America! A land in which our most treasured popular cultural symbols are just candy coating for our other, far darker cultural symbols. Maybe Mickey Mouse is worth a shit, after all.

Have you ever come to NYC as a tourist and visited Times Square? Fuck you. But that's a separate issue. Anyhow, in Times Square you see Elmo and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and a host of other characters parading around in costume, taking pictures with the kiddies for spare change. Today in the WSJ, Sumathi Reddy and Amber Benham have an extremely worthwhile story about the people—actual humans!—on the inside of those costumes. They're all immigrants! Some are undocumented! Many do not even speak English! Elmo is just trying to make it. Meet the backbone of your Mickey Mouse Industrial Complex, America:

"When I'm dressed up, people come close to me, they hug me, they kiss me, smile at me," Mr. Vasquez said in Spanish as he worked at the corner of Broadway and West 48th Street recently [dressed as Mickey Mouse]. "When I don't have my costume on, people don't talk to me."

"They don't see you," added the 42-year-old.

We're all terrible people. Read it all.

[WSJ. Photo: Claire Schmitt/ Flickr]