“Disney adults” are punching bags online. Why are they so happy?


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When the familiar chatter broke last week, John Metzdorf took to Twitter for a tongue-in-cheek victory lap.

“We’ve done it again, Disney adults,” the 34-year-old Georgia man said wrote from his Gratuitous Disney Memes account, @GratDisMemesattaching a screenshot of the trending topic.

“The ‘Disney Adults’ trending cycle on Twitter is usually about members of the fandom doing something that many would consider an unhealthy obsession, and honestly, that’s fair,” Metzdorf said in an email.

Among online subcultures, Disney-loving adults have become a frequent — and easy — target for roasting. Take this line from Rolling Stone in January: “Of all the main characters on the Internet, there is perhaps no creature that deserves more opprobrium, more disgust, than the Disney adult.” Then there was this headline from fansite Inside the Magic in February: “The Internet Hates ‘Weird Disney Adults’ (Again).”

The cause of the latest round of mockery: A widely circulated Reddit post from a user who said she, a 28-year-old bride, and her 30-year-old husband had angered some wedding guests for choosing to spending their catering budget at a Disney wedding on a Mickey and Minnie Mouse appearance instead of food. The post has since been deleted.

Nuptial priorities aside, the Reddit post — along with a recently surfaced video showing an aborted proposal at Disneyland Paris — has reignited debate on social media about why some adult people embrace Disney fandom and whether these adults arecringe.”

“In this case, me and my internet industry, we made it kind of a joke,” said Itzy Zepeda, a 24-year-old Disney fan and elementary school teacher from Chicago. “Like, ‘Oh, what did we do now?'”

Childless millennials passionately defend their Disney fandom

She recalls past examples that have sparked social media buildups: people queuing for hours for special new buckets of popcorn, a woman who cried when she finally got to kiss Goofy after the pandemic has halted character interactions.

“In those cases, I get a little defensive,” she said, noting that fandom doesn’t hurt anyone. “In this case, I like to sit and be like, ‘Hey guys, can’t we be unnecessarily rude to people on the internet for no reason?'”

In 2019, the debate centered on whether childless millennials were ruining the Disney experience for families — and whether they were weird to go. The nearly $5,000 price tag for two people staying at the new Star Wars role-playing hotel has raised eyebrows. And Disney’s adult critics found new fodder when the company announced plans for residential communities, called Storyliving by Disney, in February.

Disney’s $5,000 Star Wars hotel and line-cut charges: Some fans say the ‘magic is gone’

Jodi Eichler-Levine, a professor of religion at Lehigh University who is working on a book tentatively titled “Faith in Disney: Finding Religion at the Happiest Place on Earth,” weighed in on the recent speech with a Twitter thread which also went viral. While she thinks it’s a “really bad idea” not to feed wedding guests, she also urged critics to stop “pathologizing Disney adults.”

She said much of the social media “punishment” she’s seen in recent years has infantilized Disney-loving adults, or taken the form of sexist criticism against women. As she scanned recent posts when Disney adults were trending, Eichler-Levine said she was appalled by the toxicity of the comments.

“There were so many accusations of mental illness and people saying things like, ‘Disney adults will be the downfall of society, it’s a blight,'” she said. “There was medicalized language, both saying these people are crazy and saying it’s a disease.”

In her thread, Eichler-Levine said many Disney fans find “tremendous meaning” in the parks and draw parallels between their experience and their religion. In an interview, she pointed out that theme parks were explicitly for children and adults. On Disneyland’s opening day, Walt Disney’s hospitality promised that “age here relives fond memories of the past.”

His brother, Roy Disney, consecrated Walt Disney World more than a decade later, calling it “a magical kingdom where young-at-hearts of all ages can laugh, play, and learn — together.”

There are dozens of Disney adult travel guides online, some written by the company. And Disney adults say a little roasting doesn’t deter their fandom – though they also point out that fans are often vocal critics of the company too.

“Do I personally get questions like, ‘Oh, are you going back on vacation to Disney? Like you weren’t right there, haven’t you seen it all before?'” Jessica Gold said, 33-year-old retail manager, full-time college student, and Disney writer for the Nerdthusiast blog “Yeah, I get that all the time. But, you know, yeah, I was just there and, yeah, I was there.” going back because it’s my favorite vacation spot.

“It just frees you from everything else. You’re not worried about work or school or anything.

— Jessica Gold, self-proclaimed Disney adult

Gold, who lives in New Jersey, calls herself the “ultimate Disney adult.” She has an annual pass to Walt Disney World in Florida, visits the parks five or six times a year, has “a leg full” of Disney tattoos, and watches live fireworks broadcasts.

“I love it so much because there’s something so simple, you know, having a coffee on Main Street and getting ready to watch the parade and smell everything there,” she said. declared. “It’s just very, very familiar, and it frees you from everything else. You’re not worried about work or school or anything.

She knows that some people have a low opinion of adults like her. But she also likes to share her joy with like-minded fans.

“For every negative person, there are probably about 20 very happy Disney adults,” she said.

Zepeda, the Chicago teacher, said she has a love-hate relationship with the term “adult Disney.” Although she said she’s “quite a grown-up who loves Disney,” she knows some fandoms can get extreme. She likes to think she’s somewhere in the middle.

“I know when and where Mickey Mouse ears are appropriate,” she said.

Growing up without a lot of money as the child of immigrants from Mexico, Zepeda said going to Disney himself was an “unattainable goal” – but the family would go to the Disney store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

“To me, Disney has always been like pretty colors and princesses,” she said. “And while there aren’t necessarily characters that look like me, stories always have happy endings.”

Zepeda found Disney as a child, but said she remained a fan because of the community — and also because theme parks and roller coasters are fun.

“If you can find the right sector of the internet, you’ll find some of the nicest, happiest people who honestly just want to see you well,” she said.

Metzdorf, owner and digital creator of the Gratuitous Disney Memes accounts, said he doesn’t blame people for poking fun at Disney’s most extreme fan activity. And he doesn’t expect everyone to understand why other adults like something.

“What I can’t accept is bullying people all the time, just because they like the ‘X’ thing,” he wrote. “After all, what’s so different about an adult spending their money going to a theme park and an adult spending their money going to a football game?”

He added: “At the end of the day, we’re all nerds for something.”

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