Opinion: BYU’s Disney obsession is really strange

BYU students love visiting Disneyland and walking around the BYU campus in Disney merch. (Decker Westenburg)

The BYU campus and Disneyland are a lot more similar than you might think.

Think about it. Both places have plenty of lengthy lines, obnoxiously expensive food options, lovable costumed characters (shoutout to Cosmo), picture-perfect scenery and too much random singing, all while trying to stuff you with as much sugar as humanly possible. Plus, you feel pretty bad for anyone at either place walking around with kids.

Of course, BYU is far from the happiest place on earth — have you been to the testing center? Or even the Cougareat when Wendy’s is closed?

The reason I bring up Disneyland is because it has become far too obvious that BYU has a serious Disney problem. Consider this an intervention of sorts.

I recently overheard a conversation where someone was telling a friend about their plan to “Disney Plus and chill” with their significant other later that night, and that was the last straw for me. My apologies to whoever may be reading this after trying to make a move while watching “Wall-E,” but you’ve got to be kidding me.

During my time on this campus, I’ve heard way too much about Disney. Yes, their shows and movies were part of my childhood, but then I grew up. For whatever reason, it feels like no one else got the memo that 95% of their content is for children. Am I the only one who didn’t catch Peter Pan syndrome?

BYU culture is already interesting enough, but adding Disney worship as a layer to that equation just makes things much stranger than they need to be. I’ve seen far too many students with Disney-themed backpacks or “Monsters University” hats wandering campus each day like it’s the Magic Kingdom. Students at BYU come from all 50 states and over 100 countries, so there should really be no shortage of sports teams or brands to rep with your headwear on this campus, yet far too many people walk around thinking they’re Mike Wazowski. They scare because they care.

One of my favorite games to play on campus each day is counting all the Marvel shirts I see walking from class to class. In less than an hour, I kid you not, you can see enough shirts to assemble the entirety of the Avengers. Marvel — and Disney as a whole — is easily one of the most popular brands among students, which isn’t exactly something I’d call a badge of honor.

As you probably know, the dreaded Wilkinson Student Center piano almost always has someone pounding away at the keys while the surrounding victims cringe in unison. It seems that every time there’s a piano man on duty, they’re either playing “If You Could Hie to Kolob” or some Disney number they likely learned from piano lessons growing up, ranging from “Aladdin” to “Brother Bear.” I’m honestly surprised I’ve never stumbled upon a full-scale singalong around that cursed piano. I guess it’s only a matter of time.

Another thing I’ll never understand is why a young, newlywed BYU couple would spend their honeymoon and first days of marriage at Disneyland, just to hang out with Winnie the Pooh and hit up “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” You know Hawaii exists, right? Or Cancún? Or even, heaven forbid, Bear Lake? Why settle for Disneyland?

The Disney obsession isn’t a great look for our campus community. I know we’re a “peculiar people,” and there are plenty of worse things to be known for, but Disney pushes this stone-cold sober theme much further than we should let it. It definitely doesn’t help that our most famous recent alum, Zach Wilson, looks like he just got off the set of “High School Musical 4.” At least we’re all in this together.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on Disney, but I do feel like I’ve been personally wronged by them on several occasions. For starters, they ruined “Star Wars.” The best movie they’ve ever made, “Sky High,” has been swept under the rug like it never even happened (seriously, if I had made that movie, I would be taking every possible opportunity to flex it on the world). Disney Channel even forced the unwanted thug Jake Paul on all of us, along with a young Olivia Rodrigo whose “Sour” album has made it impossible for any innocent guy to break up with their girlfriend in Provo without having war declared on him. It’s brutal out here.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to escape Disney’s tight grasp anytime soon. Their monopoly has spread like wildfire, picking up new acquisitions left and right ranging from National Geographic to “The Simpsons.” It’s a good thing Utah is landlocked because Disney’s absurd amount of cruise ships qualify them for the world’s top navy in terms of manpower. Of course, Disney has already staked their claim in our neighborhood, as the majority of BYU football games are broadcast on ESPN, whose majority owner is … you guessed it … the one with the mouse ears. It’s safe to say that Walt has had just as much of an impact on this campus as Brigham himself.

Look, I understand that a lot of kids that end up at BYU were raised in active Church households where their parents may have been more strict on media consumption. As someone who watches football on Sunday, I really can’t say I relate. While it’s great to be careful with what your children watch, a Disney-only media diet is essentially cultural homeschooling. It’s a surefire way for parents to see that their children remain … children.

The world isn’t the best place and there’s plenty of filth out there, but being extremely protective and sheltering from anything that isn’t complete sunshine and rainbows is unhealthy and dangerous. “1984” wasn’t just a dystopian novel (or a classic Van Halen album), it was a cautionary tale on censorship. The Book of Mormon makes it perfectly clear that there must be opposition in all things and removing that opposition will automatically cause more problems, such as the piano chaos.

Joseph Smith once said that he would teach early Church members correct principles and let them govern themselves. Agency and accountability are beautiful gifts that we’ve been given, and smothering helicopter parenting all but stifles those gifts. Standards should be proactively taught and encouraged rather than seen as a “break-in case of emergency” solution.

They say that “it’s a small world after all,” but that world expands much wider than the Disney bubble. Fellow BYU students, being a Disney fanatic is not cute, quirky nor original. It’s strange. Channel your inner Blink-182 and ask yourself, “What’s my age again?” If you’re old enough to be at BYU, you’re probably too old to be so interested in “Tangled.” It’s just a bit too Goofy.

In the end, it’s time to just “let it go.”

— Jackson Payne

Senior Reporter

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