You may know him as The Maestro — Bob Cobb — from several memorable episodes of Seinfeld. But, before Mark Metcalf was The Maestro, he was Neidermeyer, the tightly wound ROTC officer in the 1978 John Landis-directed classic, Animal House. Neidermeyer, who was a thorn in the Deltas’ side, always exerted his “authority” in ham-fisted ways. Give someone a little bit of power and too many times he uses it in a completely moronic way like Douglas Neidermeyer.
Sadly, the Neidermeyer Complex is alive and well in our land today. The latest example comes from that bastion of family fun and frivolity known as Dollywood. Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood is indeed a great family attraction. When we lived in SW Virginia, we would make at least one 3-hour trip to Dollywood every year. Christmas-time at Dollywood is particularly impressive.
What’s not so impressive is the Neidermeyer-like job that a Dollywood ticket-taker did several weeks ago. It seems that a lesbian couple, Jennifer Tipton and Olivier Odom, were visiting Dollywood’s Splash Country
“water park July 9 with friends and their friends’ two children when she (Odom) was asked by a person at the front gate to turn her shirt inside out because it was a family park.” (full article here)
Both Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country have dress codes. The pertinent part of Splash Country’s “Policies and Dress Guidance,” addressed as a FAQ entitled “What should I wear when I visit?” simply states:
Only swimsuits are allowed on the water attractions. No swimsuits with buckles, rivets, or any sharp objects, no denim, corduroy or cutoffs allowed. Shirts are not permitted on the body slides (no exceptions). Thong swimsuits are not permitted. Shirts with profanity are not permitted. (FAQ here)
While the main Dollywood theme park does have a more extensive dress code (here), that dress code would not have applied at the water park. Other than “shirts with profanity,” there are no additional guidelines concerning what types of shirts — often only used as a cover-up while walking into and out of a WATER PARK — can be worn inside Splash Country.
With that in mind, what profanity-laced shirt was Ms. Odom wearing as she attempted to enter the water park? You might want to sit down for this or avert your eyes if you are a particularly sensitive type. The message on the front of the shirt that caused such an uproar said: [Marriage is so gay]
Shocking! No wonder they made her turn her shirt inside out so that the offending message would not be seen by the families at Splash Country. Wouldn’t want them to see such profanity. However, as I have been at similar water parks, I can speak from first-hand experience that there are far more offensive and revolting sights to be seen!
In trying to defend such a Neidermeyer-esque, bone-headed move, Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said:
“Dollywood is open to all families, but their dress code policy is to ask people with clothing or tattoos that could be considered offensive to change clothes or cover up.” (see here)
That’s interesting. Neither Dollywood’s nor Splash Country’s dress codes or guidelines even refer to tattoos. Is Mr. Owens seriously trying to argue that visitors to Dollywood who have tattoos may have to cover them up before they can enter the park? When was the last time that happened? With more and more men and women sporting tattoos, this policy — which is not on their website — is completely non-sensical. Talk about pulling a Neidermeyer.
But, let’s say for the sake of argument that clothing that “could be considered offensive” was grounds to ask someone to change (who has an extra shirt when they come to Dollywood?) or in the case of Ms. Odom, to turn her shirt inside out? Who gets to decide what “could be considered offensive?” Will we have Neidermeyer types stationed at every entrance to Dollywood, on the look-out for that which would offend? If that’s the case, we will have mighty long wait times just to walk into the park.
No one can reasonably argue that Ms. Odom’s shirt contained profanity. While I disagree with the message on her shirt, it in no way can be considered profanity. If it is, then we have so diluted the meaning of that word that any and everything — especially messages we don’t agree with — will now be considered profanity.
Most likely, the overzealous Dollywood employee who exerted his or her authority to make Ms. Odom turn her shirt inside out was motivated by their objections to gay marriage. (For the record, I am opposed to same-sex marriage). Some might be tempted to say, “Good for them. We need people to take a stand against that which is offensive. I would have done the same thing.”
That maybe all well and good, but I seem to remember seeing a fair amount of shirts being worn at Dollywood and other public places which may fall into the suspect category of “highly offensive.” Some of these shirts have messages that even depict violence. Many of the shirts not only have pictures, but are accompanied by written messages that many within our culture find blatantly offensive.
So, if you want Dollywood to ban [Marriage is so gay] shirts as offensive, then you will have no problem in them banning the Christian-themed shirts that so many students and adults wear to proclaim the life-changing message of the Gospel and the Cross. You can be a Neidermeyer and exert your authority to ban messages that you find offensive (I’m not talking about crude or profanity-laced messages).
Or you can be someone who is tolerant (not accepting) of messages on shirts that you personally disagree with. The next time you reach for your Christian-messaged shirt to wear to Dollywood or Disney World, just remember the old adage: “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”