I’ve struggled to write this article for a while now, because I was unsure of the tone I’d be setting in writing it. See, many of us get picked on for our love of things others just don’t have that much passion for. The constant teasing of, “You’re going to Disneyland AGAIN?” and, “Don’t you ever do anything that isn’t related to Disney?” can get to us, even if to others it’s just good natured teasing. However, I didn’t want to turn this into a “woe is me” type of article; not when there are so many “real world issues” that make hurt feelings over Disney seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Sometimes however, people do experience real hurt over being belittled for their fandom. It’s not easy to brush off when what you’re passionate about gets mocked. Or worse, you get mocked for it.
Take Confessions reader Kristen for example. Kristen met her future husband through a Disney fan site. Due to their love of Disney, as well as where many of their friends and family were located and able to travel to, she and her fiancee planned their wedding at the Disneyland Resort. Kristen says, “Even when the plans originally had nothing to do with Disney, I was still hounded about how I was being selfish, making everyone travel to OC and I better not do a ‘baby’ wedding with everything being Mickey themed. Ultimately it was going to be the same price to do the wedding everyone else wanted or to do a smaller wedding at Disney, which is what Jeff and I wanted. So that’s what we decided to do. I thought we could possible have a mini family reunion and spend some time together in the Parks, since it had been over 10 years since we were last all their together. My siblings freaked. At that point, I wanted to just elope because I was so tired of hearing, ‘If you want to get married at Disney, you are not old enough to get married.’ ”
Then there’s (Confessions contributor) Hayden. Hayden had a rough time in high school, being “that Disney guy.” Hayden shares this story:
“In high school, there was this one hour where I was a lone sophomore in a class full of seniors. I had a single friend, hardly any acquaintances; most of my classmates were complete strangers to me. It wasn’t uncommon that I’d wear a Disney-related t-shirt to school, and if there was downtime in class, more than likely I’d be drawing various Disney characters. I’d hum or whistle Disney tunes in the halls to myself. It wasn’t something I was trying to hide, but I certainly didn’t feel like I was over-broadcasting my fandom.
The teacher was out, and a nasty kid turned quickly around and shot out a vulgar, ‘Hey Disney boy. Look at you.’ I was wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and had been drawing Mickey as well. ‘What a f**.’
His surrounding peers shot around to see who the kid was shouting at, and soon many eyes were on me. I had absolutely no interest in flattering him with a response. Such a crass remark wasn’t worth my energy. Yet his words hit with a sting. He was a complete stranger to me, and for the life of me I could not think of what I could possibly have done to him to get such a rise from him. I sat in the corner! I never spoke! I kept to myself! I’ve never said ANYTHING to this boy, let alone rub my WED-lovin’ in his face. He kept coming with some pretty vulgar bites, and I stood my ground. I said, ‘Stop,’ as firmly as I could. He did stop.
I was more grateful, though, for what occurred immediately after. A friend of the assaulter stood up and said very matter-of-factly, ‘Dude, you rail on him now, but you wait. You give him 7 years and you’ll be paying to see what he comes up with.’ I’ve made it a mission in my life to prove that brave young man’s point.”
More times than not, however, what we fans of all things Disney hear is more along the lines of, “You’re going to Disney AGAIN!?!? (Side note: Let’s be honest, when someone says “Going to Disney” instead of being more specific with the destination, we realize we’re dealing with someone who just doesn’t understand…) Don’t you ever do anything else?” Or we hear, “Wait, you’re going to a Disney movie – without kids? WHY????”
Reader Chelsea finds she’s seeing more and more of the teasing happening as she gets older. “I’ve been known to bust out fun facts and my knowledge of Disney history and some may smirk or look at me as if to say, ‘Is this chick for real?’ The area I most get ridiculed is with the Disney Princess franchise. Some accuse me of thinking I’m actually a princess, tell me that I really am, or possess characteristics or the appearance of one.”
Confessions reader Tia says she doesn’t really get teased, but definitely got some confused reactions when she recently told people she was planning a trip to Disneyland by herself. “When I told people about flying to LAX to go to Disneyland for the day,” she says, “I’d get confused looks, and a ‘by yourself?’ Or ‘no kids?’ ‘You are not going to Disneyland alone!!’ ”
Here’s the awesome thing, though: These comments, the snide remarks, the eye rolls from those that don’t get it… they do nothing to shame or dissuade us. We have found a joy in life. A joy that comes from watching a black and white anthropomorphic mouse outsmart a peg-legged cat. An innocence that helps us to believe in fairies. That dreams really do come true. A joy from riding a horse drawn carriage down a dream of Americana we’ve never truly known. A giddiness over meeting a five foot five version of a childhood memory. A happiness of careening down a mountainside in a log. Nothing others say tends to dissuade us. We’re proud of who we are.
Many of us feel bad for those that just can’t understand. As Confessions reader Crystal puts it: “ It makes me sad actually, that they will never understand the butterflies in your stomach, so excited you could scream, anticipation of walking into the main gates of the happiest place on earth. To me, it’s their loss for not letting go of themselves enough to be a kid at heart in the most magical place in the world. And I secretly hope that one day, they will understand the true bliss of taking their children there because I think everyone deserves to be as happy as my family is at some point in their lives.”
Or as Chelsea puts it, “….several people ask me, ‘Why? Why do you love Disney so much?’ to which I usually reply, ‘Do you like being happy?’ “
We do like being happy. And we’ve found at least part of this happiness in Disney. To some it may seem to consume our lives. To us, it’s just that it’s a part of our lives, along with everything else. A part that brings us happiness and memories. Ultimately, what’s wrong with that? It inspires us and keeps us moving forward.
Kristen’s wedding went off beautifully. She still may get grief from some, but, “Despite those times I feel like a freak, I’m proud of my fandom. I have a place that makes me feel magic and happiness and I have fantastic friends (and a wonderful husband) who are happy to share that experience with me.”
Hayden took the insults and made the best of them to fuel him to be the best he could be. Count me in as one of those who can’t wait to see what he comes up next.
I’ll close this out with another comment from him, as it encapsulates what I believe many of us feel when we’re given a hard time. And perhaps, with a little rewording, in the world outside of Disney, it sums up what those with passions that others don’t understand feel as well:
“My love for Disney helps me. It has taught me everything about believing in myself and realizing seemingly impossible dreams. It provides me with a constant smile. It provides a safe-haven from the stress that builds in my life. It unites my family. It gives me hope in myself and in my world. What harm am I doing by loving such a company? Do you seriously have things figured out so much more than I do that you need to go out of your way to tell me that I spend too many of my personal resources on something I’m passionate for?
Ask me why I like going to Disneyland so much. Don’t ask me why I don’t spend more of my vacation time elsewhere. Ask me why I like the Disney films I do. Don’t tell me Cinderella is just for little girls. Ask me why I consider Walt Disney a personal hero. Don’t tell me I’m naive.”
Well said, Hayden. I know a lot of fellow Disney fans who would agree.
All we Disnerds have to deal with the comments and the teasing. Great post!
I was lucky in the sense of being a late bloomer when it came to Disney, so I didn’t have to deal with that on top of every other reason people harassed me in school. I sometimes get it now… My fiancée and I got one or two “You went all the way to Paris and proposed to her at DISNEYLAND?!?” by people who don’t get that it is totally us. Now that we’re planning a wedding, I can just imagine how bad Kristen had it. We’re not even having a Disney wedding and we’ve had complaints that our plans are inconvenient for people, as though our wedding revolved around what worked for them.
I loved your response of “Well, do you like to be happy?” and it reminds me of this quote by JRR Tolkien: “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
It’s a common question I get to. Yet those who ask me why I love Disney so much…many of those have passions I don’t understand either. Halloween is great…but you’re waiting for a store to open to buy the new decorations? Or…You want to know what’s great about Disney? Why don’t you explain what’s great about covering your body in so much ink I don’t know what your skin looks like? Truth be told, I don’t need to understand. It makes you happy! Disney makes me happy! Be hapoy, and let me be happy, also!
By the way, I love Disney because its a special kind of magic. The same kind of magic a child experiences with Santa Claus. Please, forgive the plug, but I spoke of that recently in my blog post. http://wp.me/p3FLG5-aU
As a long time Disnerd I can say Disney and Disneyland was magic before kids, and even more-so after having kids. We go to Hong Kong Disneyland all the time despite the “You’re going again?!” comments (those don’t stop when you have kids) because it is a timeless kind of fun. We see people proposing (especially with the help of Pooh or Mickey) almost every time we go … it’s a common sight here. Similarly we always see the fans who dress in his and her costumes (Stitch is the current ‘trend’), or the ones who visit every Disney Park in the world each year and have their global dated collectables proudly adoring their person. Personally I think it is awesome and privately I smile because I know “we are not alone”.
Love this Craig!! Very well written =)
A friend and I (who each take our families frequently to Disneyland) decided to do a short girls’ trip to see the Christmas stuff a few years ago. Another mom-friend essentially said to us: “You’re running away from your kids … to go to a place made for and filled with kids?” She just doesn’t see it. I don’t give friends grief who go the same beach or same lake every year!
For me, it’s pretty simple. There is always a tension between how the world “ought” to be and the way the world actually is. Disney tends to show me the world as it ought to be and I find that not only comforting but inspiring. Disney is not about living in some fool’s paradise of “childish” dreams. It’s about optimism. Please, oh please explain to me what is wrong with that?