The term “hipster” gets thrown around a lot nowadays and we use it to describe many vastly different types of people, so for the purposes of this article, let me clarify. I bear absolutely no judgement on the way anyone dresses, what they listen to, or which brand of fair trade cruelty-free honeybee mustache wax they use. What I am using the “hipster” designation for is anyone who uses their knowledge or passion of something to separate themselves from others. Perhaps an example is in order. Have you ever spent time with someone who likes the same music as you, but finds it important to mention that they were listening to it ten years ago, before anyone knew about it? That this restaurant is good, but lacks the authenticity of the one that used to be here, which only the locals frequented? That everything was better before the popular masses started casually enjoying it? While you should be bonding over shared interests, you instead find yourself being bested in a single combat of one-upsmanship. This attitude is prevalent throughout all forms of fandom: art, music, literature, film, food, and yes, sometimes even theme parks. Why do we do this, and why should we try to avoid it?
This tendency we have, to turn the things we love into a way to separate ourselves from others, is completely natural. Just about every human being on this planet at some point struggles with identity. In our quest to figure out who we are, the first step is to discern where our passions lay. What do we love? For many, the first answer is Disney. It influences us as children from so many angles that you would be hard pressed to find an average American who did not have some fond Disney related memory. I run across people every day whose first answer when asked their interests is “park-hopping”. Disney comes to us in the form of music, film, television, storybooks, theatre, environments, attractions; just about every conceivable form of entertainment. Throughout a vast array of content, over such a long period of time, Disney has produced at least one thing for each of us to enjoy. Our enjoyment becomes inextricably tied to our memories, and memories are who we are.
In forming the personal attachments to what we love, the things that define “fandom”, we enter a tricky place. When someone else starts to take an interest in what we use to define ourselves, they are essentially taking an interest in us. They, completely unbeknownst to themselves, are touching upon our memories. Some of us gladly let them in, proud to display what makes us comfortable, what makes us dream, what makes us hope. Others of us struggle with this, wondering if sharing a part of ourselves makes us less unique, less special. To differentiate ourselves, we use our expansive knowledge as a defense mechanism. We make arbitrary distinctions between “true fans” and “everyone else”, or between “locals” and “tourists”. This happens in every avenue of fandom, and by far and large Disney fans are among the most welcome of any fans I have encountered, but I have run across this a few times. Disney is no place for distinctions.
Over the past few months I have had the amazing opportunity of being reacquainted with the parks by some of the most knowledgeable Disney fans around. People who have made careers out of their passion. These folks eat, sleep, and breathe Disney. More importantly, they dream Disney. Every park outing, I have tour guides who use their incredibly vast catalogue of knowledge and experience to help me understand why their passion exists. Why the history of the parks, and imagination involved in creating them, combine to make such a unique experience. No question is answered with a roll of the eyes, no opinion deemed too uninformed. They jump at the chance to show me things I easily might have missed. In doing so I get to know the parks, but I also get to know them, and I am better for it. Be like them. Don’t be a Disney hipster.
Image: Jerrod Maruyama‘s Hipster Mickey