There’s a lot to unpack about the term “Disney adult,” one I’ve never used to describe myself. Am I a middle-aged woman who routinely freaks out at 4:37 on Friday afternoons because I’d managed to forget a column I’ve been writing for [checks] six years next month and have to find and write about a new, different Disney cartoon? Yes. Yes, I am. I still buy Disney movies on physical media. We have assorted stuffed animals, blankets, clothes, patterns, books, and all sorts of other Disney merchandise in our house, and I’m hoping to take a trip to Disneyland next March with my partner and kids (which you can contribute toward by supporting my Patreon or Ko-fi, and there might be special treats in it for Patrons) for my twentieth anniversary with my partner. But Disney adult? No.
For one thing, that does assume that there’s something wrong with liking Disney stuff as an adult. I don’t believe there is. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with liking most of the stuff as an adult that you liked as a child. Oh, I’ll admit I’d kind of give you the side-eye if you told me you were a big Paw Patrol fan, not that childhood Paw Patrol fans are old enough to be adults yet. But Barney, I guess. Or even one or two Disney shows; there was an absolutely dreadful show called Dumbo’s Circus that isn’t available to watch but even as a child I knew was terrible that I definitely wouldn’t trust your taste if you loved it as an adult. I do also believe that Disney stuff is often quality and worth watching as an adult even beyond nostalgia, and if loving Sleeping Beauty is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
It is also, however, particularly dismissive toward Disney as a company. Now, goodness knows there are plenty of reasons to be dismissive toward Disney as a company, and we’ve talked about a few of them here. The company can be frankly awful in a lot of particulars. However, when people say “Disney adult,” they aren’t shaming you for liking a company that has a history of union-busting or uneven treatment of the LGBTQ community or lousy treatment of their employees. They are shaming you for being the kind of adult who knows all the words to the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Part of it is our culture’s “put away childish things” mentality. Disney is seen as a “childish thing,” ergo if you’re an adult who’s into it, there’s something wrong with you. What’s more, all stuff “for kids” tends to be seen as for young children, as though the difference between my children isn’t massive with Sandy’s being five and Zane’s being nine. And the difference between Zane and a teenager is big as well, but stuff for teenagers is seen as being “for kids” as well. Adults who are interested in things for teenagers are similarly seen as “childish.”
There are things adults are allowed to be unabashed fans of, even to the point of it taking up more of your identity than mine is taken up with Disney. Yes, all right, I do have my weekly column, but there are people near me who have a Seahawks flag that they fly outside their house, and I can’t imagine flying a Disney flag. Seahawks season tickets are at minimum $860 a seat and as much as $4900. I am having a bizarrely difficult time finding out how much Mariners season tickets are. The most expensive Disney World annual pass membership is slightly more expensive than the cheapest Seahawks season ticket, at $1104 a year, but you could theoretically go every day they’re open on that.
I’m not sure what the equivalent to a lot of Disney fandom is outside Disney fandom; conversely, I’m not sure what the Disney fandom equivalent to fantasy football is. Still, you can spend as much time and money on sports and video games and all kinds of other things it’s a lot more acceptable in general society to enjoy. I have friends who seem to be making their identity coffee in the same way that some people make their identity Disney fandom, and I don’t think there’s a term for that. These friends post a lot more about coffee than I do about Disney. But coffee is for grown-ups, so that’s okay, I guess.
I am an adult Disney fan. When I was a child, I was a child Disney fan. I don’t much see the need for a modifier. My whole life, I have been a Disney fan. While it would make a lovely metaphor, the sunrise over Main Street, USA, on Grad Night 1995 did not mean I was no longer a Disney fan. (Actually, I’m pretty sure the sun rose while I was in line for Space Mountain. I was in that building a long time.) There’s no reason it should have. I don’t need a special term for continuing to like a thing.