isn’t haunted is it? Oh wait! Why is there a moaning!? Oh no! Folks this tomb should have been cleared out!

Here we are on the set of Jurassic Park. Uh oh! The dinosaurs came to life and broke the ride! Watch out we’re going to drop down an 84 foot drop that you saw coming in!

I was actually afraid of the Jurassic park ride which is so lame. I have been on it five times. But I’m more fearful as I get older and I was afraid that this time, somehow, I’d have a heart attack during the drop. I kept wondering, “How long does it take to head 84 feet straight down?” Planning out how long the adrenolin rush that keeps me from being able to breathe would last. I think I scared the little man next to me who didn’t seem to speak English. Any time anything on that ride, before the plunge, made a noise, he’d look at me and raise his eyebrows and say, ‘Now?’

My favorite thing at Universal is the cheap-ass haunted house when you first come in. It’s fashioned after whatever movie Universal did last that was mostly a bomb. This time it was the Van Helsing house. You walk through and are stopped up by foggy mirrors and tight, claustrophobic hallways. If you stop to look at artifacts, guys in black capes with masks on pop out at you. I don’t think they are allowed to touch you but we always end up touching because I’m flailing my arms.

One masked guy came up to me and growled and I shrieked. I hate being scared. I hate walking thinking that something in the dark is going to touch my leg, back, neck, etc. I even started to fear my boyfriend as I clutched his arm. Even though I dragged him in there, what if he was secretly a vampire. What if by virtue of just being in the house it turned on ancient instincts of his vampiricness? I kept looking at him saying, “Don’t you join in with them.”

I yelled at one vampire, “I hate you!” I didn’t mean to. It just came out. And I shrieked at another one who had already scared me and moved on, “Get the fuck away from me!” Children behind me were just staring. It’s not a scary haunted house. But since houses in general scare me, I was pissing my pants. And once I got out alive, I felt so accomplished. I couldn’t stop laughing. The world was mine.

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