Tombstone, AZ is probably on many travelers' bucket list. That doesn't say much for bucket lists. I have been through several times, just because roads intersected there and I needed gasoline. It has always been 3 minutes of fun. Then I left while still rolling my eyes.
But scowling at tourist kitsch isn't much fun. Let's try to explain the tourists. In the 1950s and 1960s Westerns were big on television. I watch DVDs of some of those shows today. But most of the tourists in Tombstone are young, so why would they care about the past? Westerns are not a big part of the entertainment industry today.
|Brian Tarr, fineartamerica.com|
So what is the attraction of Tombstone to a young tourist today? Yes, there are a few restaurants and ice cream parlors, but they can find all of that closer to home. Is it really fun and exciting to walk into a tourist store and buy over-priced T-shirts with "Shootout at the OK Corral" screen-printed on them?
I understand tourists are on vacation -- they want a break from the drudgery of work and their humdrum lives back home. OK, fine. So why not skydiving lessons, scuba diving, bungee jumping, or legalized prostitution? What is exciting about shops or restaurants?
Perhaps any town that is presented with an easily identified theme will succeed with tourists because their mindset is not different from that of a mass-consumer, whipping their purchase's bar code over the laser scanner in the checkout line. Thus it makes no real difference what the theme is, or whether it is particularly interesting.
But something was different this time in Tombstone. I watched all the masks walking around in this silly town with a Western kitsch theme from Hollywood, and thought about the huge impact of the media and entertainment industry: enough people spending enough hours watching electronic screens, and anything is possible.