Disney Hates Fat Kids?
Let me preface this post by freely admitting my tendency to judge other people. Adam has compared me to a pet dog with socialization issues. My friend Jordan gave me a sad look once and asked, “Why do you hate everything?” I’m trying to work on it, but it’s pretty deeply ingrained by this point. Okay, disclaimer over.
No matter how open minded you are, the following news item is bound to perplex:
Are you back? Okay. The Denver Post also ran the item (on page 2A no less) under the heading “Disney closes obesity exhibit seen as mean”. The disgruntled party is the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, or NAAFA. Epcot was getting ready to debut a new interactive “Habit Heroes” exhibit, which commits the heinous sin of encouraging a healthy lifestyle for kids, when NAAFA exploded with indignation. In a press release on NAAFA’s website, Public Relations Director Peggy Howell writes, “All children, regardless of body size, should be free to enjoy the ‘happiest
place on Earth’!” Wait a minute. By opening Habit Heroes, was Disney unveiling a sinister plot to curtail fat kids’ enjoyment of Disney goodness? Let’s take a look.
No, I don’t see anything in there about how fat kids are not going to be allowed at Disneyland/Disney World anymore. Is NAAFA anticipating a cruel ritual where kids are made to stand on a scale like Epcot is the airport and they are suspiciously large luggage? Do the characters in Healthy Habits point and laugh at chunky little girls and tell them that they could never be like Ariel? Ursula, maybe! Because she’s fat! Ha ha ha! No, I don’t see any evidence of this either. So what’s the big deal?
The author of the AP article writes, “Critics said the exhibit reinforces stereotypes that obese children are lazy and have poor eating habits. Doctors say obesity can sometimes be attributed to genetics and certain medications, and that food can be used as a coping mechanism.”
Just for fun, I’m going to temporarily accept all of these premises. First, that a exhibit or organization that promotes healthy living is insensitive to obese children. If this is true, then shame on you, First Lady Michelle Obama! Your “Let’s Move!” initiative to “Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids” is just plain mean. How could you? A quick Google search for “NAAFA criticizes Michelle Obama” easily turned up this article, entitled “NAAFA takes on Michelle Obama’s crusade against childhood obesity”. Nice one, Harriet Brown. http://harrietbrown.blogspot.com/2010/01/naafa-takes-on-michelle-obamas-crusade.html Among other things, Ms. Brown claims that promoting healthy lifestyles will encourage dieting, which will only make people fatter…somehow. In addition, she claims that childhood obesity has “leveled off” since 2008. Oh, thank God. I guess it’s not a problem anymore now that it’s leveled off. The group seems to be okay with NFL Rush’s “Play 60″ campaign, because I couldn’t find any huffy bloggers complaining about how encouraging kids to be active for 60 minutes a day wasn’t fair to their precious little popkin (yes, ripping off J.K. Rowling here), who only wants to play Halo and eat cupcakes.
Next premise! Obesity can be genetic or medication-induced. Of course this is true, but why get so upset at Disney? If they are fat because of genetics, they shouldn’t eat healthy? If they are fat because of medication, why bother exercising? This is a weak argument. I don’t know what else to say about it. It just makes no sense. The exhibit isn’t entitled “Why are you so fat, Fatty? Get off your ass!” so is it really fair to say that Disney would be responsible for thousands of little damaged psyches if Habit Heroes was allowed to open?
And finally, the “coping mechanism” premise. I’ve heard that many adults have a coping mechanism called “alcoholism” and that others make use of one called “drug abuse”. If kids are using food as a coping mechanism, perhaps concern – instead of understanding and indulgence – would be the best response. A kid makes fun of you at school for being fat, so you eat a cupcake which makes you more fat. Is NAAFA saying that this is acceptable? I’m not saying that it’s not sad. It is. I feel bad for these kids, but my gut instinct (har har) tells me that they’d prefer not to be fat. If they’d prefer not to be fat, maybe having a hugely influential media giant like Disney encouraging them to be healthy and have fun doing it could be a good thing.
I do think that childhood obesity is a problem in America. I mentioned Let’s Move and Play 60 because those are the organizations that I’m familiar with, but if you know of other websites that encourage a healthy lifestyle for kids, then please share them in the comments.