The problem is it isn’t real life

At our agency we talk about the value of authenticity in marketing and that people can sense when they are being put on. Last week’s news featured reports from Celebration, Florida on a murder that took place on over the Thanksgiving holiday. Ordinarily that would not be all that remarkable except that it was the first murder ever recorded in this community created by Walt Disney in the 1990’s. Disney did relinquish control several years ago and the now independent community is simply part of Osceola County. At the outset the idyllic community received criticism that it was a bit ‘too perfect’ – almost ‘Stepford Wives’ – like.

Celebration is a town where people give Christmas gifts to their favorite Starbucks barista, where welcoming wooden rocking chairs sit lakeside on a sidewalk without being stolen, and where reportedly neighbors tend to get suspicious if they notice you’re not around.

What has always troubled me about the whole idea of Celebration is that it represents intentional in-authenticity. It was as if people there wanted to live a life that they could only dream might be possible. But what if the dream turned out to be a nightmare?

Another place (oddly in Florida as well) that has an ersatz feel to it is ‘The Villages’ in Lady Lake. I hesitate to write about it since I have family that live there and know several people’s whose parents have retired there and absolutely love it. The Villages has more than 70,000 residents, more than 40,000 homes, 34 golf courses, nine country clubs, and is the largest gated retirement community in America – and one of the most popular destinations for New Yorkers in their golden years – where the female-to-male ratio runs 10 to 1.

I visited The Villages a number of times in the 1990’s and 2000’s. It reminded me of a real life ‘Sim City’ game. It began with a few town houses and condominiums and has grown amazingly such that it has its own school system and full infrastructure. The residents ride around in their own golf carts (not all that unusual in retirement communities) and there is dancing and music in the two town squares every night.
The Villages also has had the distinction of having one highest rates of sexually transmitted disease rate among those over 65 the country, one report claims.

What I remember the most about The Villages is that the whole place felt artificial. People were happy (and that’s great) but at the same time it seemed to be outside the bounds of the real world. That might be ok for the people there but it made me really uncomfortable.

The problem is that it’s just not real and I could never and would never want to be become accustomed to living in a place like that.

How about you? Are you believer in keeping it real?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in Customer Experiences, Living in the World Today and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The problem is it isn’t real life

  1. John says:

    Life is how we perceive it.


  2. Tom says:

    One of the phrases that stays with me is “Never say never”.

    Don’t worry, Mark, I will come visit you at the Villages.


  3. markkolier says:

    When it comes to living at the Villages I can safely say never.


  4. Dona says:

    I wonder what makes somewhere like the Villages feel “not real.” Is it the sense that someone else is taking care of the everyday stuff that the rest of us have to deal with? Who wouldn’t be happy about that! Or is it the implied obligation, as if written into the Bylaws: “Residents MUST at all times be happy.” But let me challenge that thinking – isn’t that the goal of all advertising – to seduce with the tease of happiness as represented by that fast car, smart phone, gentle fabric softener or rich dark chocolate bar? The difference is that we might anticipate an increase on the happiness-meter when we buy any of those products, but assuming we’re somewhat rationale, we know that there is more to happiness than taking up permanent residence in Disney World (although there might be something to the chocolate-happiness connection…). Yes, it does seem sad to live in an environment of manufactured happiness if, to quote a well-known film, that’s “as good as it gets.”


    • markkolier says:

      And make no mistake that the residents there appear to be genuinely happy and in no way do I begrudge that. For me living in a insulated situation is an issue and I suspect that’s true for many others. Thanks for the comment Dona.


  5. Pete says:

    So here is one opinion from left field.
    Your perceptions might be colored by your lifelong residence in Megalopolis areas. The vast majority, if not all your life has been in either LA or the NY area (as far as I know) and I think that heavily impacts your perceptions.
    My experience is that people from Mega City areas tend to think along Mega lines with big cities being central to all that happens, and you think in terms of big, extended places.

    People who live in smaller, sometimes isolated, areas tend to think differently. They are thinking along Micro lines and tend to enjoy the smaller sphere of their lives.

    I have lived in both, and have been struck by the difference in perspective in the people I have met.

    My parents live in the Villages and it has never struck me as artificial, but as a specialized place for people of a certain age who want to live a relaxed life in a place that has all they need without all the extras.

    Celebration does strike me a bit artificial, but I think it was very much intended to be.

    Just my goofy point of view.


    • markkolier says:

      Not left field at all. As I noted I know a number of people who completely disagree with my take. It is interesting to look at it from the viewpoint of size and scope of an invidividuals life and geography. But I prefer not to think of it an a provincial way but admit that it has an impact – perhaps a large one. Great comment Pete. Thanks.


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