With well-intentioned creativity, Walt Disney World partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield to create an interactive exhibit at Epcot Center to encourage children to exercise and eat healthily — but critics complained, so Disney temporarily closed the exhibit.
“Habit Heroes” featured animated fitness superstars Will Power and Callie Stenics and larger-than-life villains Snacker and Lead Bottom. Not OK, according to fat acceptance advocates:
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 food can be used as a coping mechanism.
“We’re appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination,” the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said in a statement.
“I was really disturbed to see the most negative habits were attached to really fat bodies,” Peggy Howell, a spokeswoman for the group, said after viewing a companion website. “These pictures further the stigma against people of higher body weight.”
These activists have complained about the First Lady’s efforts to inspire children to MOVE, right? Heaven forbid kids think a sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity!
Obese children primarily aren’t to blame for their weight — parents bear the heavier share of that burden — but I can’t imagine a more empowering message for kids than to teach them that they can control their appetites with a little help from Will Power. Why are adults determined to foist bleak determinism on kids? It’s a hopeless worldview that makes any effort to improve seem pointless. Talk about negativity! Fact is, more exercise and better eating habits are within reach for anybody and would help many — maybe not all, but many — obese kids to escape their extra weight. How is that anything but a hopeful, positive message — a message to restore “childhood happiness and joy” to kids who’ve been robbed of it by the TV-as-babysitter and food-as-comfort?
Many of the critics talk about the exhibit as though only obese children would visit it — but it would serve a purpose for other kids whose habits aren’t yet solidified, too. If the parents of an overweight child are concerned the exhibit would shame their kids, they don’t have to visit that particular part of the park.
To be sure, it’s not Disney’s job to teach parents or kids to take responsibility for themselves, but I’d rather a private company tackle the problem in an imaginative, innovative way than government officials snoop through kids’ lunch boxes.