Disney, the Unlikely Dietitian

Kid 1 is at that annoying stage in childhood when he could, and would, listen to the same stories over and over and over again. The only things preventing him from listening to them 24/7 are the fact that there is no device to play his stories in his bedroom while he sleeps, and the fact that he has to go to school and other such places. Otherwise, his favourite stories never stop playing.

I have tried to ignore them as much as possible, and I have managed to hear just noise for a while (this one dude reading the stories is terrible, he has an awkward diction and his voices are anything but youthful), but every now and then I catch parts of the story. And I was appalled by what I heard.

The stupid stories in question? A collection of three Winnie the Pooh stories. The one that makes my blood boil is the second in the series, when Winnie, having eaten all of the rabbit’s honey, gets stuck trying to get out of his house. Everyone tells him that he is too fat and his belly too big. So what do they do? They decide to keep Winnie there until he has lost enough weight to be pulled/pushed out. And the way to achieve this is by not allowing him to eat. At all. Poor Winnie asks for a bite of food from his friends, but they won’t have it. If he eats, they say, he will never lose weight. Now as time goes by, Winnie eventually loses enough weight for the others to try to get him out, and they succeed this time, but Winnie gets catapulted into a bee’s hive, scares the bees away and is left there all by himself to eat the honey. And the story ends with the following (paraphrased) words of wisdom: a bear that is as thin as Winnie deserves some honey.

I am sure you can see everything that is wrong with this story, but I need to get this off my chest. So the Disney corporation thinks that the only way to lose weight is by starving yourself. They also think it is a good idea to spread out this message to one of the most vulnerable and impressionable groups out there, children. This is absolutely appalling. Not only is starvation not the answer to weight loss, but it is a very dangerous thing regardless of weight. No one tells Winnie to eat a little less or make better food choices, no, they make a sign saying that it is forbidden to feed bears. And once the necessary weight has been lost in this dramatic, unhealthy fashion, what is the reward? Bingeing on the very food that made him fat in the first place. Another horrendous message. Don’t eliminate the sweet stuff that makes you fat, kids, just starve for a little and then you’ll deserve more of the sweet stuff. And you’ll probably have to repeat the cycle.

This is one of the worst messages I have heard in a kid story. I am horrified by all the princesses who have no say in determining their future, I am disgusted by every character not being fulfilled unless they are rich and famous, preferably by not working, I pull out my hair in despair when the characters are so stupid that a below average person looks like a genius by comparison. But let’s face it, regular kids don’t really mingle with princes, princesses, fairy godmothers, genies and the lot. They don’t fly on carpets and find bewildering treasures. You can explain this sort of stuff to children, make it clear that those are fairy tales and nothing else. Even tell them that that is not the right way to go about doing things. But food, everyone eats that. Everyone can overindulge. Everyone can get fat. Everyone can, at some point, want to lose weight. And everyone can struggle with their body image, no matter what they look like. So it is absolutely mean to send out this sort of messages to children. Eat whatever you like and however much you like; if you get too fat, starve yourself; once you’ve starved for long enough to get results, indulge in your reward and stuff your face with it.

I am not surprised that this message comes from the company whose logo is written in a font that looks like candy to children (this, I hadn’t noticed myself, but has been brought to my attention); but I am outraged nonetheless. It is not Disney’s place to give or imply any sort of advice when it comes to food and weight loss. It is not Disney’s place to tell our children that weight loss should be rewarded with unhealthy foods, or just unhealthy amounts of food. And yet, under the cover of entertainment, Disney does exactly that. And the message is sent to our children while the parents are doing their best to block out that ear-piercing noise. This is a horror that should not be allowed to continue.

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12 thoughts on “Disney, the Unlikely Dietitian

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  1. My boys were recommended by their Kindergarten teacher to read Pooh, or rather A. A. Milne’s stories, including _Now We are Six_, which they really liked. The language is a little more challenging than your typical Kindergarten-age book written today. I’d guess that story is 1920s A. A. Milne’s work and not the work of Disney, though I’m no Disney fan, that’s for sure.

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  2. I guess it depends on whether the child identifies with the Pooh character. Maybe there is a subliminal effect, but I tend to just see it as a story about a silly stuffed bear. Like you said, kids aren’t flying around on magic carpets.

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    1. That’s a fair point, but they might know someone who’s a little bit heavier and they would think the right attitude towards them is to deny them food. As an adult I don’t take anything I watch too seriously, but I honestly can’t remember what it was like to watch movies and hear stories as a child. I am not ready to guarantee that I did not take anything too seriously, and I wouldn’t risk it with today’s children either.

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  3. A level-headed adult will realise that it’s silly; a kid listening to it on repeat will hear “honey, honey, more honey”, on repeat, no matter which character they like best in the story. I’m aware, for instance, of my own envy at the amounts of food the Harry Potter characters manage to eat, especially in Molly’s care; i’m aware that if my common room was on the 7th floor, i wouldn’t be able to make it up in one go; and i also know that the wondrous food in the movies is actually props, and there was no rush to eat it all at the end of the filming day before it spoiled up, a new batch to be made on the morrow. But through a child’s eyes, these are justifications. Evidence. And the more they add up, the harder it is to keep them healthy. I get it. The more you pay attention, the harder it is.

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  4. I may not look at Winnie The Pooh the same again… at least not for awhile.

    There’s such a stigma in media and society on what “pretty” is and what the best way to achieve that is. I’d really like to believe that a “family oriented” type of company knows better than to encourage their readers/viewers to starve themselves to lose weight. I’d like to believe that it’s still just a story about an overstuffed bear who is obsessed with honey. I’d like to, but I may have to stew on this awhile.

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    1. We all have characters that we love, and if you just saw him as a cute bear, then I am sorry to have (temporarily) ruined your image of him. I didn’t grow up with Winnie, so being introduced to him as an adult gives me a dramatically different perspective. However, I do know that Disney is not a charitable association interested in world peace and putting and end to hunger…

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      1. Eh, I was always an Eeyore fan personally. It’s okay for the temporarily ruined image of Pooh. As far as Disney goes, it’s no secret they’ve had their fair share of scandals over the years. So good point!

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