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Theme park marketing, like a banshee

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Published: August 12, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Kings Island announced the longest inverted roller coaster in the world on Thursday night. Banshee looks like an incredible coaster and a more than apt replacement for the much-maligned Son of Beast which was mercifully torn down a couple of years ago.

Banshee logo

What caught my eye more than the seven inversions and 4,000+ feet of track was this line from the attraction’s press release: “The first female-inspired thrill ride at a Cedar Fair Entertainment amusement park.”

A banshee is a mythical fairy-woman (commonly found in Irish folklore) that is said to appear near those who are about to die, particularly those in a violent way such as in battle. It is not uncommon for the banshee to not be seen -- but heard -- or, so the story goes.

My first question was whether that was true -- we know that when Cedar Fair first acquired the old Paramount parks (Kings Island being among them) there were several Top Spin attractions themed to the Tomb Raider franchise, which Robert noted in his original announcement post. But to say those wipe out their claim would seem a bit unfair; after all, Cedar Fair didn’t build the Lara Croft inspired attractions. Heck, they certainly didn’t waste any time re-theming them when the license expired.

Okay, so that claim stands; so the next question is: how many male themed attractions has Cedar Fair built?

Well, not many, to be honest. Cedar Fair isn’t in the business of paying for independent properties (or IP’s as they’re called in the biz) which is typically where male attractions come from. Think Indiana Jones, Spider-Man or Harry Potter. Cedar Fair doesn’t have any of those -- most of their attractions are themed to “things” (Wicked Twister, Flight Deck [let’s get a little jab in at that whopper of a roller coaster name]) or animals (The Bat, Diamondback, et. al).

The only major attractions that could fit into the male-centric category are Ghostrider, Renegade and MAYBE Maverick. That’s companywide -- and one could argue that these attractions are as much horse-themed as they are cowboy-themed. Perhaps Cedar Fair should have announced this as the first gender-themed attraction in their history!

If you look around the theme park industry a bit, you’ll notice that there is seldom a female-centric attraction to be found. Wonder Woman has yet to make her mark at a Six Flags park, Spider-Girl isn’t rushing into a Universal property anytime soon [there is Storm Force Accelatron - Editor] and one could argue that the princess-themed attractions at the Disney parks hardly depict women in a strong or positive light.

Though Kings Island appears to be depicting a banshee as a horrifying creature more than a semi-human fairy, we’ll take what we can get. To be fair, while a banshee is typically not the cause of someone’s death, hearing a banshee’s cry is (fairly) associated with a poor outcome for the hearer.

If Cedar Fair really wanted to take a stand in this area, they would build a roller coaster themed to a female gunslinger. Aren’t 90 percent of Cedar Fair’s themed attractions themed to the old west anyway? One more can’t hurt.

So is this Cedar Fair taking a stand in favor of empowering women in their theme parks? A ploy to appeal to women, a large portion of their customer base?

Probably not.

If we review the story arc of theme park marketing over the past 30 years, we’ll find that there has been one constant throughout it all: The claim to be the tallest, the fastest or, well, first. It’s like a disease. Instead of hyping an attraction based on its individual merits, theme parks have cannibalized themselves by using other attractions as measuring sticks. They have effectively conditioned their customers to accept nothing but something better than the last something.

Remember, these are the same geniuses that thought building a $15 million roller coaster every year was a sustainable business model. Ah, the late 90’s/early 2000s. Good times for theme park fans.

What we are seeing in the Banshee announcement is an extension of that theory. Cedar Fair has found a way to make a splash and get people talking about their new ride -- heck, I’m talking about it right now! Progressivism is trendy these days and the cynic in me is hesitant to say we’re making real progress on issues like women’s rights and Cedar Fair found a way to cash in on it. Marketing with progressivism as a convenient side effect? That’s an easy pill for a marketing department to swallow.

Readers' Opinions

From 94.6.248.185 on August 12, 2013 at 1:43 PM
Doesn't IP stand for Intellectual Property or is that just in the UK?

Good article about the old arms race and the desperate search for that USP

From Kurt Dahlin on August 12, 2013 at 1:58 PM
Actually, Wonder Woman has made her debut at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth is a Super Round-Up. It's not a coaster, but it is an attraction.
From Jacob Sundstrom on August 12, 2013 at 2:21 PM
Ah, that's right! I can't believe I forgot that one.

I feel comfortable qualifying that as a "non-major" attraction, but, well, it exists.

From Robert Niles on August 12, 2013 at 2:58 PM
Intellectual or independent. I've seen it used either way, depending upon context, of course.
From Andy Guinigundo on August 12, 2013 at 3:54 PM
Well, SON of Beast was a "male themed" ride. (Although - not sure about The Beast - my guess - female).
From Anon Mouse on August 12, 2013 at 4:00 PM
I never thought the rides were themed after a male or female. I thought it was neutral or animal or generic or a grand concept. We still refer to the rides as a female or "it".
From Jacob Sundstrom on August 12, 2013 at 4:17 PM
@Andy: I was thinking more in terms of humanoid gender-themed attractions, but to be fair -- Cedar Fair didn't build Son of Beast any more than they built the Tomb Raider attractions, right?

@AnonMouse: Sure, the rides are inanimate objects, but the stories behind the rides often feature human (or in this came, human-like) characters. Indiana Jones: The Temple of the Forbidden Eye is certainly an "it," but it's about a male hero saving our tails.

From 70.118.38.237 on August 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM
Cedar Fair is just doing this to get some political correctness points. Doesn't anyone remember Schwabinchen at Cedar Point?
From David Hahner on August 12, 2013 at 5:22 PM
Although most of Cedar Fair's coasters are "neutral" and non-gender specific, many are male oriented in terms of interest (Top Thrill Dragster, Flight Deck, Afterburn, Gatekeeper, Patriot, etc.). However, they DO have a few attractions that were named after males that were overlooked:
Intimidator at Carowinds and Intimidator 305 were named after NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, Snoopy's Flying ACE and Woodstock Express (at various CF parks), are named after male animal cartoon characters from Peanuts, and Zach's Zoomer at Michigan's Adventure is named after the park's former owner's grandson. Not many, I agree, but there are a few. Banshee may indeed be their first coaster named after a female.

As for Six Flags, Six Flags New England has Catwoman's Whip, a family coaster that was formerly Poison Ivy's Twisted Train. Both are female villains from Batman. So female themed coasters and rides are indeed more rare, but they do definitely exist.

From Aaron McConnell on August 12, 2013 at 5:23 PM
Don't forget Catwoman's Whip at Six Flags New England. And while we're at it, apparently the Loch Ness Monster is female so I guess that's one for Busch Gardens Williamsburg as well!
From Aaron McMahon on August 12, 2013 at 5:50 PM
I thought coasters were generally refereed to with female pronouns like ships.

Then there's Cedar Point, where the fanboys give the coasters pet names like Maggie and Millie :)

From Jacob Sundstrom on August 12, 2013 at 7:54 PM
Like I mentioned earlier, I'm prone to ignore non-human-like characters like the Loch Ness Monster, Snoopie, etc; but sure, there's at least an argument to be had there.

The Intimidator coasters are a good point, though -- I had forgotten they were named after Earnhardt.

As far as coasters being "she's" -- while I get where you're coming from, referring to inanimate objects as "she's" does more harm towards women than good because it reinforces the "women are objects" trope; not to mention that these objects are predominantly controlled by men.

From 66.242.48.145 on August 13, 2013 at 9:19 AM
Six Flags was going to name a coaster Banshee about 10 years ago but decided the name was very poorly chosen. It is a Celtic female fairy who wails loudly before someone is to die or even appears as an apparition trying to wash the blood off the soon to be dead person's clothing or armor. I am amazed no one remembered the Six Flags mistake.
From Rod Whitenack on August 13, 2013 at 11:17 AM
I'm just hoping Kings Island follows through with the theme and installs some big speakers at the top of the lift hill so the Banshee can let out a terrifying scream just as the car drops down the first hill.
From 76.106.238.36 on August 13, 2013 at 8:56 PM
I thought Mantis at Cedar Point was originally called Banshee.

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