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Literature / A World of Laughter, a World of Tears

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"My think that this is going to be in the hands of the man who did 'Steamboat Willie'"
Harry S. Truman note 

An Alternate History where Walt Disney, not Dwight D. Eisenhower, is elected president of the United States in 1952. Bad Stuff Happens. Read it here.

The reality starts with little changes: Eisenhower has a minor heart attack early in his presidential campaign causing him to step down from his nomination. With the Republican party at a loggerhead, Walt Disney is selected almost for simple publicity. Disney then proceeds to use his huge media chain to sweep the elections and take office as President of the United States. However, while Walt is a great businessman and excellent campaigner, when it comes to the slow, complicated work of politics he mostly flounders. When the worse trials of the 1950's hit, including the Korean War, Civil Rights movement and Middle East issues, the kind-hearted but flawed businessman succeeds at first but is soon out of his element.

Told through the narration of a Scrapbook Story, the author known only as statichaos follows the events of this world's 1950s not just from the history book version but from all walks of life in what Disney dreams will be "the happiest place on earth."

Various narrators and characters include White House Chief of Staff Roy Cohn, White House Press Secretary James W. Dodd protest organizer and future president Jerry Brown, expatriate film director Orson Welles, Senator George Rockwell, government sponsored writer Robert A. Heinlein, a mysterious beatnik known only as "Beano", a young Bill Clinton, a civil rights leader called Eldridge Cleaver, Sandstorm lead singer Brian Wilson and many, many more.

A World Of Laughter A World of Tears was finished on March 25, 2010. Its continuation, titled When You Wish Upon A Star arrived shortly thereafter, but statichaos's health issues caused it to slow and then completely stop shortly after its start. While its fans wait for the author to recover and return, as of December 2011 it was considered safely a Dead Fic. In February 2012, the Author returned, and on April 12 When You Wish Upon a Star was started again, but eventually stopped. The thread then remained dormant for seven years before the author returned again on August 30, 2019, the 10th anniversary of the original story, to rewrite the sequel, and as of 2019, the story is being continued once again on this thread under the title "The Oceans Divide".

This work provides examples of:

  • Allohistorical Allusion: Several, as is usual in Alternate History. Dodd hates being called Jimmie and ponders his life if he had become a musician instead, Malcolm X replaces Che as the most common face on campus posters, Bill Clinton mentions that he wanted to be president in kindergarten...
  • Alternate History: Thank God.
  • Anti-Villain: Though President Disney makes one disastrous mistake after another, he genuinely is well-meaning. For example, he only supports segregation because the lynching of Emmett Till convinces him that blacks & whites aren't ready to live together. Further, the worst decisions and actions seem to be committed by manipulative underlings and more distant followers as he sinks into a helpless depression. The only time he clearly comes off as a bad guy is when his kneejerk anti-Semitism poisons relations with Israel and causes them to side with the Soviets.
  • The Atoner: Roy Cohn. After the attempted assassination of Disney followed by Rockwell's rant against Jews, Cohn goes back to his synagogue and apologizes to his rabbi for being a bad Jew. He then gets Nelson Rockefeller, a pro-civil rights liberal Republican, to run in the primaries against Rockwell, who until then was the only strong nominee. This is despite having been very supportive, and in most cases the architect, of Disney's anti-civil rights actions. To top it all off, he gets Rockefeller to put a Hebrew phrase in his speech announcing his candidacy, just to spite Rockwell. He then finishes the job by setting in motion an awesome Batman Gambit that takes down Rockwell.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Senator John Stennis, an ardently segregationist Democrat from Mississippi, ends up beating the moderate Republican Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, in the presidential election of 1960.
  • Batman Gambit: Roy Cohn's takedown of Rockwell's campaign, shutting him out of the GOP nomination, and destroying his reputation by being in the right position to take a punch to the face from an enraged Rockwell in front of multiple cameras and journalists by using James Dodd as the decoy to lure Rockwell out. Bonus points for its intricacy and the time spent setting it up and putting Rockwell in the right place at the right time.
  • Bedmate Reveal: After a night of overindulgence, Orson Welles wakes up to find Vampira in his bed.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Beano. He's the only fictional recurring character, but is pals with Wally Hedrick, Allen Ginsberg and Jerry Brown. He also meets John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Lucky Luciano and introduces The Beach Boys to marihuana(!)
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: When Rockwell becomes a serious contender for president, Roy Cohn becomes a major figure in trying to prevent the further collapse of race relations in the US. Another example is the struggle between the black revolutionary movements and the government.
    • The In-Universe view of Nelson Rockefeller vs John Stennis, according to black activists and college students.
  • Break the Cutie: James W. Dodd and possibly Beano.
  • Breather Episode: Beano's mini-arc in Europe and after his return to California, Orson Welles'.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jimmie Dodd to a certain extent. While he never actually abandons Disney, he finds himself less and less comfortable with the Disney emblem itself as the country grows more authoritarian.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Being POTUS proves to be too demanding for ol' Walt.
  • Class Traitor: Lyndon Johnson is viewed as this for his moderate views on race. When he runs for President in 1956, he even loses Texas.
  • Crapsaccharine World: In the first entry, it doesn't look bad at all... until you read the attribution of the last quote.
    • Now veering right into Crapsack World territory with the aftermath of the assassination attempt on President Disney.
    • Although things doesn't seem to be all that much worse to our timeline outside the USA. It is just that the main narrative focuses on the USA, where, as the rest of this page indicates, things are very much worse than our timeline.
    • Unfortunately it may be undermined by Rockwell leaving the Republican Party and siding with Stennis.
  • Culture Police: The Mickey Mouse Club and its eager children and parents use patriotism and accusations of Un-American activity to browbeat (or just beat down) 1950s counterculture. This drives Elvis, the Beatniks, and various Hollywood filmmakers (Orson Welles among them) to Europe, particularly London, France, and Berlin.
    • Mind that in real life, Elvis, swaying hips aside, was a fierce McCarthyist who once planned to become a spy inside the Communist Party.
  • Deconstruction: The story smashes apart the idea of a famous celebrity becoming President. While Walt does have a few achievements under his belt as President, he lacks the mental fortitude to deal with the various crises of civil disorder and race relations. He allows himself to be manipulated by people who mismanage those crises for their own gain, and eventually Walt effectively breaks down and becomes a sickly alcoholic, unable to cope with the horrible realities around him.
  • Dark Fic: Of Alternate History anyway. It's as bleak, if not even more so, as All He Ever Wanted and For All Time.
  • Dirty Communists: The Disney administration sees them everywhere.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Mouseketeers begin wearing armbands.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After Little Rock, Walt hits the bottle hard. Eventually his health collapses from it, and Roy Cohn effectively runs the White House.
    • James Dodd does this as well.
  • Dystopia: Walt Disney turns America — for anyone who isn't white, Christian, and middle class — into the beginnings of a dystopia in the 1950s. From veiled references to the future, the 1960s will be even worse.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: George Lincoln Rockwell, trying to get elected as a Republican in a southern state. He openly confronts the fact in his campaign and is able to shame his opponents for sinking to the level of such attacks, winning the election.
  • Enemy Mine: Roy Cohn and Jimmie Dodd despise each other, but end up working together to bring down Rockwell.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Senator George Lincoln Rockwell makes anti-semitic remarks to Roy Cohn at a White House dinner, Cohn snaps and breaks the Senator's nose with a punch. As Cohn is Jewish, it could be Evil Doesn't Like Being Insulted, but it is a humanizing moment. This is even more clear in the aftermath of this dinner, where Cohn goes to great lengths to stop Rockwell. It's clear that even he, a Magnificent Bastard, is horrified by the idea of a Neo-Nazi like Rockwell getting the presidency.
    • Subverted with Stennis' opposition to Rockwell's plan to deport all blacks to Africa. He states his opposition to the plan, but has no objection to the actual idea of the plan. He simply thinks it's impractical. He supports walling the black communities into ghettos, which is barely better. Subverted even further when he supports a more modified version of his deportation plan.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Walt Disney may be an old time racist, but he attacks Roy Cohn for trying to exploit the murder of one of the Little Rock 9.
  • Evil Chancellor: Cohn to Disney as White House Chief of Staff.
  • Evil Counterpart: The "Freedom Riders"— organized by George Lincoln Rockwell.
  • Excited Kids' Show Host: Ronald Reagan, of all people, as host of The Mickey Mouse Club.
  • Face–Heel Turn: John F. Kennedy goes from being a staunch supporter of civil rights to the running mate of Senator John Stennis, a major supporter of segregation. It's a sign of the dystopic nature of this timeline that Stennis isn't even the worst option out of the potential candidates.
  • Finagle's Law: How do you make a world with Walter Elias Fucking Disney as President go horribly wrong? Here's the answer.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Eisenhower's heart attack leads to the Republican Party nominating Walt Disney as a compromise candidate...
  • Good Parents: Pat Brown to Jerry. Despite his political career being killed by Jerry's activism, Pat encourages him to fight for justice.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Roy Cohn, sort of.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ed Wood and Orson Welles.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Walt Disney, of all people, in this timeline. Here, his alleged racism, alleged anti-Semitism, and (admittedly very real) anti-communism are Flanderized to the point where his administration creates a dystopian caricature of The '50s. In our timeline, Walt used racially insensitive jokes in many of his cartoons and was very anti-union which he attributed to communism. However, Walt was not known personally for hatred towards any particular racial group.
  • Irony: The U.S. government starts using LSD as a drug to try and change the behaviour of left-wing subversives.
    • In our time-line, there were many Leftists, notably those aligned with or splitting from the Communist Party, who believed that this was precisely the case, both to divert and sap the Left's mental energies and to provide a pretext for police persecution.
  • La Résistance: There are both non-violent and violent movements who resist Disney's government. On the non-violent side there is the Student Civil Liberties Union (with a young Jerry Brown as one of its members). The violent resistance is comprised of black revolutionary organizations, a secular leftist group led by Eldridge Cleaver and a Muslim group led by Malcolm X.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine is annihilated by a white mob. According to Bill Clinton's testimony, it was so bad that you couldn't even tell what race he was by the time it was over.
  • The Mafia: The government smuggles Lucky Luciano back into the USA in order to use the Mob to undermine activists.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Averted. In-universe example - Realizing the connotations of gangs of ideologically motivated youths marching around with armbands, the Disney Corporation ditches the armbands in favor of coonskin caps as the "new badge of honor."
  • Moral Guardians: Protests by the Mickey Mouse Club strangle Playboy magazine in its cradle, kill Marilyn Monroe's career, stifle America's counterculture and drive it overseas, and, by stringently supporting segregation, cause the Civil Rights Movement to give up non-violent protest.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Disney, both Walt and the company, are accused of fascism and anti-Semitism. The Mickey Mouse Club turns into a pro-segregationist, nationalistic youth group. And eventually, George Lincoln Rockwell, an actual Nazi, gets elected to the Senate, because the Senator he was running against, a staunch segregationist, was considered too moderate.
  • Network Decay: In-Universe, the Disney Corporation closes down its animation department, with many animators going over to Warner Brothers. Disney devotes itself to making pro-American propaganda.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted. Leaving aside Walt Disney, everyone from Malcolm X to Anita Bryant to Alan Ginsberg to The Beatles (known here as "The Quarrymen", and with a slightly different lineup) shows up. Pretty much every entry is from the POV of a historical celebrity, or from someone else viewing a celebrity.
    • Statichaos has joked that he's considered working in Hunter S. Thompson, but "mimicking his writing style would involve hurting my brain."
  • Oppressive States of America: The United States become this under Disney's administration.
  • Pet the Dog: Cohn giving a heartfelt eulogy to Joe McCarthy, as well as praising Walt Disney's vision.
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie: Here.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Barry Goldwater delivers an epic one to Rockwell on the floor of the Republican National Convention.
  • Red Scare: But it never ends.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Thanks to a combination of destroying the nonviolent protest wing of the Civil Rights Movement and several very public deaths, the American general public becomes familiar with the definition of the word jihad decades earlier than they would have.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: All over the place, though averted by precisely Richard Nixon, who is still a more or less successful politician.
    • Walt Disney is president of the United States.
    • Jimmie Dodd is the White House public spokesman.
    • Ronald Reagan substitutes Dodd as host of The Mickey Mouse Club, and eventually climbs his way to become chairman of the Disney corporation.
    • Bill Clinton is president... of the Southern Poverty Center.
    • Anita Bryant is national coordinator of the Mickey Mouse clubs.
    • Ayn Rand becomes head of the Motion Picture Association of America.
    • The Water and Power Commissioner for Kenya is Barack Obama... Senior. (Junior doesn't exist in this timeline due to the butterfly effect.)
  • Running Gag: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all show up wearing Mickey Mouse ears at some point.
  • Scrapbook Story: The entire story is told in excerpts from autobiographies, history books, essays, interviews, newspaper articles and documentaries.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Due to the deteriorating racial relations in the United States, a lot of blacks left United States for Soviet Union, especially after a massacre of blacks by the Florida state government. In fact, Disney's government sponsored the relocation of black people in America to other countries.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: It puts Walt Disney in the President's chair. America goes dystopic under his rule. Let's just categorize it as cynical and leave it at that.
  • Smug Snake: Rockwell. While's he's scary in being a nutjob with too much power for comfort, he's not very smart or savvy. In fact, when he's having his violent tantrums, he looks more unpleasent and pathetic than threatening.
  • Titled After the Song: The title is the first line of the song from the (in)famous Disney ride It's a Small World After All.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Roy Cohn becomes this to the Rockefeller campaign.
  • Token Good Teammate: Jimmie Dodd and Everett Dirksen in the Disney cabinet. Nelson Rockefeller becomes the only major political figure that is actively preventing the collapse of civil liberties.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Roy Cohn starts out as an amoral crook happy to see protestors and civil rights leaders brutalized. But after seeing the country fall apart to the point that a literal Nazi could become President, Cohn becomes determined to stop Rockwell, eventually making peace with some of his political opponents and going back to synagogue.
  • Torn Apart by the Mob: President Disney's refusal to send the National Guard in during the Little Rock crisis results in Ernest Green being torn to pieces by an angry racist mob.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: The Disney presidency allows a lot of right-wing fanatics (including an actual Nazi) to gain power.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Everyone in the story is telling either what happened from their own experience or recording other people's sayings and opinions. Even James Dodd, the Only Sane Man of the piece and narrator of what was really happening in the White House is still skewed in his opinion by his deep abiding father-son relationship with Walt Disney and blinded to some of the man's faults.
    • Some narrators are outright lying. Dodd and Cohn's narratives overtly contradict each other at some points, due to Cohn's attempts to shrug off blame or achieve glory for his deeds and Dodd... telling the truth, mostly.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The unknown man at the Republican leadership meeting in 1952 who jokingly suggested Walt Disney as a presidential candidate. If he'd only known how much misery he would unleash...
  • Unwitting Pawn: Rockwell. The neo-Nazi didn't see it coming.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Cohn takes down Rockwell by manipulating him into having one in front of the cameras.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Depending on where you sit politically, President Disney would qualify.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Nation of Islam vs. Eldridge Cleaver's African Brotherhood.
  • We Can Rule Together: When the Republican Convention is deadlocked, Rockwell offers to support Goldwater if they join on the same ticket. Goldwater not only refuses, but does so in a way that completely shreds Rockwell's chances.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: President Disney.
  • Wham Line: The first post is mostly by-the-book exposition about Disney becoming the Republican nominee (though Roy Cohn being a retired Senator could make some people flinch)...until the attribution of the anti-Disney essay at the end.
    "University essay by "Laura B.", recovered from her psychiatric file in 1980 during a class-action suit against the government on behalf of hundreds of former college students committed to asylums under the 1960s mental hygiene acts."
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Orson Welles wakes up in the morning having declared to Vampira under the influence of a drink too many during the night.
  • A World Half Full: Possibly. It's a pretty crapsacky dystopia now and from what we know it will only get worse during The '60s. But it's implied that things do get better eventually, at least to an extent.
    • There is also the fact that, so far at least, most of the world outside the USA haven't gotten all that much worse than they would be. In fact, several parts seems to be better off. For example, the European culture scene, especially in Berlin, Paris and London profit from the emigration of influential US-American artists like Orson Welles and Elvis Presley.
      • Also, the last update of Part 1 implies that, in the present day, some things are even better then they are now. From what little we know, we have gone much further in space exploration then in in our timeline, having real infrastructure being built in space. We also are advanced enough in technology to have an international bullet train system.
      • Disney saves the American rail network. That is all.
    • Since the Quarrymen may never leave England, John Lennon never meets Mark David Chapman. Quotes indicate he lives to at least 1994.
    • Also, Ed Wood has a job as loyal and appreciated apprentice to Orson Welles.
    • While he never becomes the figure he is in our timeline, Martin Luther King Jr is still alive (and doing work for civil rights) in 1977.
    • The USSR is also thawing little by little because Khrushchev is more intent on reform now that the US is less able to pose a threat to them. It's also now actively acting more magnanimous with minorities just to tweak the nose of the US about being a much more open, accepting, and free nation.
    • Hell, it might be argued that the rest of the world in general is better than in Real Life: The Hungarian Revolution was successful, Cuba didn't go communist (though at the cost of direct American intervention and Batista's regime being continued), and there was no Suez Crisis or Vietnam War. As for whether Cuba not going communist and sticking with Batista is a good thing...
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Anita Bryant says this about Roy Cohn.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Cohn doesn't take kindly to being called "a good Jew" by Rockwell.