The arrival of Disney+ this week brought surges of customers to the new streaming service. The traffic on the first day alone caused servers to fail temporarily, and multiple Twitter headlines featured stories about exclusive Disney+ content even a week after the service’s launch. From old cartoon classics that childhood Disney fans can rewatch with nostalgic glee, to the D-Coms that peppered our middle school years, to brand new content like “High School Musical: the Musical: the Series,” Disney+ seemingly has something for everyone.
However, the positive reactions to Disney+ have been countered by responses from the opposing camp. Some users on Twitter were quick to critique not necessarily the service itself, but consumers of the service. Calling attention to those in high school, college or their mid-twenties who paid the $7 for a Disney+ subscription, the point was brought up that these consumers should, rather than rewatching children’s movies, focus their bingeing on more mature, age-appropriate content.
While Disney’s core audience is unmistakably children and the company’s impact on the collective childhood experience is massive, revisiting the joy and nostalgia of childhood is anything but unnatural.
Especially within the realm of college students, whether adjusting to life away from home for the first time or preparing to leave campus and enter the job market, familiarity can be a mental health necessity, as well as a comforting aspect of streamable content. While Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like all have incredible, award-winning content to offer, sometimes de-stressing after a long day comes in the form of something mindless and simple.
It’s for this reason that the childhood nostalgia factor doesn’t stand alone in the demand for Disney+. It couples with the same reason responsible for romantic comedy box office successes and for Nickelodeon sitcom “Victorious’” popularity on Netflix this month: sometimes, fluff is fine.
Not all content is created alike. Shows like AMC’s “Breaking Bad” are masterclasses in writing and foreshadowing. Movies by directors like David Lynch often require audiences to come to their own conclusions, providing opportunity for analysis and afterthought. Some films, like 2017’s “mother!” operate almost completely as extended metaphors, able to be understood only if the deeper meaning is grasped. And some movies, like Disney Channel original movies and classic cartoons, simply contain a lesson that’s wrapped up neatly with a concluding “and they all lived happily ever after.”
When we limit ourselves as to the content we can enjoy, whether that be based on age, maturity level, intelligence, etc., we put ourselves into boxes. While the Disney movies of the 90s may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and while High School Musical and Hannah Montana aren’t necessarily what everyone may choose to flip to at the end of the day, the deciding factor of a film or TV show’s importance shouldn’t be determined by academic substance or target age range. When we rule out content that simply attempts to make its viewers laugh, provide comfort and familiarity, or allow them to recapture the innocence of childhood at the end of a stressful day, we allow pretentiousness to stand in the way of enjoyment and connection.