Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is one of those towns that really should have nothing going for it. However, its advantageous position just next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park has unintentionally made it a tourist destination. Yet rather than serving as a rustic respite, the city has run with it, making the “resort town” into a theme park all its own. Along with nearby Pigeon Forge, the two cities are some of the kitschiest places I have ever been. For those of you who have been to Pier 39, it’s pretty much the same: chain restaurants, hokey rides and arcades, bright colors, lots of crowds… Some people say Disneyland is the perfect example of Baudrillard’s simulacra, but I am convinced downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the East Tennessee equivalents.
Published June 27, 2013