Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Neighborhoods of Make-Believe: Place, Play, and Possibility in Disneyland, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and The Magic City

Mockler, Kerry B. (2015) Neighborhoods of Make-Believe: Place, Play, and Possibility in Disneyland, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and The Magic City. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (1MB)


All imaginative play, all make-believe, is a process of transformation. Playing alters the world which the player inhabits; it creates a new space that overlays, interpenetrates, or replaces the “real” world. Make-believe can change the signification of the physical or geographical space, it can act as time-travel, it can alter the appearance and actions of others drawn into the playspace, it can rewrite virtually all the laws of science and nature. Perhaps most fundamentally, play transforms the player. Imaginative play empowers the player, allows her to shape and mold her surroundings, to create stories where none existed, or to overwrite or erase existing stories; it allows her to invent and inhabit alternative identities.
This project examines three places and spaces of play to consider the kinds of possibilities for transgression and transformation they engender. It begins with analysis of Disneyland, focusing on the park’s origins and early reception, arguing that the park was always intended as a space for adults and children equally, and that the design of the park makes it a kind of toy or stage manipulable by visitors. Next, it analyzes Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by looking in depth at several key episodes of the program, examining the ways in which they represent alternatives or challenges to heteronormative culture, specifically concerning queer male identities. It also examines a sample of viewer mail sent to the program over a 35-year span as a means of thinking about divergent reception and potential effects of the program. Finally, it considers the children’s writing of E. Nesbit, and the ways in which Nesbit creates a world in which play, especially theatrical play, is possible and important for both adults and children.

This project concludes by suggesting that positioning play as a materially-situated activity as well as a method of exploration or inquiry, opens up new ways to consider and challenge a variety of binary constructs, particularly that of the child and the adult.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mockler, Kerry
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAnderson, Markandersml@pitt.eduANDERSML
Committee MemberGubar,
Committee MemberBickford, TylerBICKFORD@pitt.eduBICKFORD
Committee MemberMalin, Brentonbmalin@pitt.eduBMALIN
Date: 22 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 April 2015
Approval Date: 22 June 2015
Submission Date: 19 April 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 211
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: queer theory; children's literature; Edith Nesbit; Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; children's media; Disneyland
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2015 14:05
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:23


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item