Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fat Kids and Disney

Let me preface this with, I get it. Parents are mad because these new characters are making their children feel shameful about their weight and eating habits. No one wants a child to have low self-esteem, we can all agree there.

As and adult, if you want grilled cheese, hot dogs and milkshakes every single day, that’s your prerogative. A child doesn’t have that freedom. Just like math or reading or sharing, they have to be taught that some food is good and some food is bad and while cartoons might be awesome (and they are), so is playing basketball or riding a bike or swimming or going on a nature hike.

I go to Disneyland a lot. I love it there but one thing that always makes me sad is seeing all the overweight kids. There are the kids that have a little chub—they get McDonalds or Jack in the Box sometimes as a treat. Then there are the BIG kids, the ones who get everything they want—which is pretty clearly ice cream for dinner and hamburgers for breakfast. You know you’ve seen them on Jerry Springer, but these kids are all over the place at Disneyland. I know that weight is genetic and some people are predisposed to blah blah blah… I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the kids of the parents who are outraged by Disney trying to create villains of gluttonous proportions.

I have a few gripes with this article (and the parents who are all pissy about the project). 
Here they are:

1. “Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says: ‘I just can't believe somebody out there thought it was a good idea to pick up where the school bullies left off and shame kids on their vacation.’”
I get that you don’t want the kid to be all depressed and angsty about their weight but I also really don’t think that Disney creating a few new characters is “picking up where bullies left off.” Also kind of worries me that this is a doctor’s stance. He probably should spend less time combating Disney and more time explaining good health habits to his patients.

2. “In question are the over-exaggerated body types of the villains and their association with being bad.”
No. Unfortunately, these are not over exaggerated. I’ve seen these people at Disneyland.

3. “The intention is to inspire kids to live healthier, but the message, says Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams, is that "fat people are bad.’”
Perception is key. When I look at the “villains” I don’t think “fat people are bad,” I think what they are doing is bad. If I don’t exercise enough I may end up like Lead Bottom…. Well, hot damn, I’m going to the gym.

4. "Our goal with Habit Heroes is to make sure it conveys a positive message about healthy lifestyles in a fun way."
Ok, ok. Maybe the villains aren’t the BEST way to show that healthy is fun, but its better than whatever the parents of these obese children are doing. Eh? And to be honest, scare tactics worked for me as a kid. I didn’t go outside for 6 weeks after the ’89 earthquake because I was scared shitless. One day, my grandma came to me and said “you know, little kids who don’t go outside and play can die.” What scared me more than earthquakes? Death. I went outside.

5. "'You want to promote good heath? Start by looking at your own sugar and animal fat-laden menus," writes Salon's Williams. It's hard to practice healthy eating in the happiest place on earth.”
Outrage! Yes, I can get a hamburger at Disneyland, or a clam chowder bread bowl (drool), but in recent years I have noticed a huge change in the food sold at the parks. There are (at least) 4 fruit stands throughout Disneyland with fresh apples, oranges, bananas, juice, pineapple, mangoes, milk, water, trail mix, etc, and they offer apples and milk with kid’s meals in all the restaurants. Even with that, they also let you bring whatever food you want into the park. Bring your own lunch! It’s actually not hard at all to “practice healthy eating in the happiest place on earth,” all you have to have is a bit of self control, the healthy options are there, it’s up to you to choose them.

My point: At least Disney is trying. Maybe it could be done in a more sensitive way, but also maybe its tough love that these kids need to get their life and bodies back on track. With a 17% child obesity rate in the US, someone needs to do something and I think its pretty appalling that parents and doctors are up in arms about Disney’s attempt at making kids lives healthier.
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1 comment:

  1. Many parent's are their kids' biggest problem. I will suffer from my own mom allowing me to eat whatever I wanted as a kid, while trying to protect me from those that might pick on me for being overweight. Even to this day my wife and I have to be the assholes whenver she wants to feed my kids "special treats" all the time. In their defense, however, my generation's parents were tought completely incorrectly about proper nutrition. Our country (and thank's to it the entire world) is still trying to un-do the the mindsets and eating habit brought on by the bad science that created the low-fat insanity of the 80's and early 90's...