Disney trademarked the term SEAL Team 6 just 2 days after Obama mentioned the unit had killed Osama bin Laden. And don’t forget—he announced it on a Sunday.
Sunday evening May 1 the world learned that an elite group of Navy SEALs called “Team 6″ had assassinated Osama bin Laden. Two days later, Disney had trademarked the term with intentions to exploit the mark in merchandising everything from shirts, shoes, hats and foot wear—and no doubt action figurines—to “snow globes,” “Christmas ornaments” and “Christmas stockings.” Because nothing says Christmas spirit like an assassination.
Disney’s timing on this was almost like a Navy SEAL operation in and of itself. Don’t forget—reports state they’d filed the trademark application two days after it was announced. The kill was announced on a Sunday. Which means that Disney executives came into work on Monday, found the balls to ask one another, “Is there a merchandising opportunity in this murder?” and had the trademark application prepared and filed with the USPTO 24 hours hours later.
That’s a move of either galling cynicism about the nature of the American consumer, or of almost Jedi-like insight about America’s penchant for hero narratives. I just can’t decide which.
On the one hand, it’s true—we’ll buy anything. It’s pathetic. Wherever there’s an asshole willing to buy a snuggie, there’s a dude about to get rich. On the other hand, consuming is how we purge negativity and create new narratives. Immediately following 9/11 President Bush urged people to go shopping. The cure to a new dark age of terror on home soil? Retail therapy.
It worked with Times Square. Mayors had tried to rid midtown Manhattan of its seedy underworld for decades. What finally did the trick? We shopped right through it. Guliani practically turned Times Square into a giant shopping mall, and now it’s all Dick Clark New Year’s and beach chairs on Broadway.
So perhaps the best way to finally flush the bin Laden nightmare out of the collective consciousness is to Disneyfy it. With an exhilarating new Seal Team 6 ride shuttling Disney World visitors through a ‘Small World’ version of vaguely Arab action-adventures and Seal Team 6 Christmas ornaments sparkling in the yuletide, the bin Laden mission will fade into history less as an “assassination” and more as a “vindication.” And, yes, some dudes will get marginally richer in the process. But what’s more American than that?
Something tells me Disney has its fingers crossed that the dead bin Laden photos never surface—”oozing brain matter” and snow globes just don’t mix.