Deeply Disappointed in Disney

Everyday people send me articles about the atrocities committed against people of size all over the word.  I get frustrated, I get angry, occasionally I yell at my computer, but I usually don’t cry.

That changed today.  As I sat in the tiny airport at Gainesville and read an article about Disney’s latest attraction “Habit Heroes” I couldn’t stop the tears.

This is a new game at Epcot wherein kids meet their “Heroes” Will Power and Callie Stenics and fight with them against “Enemies” The Glutton, Lead Bottom and Snacker:

And as I type I’m crying again. Disney is my absolute favorite vacation place. It’s where my Best Friend and I go for a week at a time to bond, go on rides, and watch the Lion King Show nine times in a row.   So I’m heartbroken that we may have gone for the last time.  I won’t go back now (except possibly in protest) unless and until they get rid of this.

But that’s not why I’m crying, I’m crying because I know how excited kids get about Disney.  Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth and now fat kids – who are subjected to a barrage of shaming, humiliating, stigmatizing, and bullying messages from society on a daily basis – will go on vacation and find out that people who look like them are villains who other kids fight for points and bragging rights. Why doesn’t Disney just hold fat kids down and let park guests kick them?

At the end of the ride kids can have their picture taken and e-mailed to them at home.  So what happens when the kids (or their moms, friends, etc.) look like the “enemies? What happens to the vacation that they have been looking forward to since their parents first said “We’re going to Disney World!”?   Shaming kids does not lead to better health, why is that so hard for people to understand?  You can’t tell how healthy someone is, how much they exercise, or what they eat by looking at their bodies, you just can’t.

This ride is a partnership with the people at Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Regional Market President Tony Jenkins said:  “As an insurance company, we have the information kids need to be healthier.  Our challenge was to tell that story in a fun, engaging way, which is what Disney does better than anyone.”  I think I might break my desk with my forehead.  What about their mental health? Do we really want to create more fear of being fat when we know that there is a 119% increase in the number of hospitalizations for kids under 12, UNDER TWELVE, who have eating disorders?  The National Institute for Health just issued a statement that said that programs that shame kids:

carry a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese which, in turn, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating). A number of research studies over the last decade have supported this concern. For example, studies suggest that overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization has been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmatization of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.

Other studies show that the perception that obesity is solely a matter of personal responsibility, as opposed to understanding the complexity of contributing factors, can increase negative stereotypes of overweight people. It is important, therefore, that public messages about obesity address this complexity whenever possible.

So the NIH is willing to admit that it doesn’t have all the answers for kids’ health, but Blue Cross Blue Shield thinks that they do?

I’m going to do something, but I’m not sure what yet.  I’m very tired from 13 hours of travel today, and deeply saddened that my vacation respite is ruined and that 44,000 people a day are being exposed to weight bigotry and body shaming by the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth”, and so many ideas are swirling around in my head – Should we petition, protest at Epcot (dress like the bad habits and hold signs saying ‘I’m not the enemy’?), start a letter writing campaign? I’m open to suggestions…

You know, I understand where we are as a civil rights movement and I understand that there will be days like this but it doesn’t always make it easier.  In good news, our Georgia billboard campaign got a major article in Huffington Post, some of the commenters even get it!

UPDATE:  On 2/25/12 Disney closed the ride indefinitely.  There are rumors that it is being “reworked”.  Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it  is the only thing that ever has.

My work is supported by my readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 5:59 am  Comments (96)  

96 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. SO. FUCKED. UP.

  2. I wish I knew the answer to how to protest this and get rid of it and the same for the drug you posted about yesterday or the day before. I do think though that there is momentum right now w/the billboard project being so successful and now seems like the perfect time to capitalize on that momentum!

  3. We’re with you, Ragen! NAAFA is working on a press release and online petition about the exhibit and website. We’ll let people know when it’s ready and where they can go to sign the petition. Get some rest. We’ve got your back!

  4. Rat bastards! I’m so tired of The World vs.Us……..

  5. I am deeply disappointed as well! Can you imagine being a child and dreaming of a trip to Disney. Then when they finally get there and overweight/obese child is met with that?! So sad!

    Btw, I sent you an email about this.

  6. So much ragesob here. Thanks for drawing attention to this. NAAFA, when you’re ready, I’m eager to help.

  7. I have no words. I feel like crying right now.

  8. are there no vilification laws in US. How could this possibly be allowed. I sincerely hope this new “attraction” is seen for what it is just plain nasty thinking acted upon. Though I suppose they will try to humorise it and dismiss it that way.

  9. So sorry and angry. my first thoughts r letter writing campaign and boycott of Disney. blue cross as well. frankly im in favor of picketing. stay strong everyone

  10. This is deeply disturbing.

  11. OMG. ((((hugs ragen)))) This piece of crap ride is just wrong with a capital R. My sister’s family just came back from a week in Orlando, I’m sorry now I couldn’t warn her.

    I suppose it’s useful to have right out in the open how Blue Cross / Blue Shield and Disney see people who look like me 8P

  12. Reblogged this on faithandmeow and commented:
    “But that’s not why I’m crying, I’m crying because I know how excited kids get about Disney. Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth and now fat kids – who are subjected to a barrage of shaming, humiliating, stigmatizing, and bullying messages from society on a daily basis – will go on vacation and find out that people who look like them are villains who other kids fight for points and bragging rights. Why doesn’t Disney just hold fat kids down and let park guests kick them?”

  13. It was my dream to spend my 50th birthday, this November, in Disney World. My first, and last, time there was when I was 12 when there was just Magic Kingdom so you can imagine my excitement to go again. Now I am also sad because a woman like me is considered nothing more than a glutton, lead bottom and snacker. Unless this changes, Disney won’t be my milestone birthday destination. *sigh*

  14. Wow, this really crosses the line. Seriously. How can they still call themselves the happiest place on earth if a group of kids purposely gets left out, then potentially mocked? Given how poor the quality of the food is at most of the resorts (and the easy access kids have to it), this just rings the Hypocrite Bell long and loud. We were down there before Christmas, and I was appalled at how lousy the food was…how many kids I saw carrying around sodas and cookies, how little fresh fruit was on offer. It took weeks for me to recover from eating there.

    I always despised Disney for many other things, but this goes too far.

    • Yorkie, my only issue with your comment about your observation about “how many kids I saw carrying around sodas and cookies” is that you honestly don’t know what else and where they ate that day. There is a very strong possibility that those sodas and cookies were a special treat for a special day. I have no problem with the observation that there wasn’t enough fresh food options, but if we don’t want to be judged by a single meal we eat in public, perhaps we shouldn’t do the same to others.

  15. Another way of looking at this is that it’s the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. The billboards campaign has just made the major press, so it’s time for a new action to build on the wave of momentum from the first. The fact that Disney is so visible and is, for so many people, so sacrosanct means the likelihood of getting press attention for attacking this is extremely good.

    This is such a grotesque thing for Disney to have done. Really. But it’s so big and so public – their PR machine has obviously been working overtime to publicise it – that means criticism of it is more likely to be picked up on.

    Maybe it’s a time for brainstorming, especially when everyone is so fired up from the success of the billboards campaign and there’s some energy there to be capitalised upon. The perfect time.

    I’m not suggesting this is your job, Ragen. But maybe you could kick off some brainstorming?

    My first suggestion is a press release that implicitly follows on from the Stand4Life campaign, sent to health editors and any press that reported on the first story. Very strongly worded, that puts the focus on Disney, not on fat people – that asks them what they think they’re doing, creating an exhibit that is based on cues known to result in child bullying. Aren’t they supposed to be FOR children? e.g. don’t present it as the grievance of a specific group (fat people), but as a calling of them to account for their hypocrisy. Cheap, simple and effective.

    BTW, Yorkie’s comment above is gold. Somewhere in the press release there could be a line asking why Disney is shaming fat children and encouraging them to use their ‘Will Power’ when they themselves are making squillions off pushing lousy food onto children.

  16. This is so fucked up I don’t know what to say. We have to reach all associations such as NAAFA, ASDAH and all HAES practicioners, and have all these people take a stand against that. Meetings have to be held with the people at Disney who thought this shit is a good idea. I don’t think we have to go there looking in deep anger because it is exactly what they want. We have to go there if full possession of our means, with all our science and courage. Whatever the call to action is I will try my best to take part.

  17. My father-in-law worked for Disney many years ago. He found that he couldn’t get a size 44 pants because “it wasn’t allowed.” It seems that the Disney workers are subjected to the anti-fat nonsense that they’re now putting on kids.

  18. Something that I started picking up on as an adult (though not as much when I was a kid) was how negatively Disney has always portrayed their fat characters. Especially in cartoons (which I LOVED growing up) fat characters are always either stupid (comic relief) or villains. I can’t come up with a single fat character that is portrayed positively (am I missing any?).

    • Good point!

      • Flora, Fauna and Merriweather. Those three fairies were fantastic guardians to Princess Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) and their love shone through everything they did. :-)

      • Karen – yes! Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother was also a kindly, fat old lady. I’m guessing those instances both come from someone’s fond memories of fat grandmas…

    • Meriweather, the blue fairy in Sleeping Beauty. :-) so yeah, it’s been several decades. But she’s a favorite character of mine.

  19. I agree with Yorkie. I do not like Disney and I don’t agree with pretty much anything they stand for. Having said that, I wanted to share a story with you about something that happened this week in New York City, specifically in the Bronx. An 8-year-old boy went with his mother to a local grocery store one night to buy some snacks. While the boy was standing by the door, some goon rode by on a bicycle and fired shots into the store, striking the little boy in the shoulder/arm. Now the boy was very brave and extremely polite to all the people in the store who tried to help and comfort him. But what did the news bloggers focus on? Not the boy’s calmness and politeness. Not the scourge of gun violence that our communities have to deal with every day. They focused on the fact that boy (and his mother) was, well, a little chubby. They of course pointed out that if the mother and son weren’t out buying candy, the kid would not have been shot. I just really pray not only that kid continues to make progress on healing his wounds, but that he never goes on-line and reads what people said about him. It all just sucks.

    • Oh, my heavens, that is DESPICABLE!!! They’re basically saying it’s the fault of a little child that he got shot???? I’m sickened and I ask you to please include a link to one of the articles because they’re going to get a harsh letter from me.

    • It amazes me, the extent to which our group psychosis about fat will override almost any other consideration. Would these people have given a damn that a child was shot if his mother had been buying broccoli and could prove it?

      If he was skinny, would it have been all right that he was buying a candy bar?

      Do we really actually care more about a kid being fat than a kid being shot?

      WTF, people?

  20. I read this and my stomach instantly became tied in a knot! Blue Cross and Blue Shield can take some of those huge profits they make and send them to Disney to pretend they are doing something to help children’s health? Not sure which corporate a@#holes to be more angry with!

  21. Well, I suppose that Disney is working to maintain that “Happiest Place on Earth” image. Too bad it seems they’re coming from the philosophy that, “Ignorance is bliss.” In the name of educating and informing, all they’re really doing is perpetuating the ignorance.

    The insurance companies, though, have a vested interest in pushing their agendas. If they can convince the public that being fat is all a matter of personal choice and bad habits, they lay the groundwork for first, charging fat people higher premiums (justified by saying that fat people are a higher risk group, and therefore, a substantially higher likely payout in claims), followed eventually by their being able to flat-out deny claims from fat people on the grounds that the health issue was “self-inflicted.” Higher charged premiums coupled with denied claims equals greater profit shares, which is the ultimate goal of almost every business.

    Ironically, many health plans do NOT cover medically supervised weight-loss programs, which (at least in theory), should offer a balanced regimen of healthy eating and fitness-building exercise, at a realistic pace which won’t cause worse conditions than it supposedly solves. You’d think if the insurance companies were so concerned about the health risks of obesity (and hence the potential for having to pay medical claims for treating the resulting conditions), they would offer coverage to help people achieve better health overall.

    Of course, it always struck me as bizarre that the insurance company we had way back when wouldn’t cover contraceptives, but they would cover pregnancy and childbirth. Penny wise, pound foolish, I guess. Hey – that applies to their mentality on weight issues, too, with no pun intended!

  22. Boycott Disney? Or at least Disney trips? Seriously, if Studio Ghibli had not joined forces with them for exposure, had Pixar not rejoined, we’d own no material from them at all.

    I read things like this, and it makes me want to cry too. It’s awful people of different sizes have to FIGHT just to exist and have human rights. Thank you for what you do, a million times over…

  23. I’m sure if you were to ask Disney and BC/BS they would say they were not demonizing fat people, just bad behaviors. After all, the bad guys don’t even look truly human. This point is exactly what disurbs me the most: that the bad guys are caricatures of fat people; they don’t look truly human but are obvilously meant to be real fat people.

    If the companies truly wanted to highlight “bad” behaviors they could have used some other symbolic than negative stereotypical images of fat. The message they are sending now is clearly not about bad behaviors but about bad people — fat people.

    This is a nasty thing. It would be intolerable on the face of it for most other marginalized groups.

    What to do? A letter writing campaign to both companies might at least let them know we are not happy. We could boycott Disney products and let the company know why. Money is their bottom line after all.

  24. Agreeing with all that’s written above. But also, I find it very odd that this is happening at Epcot. My mother and I went there in autumn of 2010 and found the whole park seemed not to have been updated since it opened. There was a show based on the original “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”. Another ride used video of Ellen Degeneres that looked like it was taken while her sitcom was still on the air. The park was nice enough, but seemed like Disney had decided to leave it stuck in the late ’80s or early ’90s with no investment.

    So why, of all things, would THIS be the update they’d make to Epcot? Really? They didn’t think it might be more important to strip video of people wearing giant ’90s shoulderpads from the attractions?

    • This isn’t a true EPCOT attraction. It’s part of the Innoventions exhibit hall, which is constantly updated with new exhibits, all of which are sponsored and designed by corporations.

  25. Time for a mental health day, pamper yourself and come back to the fight refreshed.

    Thanks for being such an inspiring person.

    • What pyctsi said. Bless you, Ragen. I cried, too.

  26. Keep us posted. If there’s anything a curvaceous single mommy with no extra money can do to help, I am ALL in.

  27. This is awful, when are people going to realise fat shaming is ridiculous?! Love the article in the Huffington Post aswell.

    I swear promoting healthier body image is the way forward, when people learn to love their bodies then they’ll have the freedom to choose food effectively without feeling ashamed that they want the cookie that the thin kids are allowed but they aren’t… because of their physical appearance.

  28. My issue with this new ride is two-fold: the ride focuses on behaviors instead of disease, and implies that obesity is the manifestation of those behaviors.

    You know, they could totally keep their ride but change the focus to actual health just by changing the names and images of the bad guys. Instead of the glutton, lead bottom, and snacker, they could have used the big 3: hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

    I know that all those diseases have a genetic component, but a healthy diet and regular exercise (independent of weight) can reduce the risk in people with that predisposition.

    I think they also need to change the name of Will Power because, seriously? There are plenty of reasons that people eat too many fatty foods, don’t get enough exercise, or even eat too much to fast, which have nothing to do with will power.

    Just ask any poor person.

    • IA on the name Will Power.

      Kids do not need to have “will power” around food. Is it really any wonder eating disorders have risen in children?

    • I think it would be ablist to name the villains after diseases. As someone with a chronic condition, you wouldn’t believe how much we’re shamed for “obviously” having done something “wrong.” I’m constantly told to change my diet, exercise more, try eating these superfoods, bla bla bla, and I’m underweight. I can’t imagine how much worse it is for fat people with disabilities. I think the only solution to this exhibit is to get rid of it.

      Although I totally agree with your point about will power.

  29. This is so sad. Especially since my understanding is that Disney rides are mostly designed in ways that are friendlier to diverse bodies than are other parks like Universal Studios. What a shame.

  30. Hi Ragen, first of all, yay on your Huff Post article! It was awesome! RE: Disney I wanted to share a comment I received on my blog post The Not so Wonderful World of Disney, and see what you would say.

    Mr. X (not his real name :) ) wrote:
    .
    1.The villains who are being depicted in this exhibit are more than just overweight/obsese animations. While I absolutely believe shaming is distasteful and ineffective, bringing to light the fact that this nation is facing major weight problems across the board is Disney’s attempt at being socially responsible.

    2. Disney is always the scapegoat and the villain when people are looking for ways to point out that fairy tales aren’t accurate depictions of reality.
    Warmly, Dr. Deah http://www.leftoverstogo.com

    • Hi Deah,

      I would say this:

      Mr X.,

      I’m sure that Disney has good intentions but when it comes to children’s health good intentions are not enough. Shaming and stigmatizing kids because of their weight is not socially responsible – as has already been said by the NIH, Kaiser Permanente, and the National Eating Disorder Association. In fact, according to the National Institutes for Health, making kids feel bad about their weight is likely to lead to unhealthy behaviors. While “tough talk” might make people feel like they are doing something, we need to look at what the evidence says is actually likely to work and this type of “education” served with a side of body shame does not meet that criteria. We can be for developing healthy habits in kids without humiliating any kids at all.

      2. First, this game is far from being a fairy tale, but if Disney is constantly getting the message that they partake in stereotyping then maybe that’s something that they should look into. The bottom line is that this “game” at Epcot is harmful to kids and the only socially responsible thing to do is to say so and solve the problem.

      ~Ragen

  31. this is incredibly sad. I was just at epcot in december. I was already feeling uncertain about myself due to being newly pregnant, I can’t imagine how bad I would have felt had I noticed this ride. and I’m an ADULT! poor kids! who mostly don’t have the capacity to process this the same way we do, they just see the images and accept the message :( well, I’m sure today will be spent spreading this around my social network, just like the rest of you.
    Allison

  32. Is it possible that this hateful stuff is coming to the fore now because some folks in positions of power and influence are becoming aware that the FA lobby is gaining momentum? And that they’re so heavily invested in the idea of the obesity epidemic, they don’t care who they throw under the bus to make sure everyone just keeps on fearing fat regardless?

    I don’t believe there’s a deliberate conspiracy as such, but I do think, in the minds of some, FA has the potential to pose a genuine threat and there’s a lot of potential money to be lost if we make serious inroads into public consciousness. This is some seriously hateful propaganda and the fact that it centres around children (again) makes me itch to punch heads. Alas I’m in the UK, but I’m with you all the way just as I was on the Georgia project.

  33. The blllboards in Georgia were an opportunity, and so is this. What can we do to turn it around on them?

  34. I am absolutely disgusted.

  35. I’m withholding judgment until I see or hear a first person account analyzing the exhibit from a HAES perspective, which neither Ragen nor the article she cites is providing, to the best of my knowledge. The only first person account I’ve read (via a Disney fan site) didn’t tell me anything in one direction or another. When I was last there, there were promo posters for this up in Innoventions and the “villains” were not all fat, nor did any of the promo material specifically target fatness or fat people. The photos shown above are only a subset of the characters that I saw last time I was there.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that all the things being said are true; I just don’t want to jump to conclusions without a first-hand account.

    Can someone who is in the Orlando area actually head over there and go see what the real deal is? If not, I’ll be out there in May for the Expedition Everest adventure race and will check it out myself then.

    • I completely respect your decision. I did check out both the website “game” and a number of sources on the ride itself including one that explained the attraction from a rider perspective. The fact that these villains exist at all is enough for me to stand against the ride but I get that isn’t the case for everyone.

      ~Ragen

      • Appreciate the respect. I’ll definitely report on my blog with my impressions after my next trip. The existence of a fat character doing or evoking a negative thing is not enough to be a problem to me; if so, I’d have a problem with The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and certainly several of the classic films and shorts. The existence of *only* fat characters as negative examples would be problematic or the insistence that fat=unhealthy on its own. When I was there last, a poster did show a fat person in a group of healthy habit people, which is part of why I’m reserving judgment. Maybe it was just a promo, maybe they changed it…I don’t know. The walkthroughs I’ve seen have neither been damning nor redeeming.

        Regardless, I would suggest to you and everyone commenting here to start with a letter or two (or e-mail) to Disney rather than a boycott. In my experience, they are very aware and supportive of HAES as a model, particularly at the fitness expos and RunDisney events, and they’ve generally been willing to step in and alter things where and when they can in the parks when an issue with the messaging is raised. (The movies and media are, of course, another matter and another section of the company.)

        And believe me, if I see issue with the exhibit design when I’m there, I will be complaining at guest services immediately and firmly and following up with written letters as needed.

    • I understand your reservations, but I think that one of the big questions we have to ask ourselves is not are all of these negative characters fat, but does Disney, in any of its work, offer an alternative representation of fat people? One in which fat people are not constructed as automatically problematic or shown only for comic relief or as evil? Are ANY fat Disney characters positive characters? I believe that we would be hard pressed to find anything like this. Therefore, we can understand that these images exist as part of Disney’s framing of fat people as problematic, it is simply a more explicit example of what is generally implicit in Disney’s films. If you look around the web you’ll find that a lot of people are saying that their experience with this exhibit/ride was problematic.

  36. Wow. That is so sad.

    We almost did Disney this year, and I am glad I didn’t because, while my children are “normal BMI,” my husband and I would look more like enemies. :-(

  37. My heart breaks for fat kids who go to Disney on vacation with their folks, hoping to escape the pressures of everyday life, only to find that the Mouse has declared war on them too.

  38. I am ready and willing to do everything I can to protest this shaming bullshit in any way possible. I am absolutely appalled and dismayed and disappointed on so many levels, especially as a massive Disney/Pixar fan. I feel disrespected and fucked over. Like Well-Rounded Mama said, let’s use this as an opportunity to turn it around on them.

  39. They are coming at it from the wrong direction. Shame never made anyone healthy, in fact it’s killed a few people along the way.

    A ride that takes people on a journey that how gorgeous real, proper food can be, or a How To Cook Real Food game, a Which Do You Think is Healthy game, photos taken with Disney characters eating or holding fresh fruit and veg…but no. Shame the fat people, y’all are embarrassing.

    I’m just so, so sorry.

  40. I would say start with a letter writing campaign and move up from there. A major corporation like Disney can be very effected by consumer complaint (ie Profit loss) if there is enough of it.

  41. Words cannot describe how I’m feeling about this. I’m appalled that one of my favorite entertainment providers would stoop to such a low level. Even if I wasn’t overweight, I would be still be quite disgusted at Disney and BCBS. It is absolutely mind boggling that in today’s society that is supposedly focused on stopping bullying that we have esentially the exact opposite message coming from two very large and very public corporations. What really gets me though from the perspective of health is how BCBS can ignore the fact that mental health plays a very big part of physical health. To encourage a message that is so focused on the physical health that it poses a danger to one’s mental health is so backwards that if they don’t cease and desist, they are going to be facing a much larger financial responsility when they are dealing with an epidemic of mental health problems.

  42. So are they getting rid of all the junk food at the park and instituting a healthy snack system?

    Talk about bullying at the marketing level.

    • You know – this is a REALLY good point!!!!
      I’ve never been to Disney Land/World (I’m in Australia) so I don’t know what food they serve, but I have been to theme parks here, and the food is generally pretty horrible.
      So Disney wants to ‘villain’-ise fat people who eat too much, too quickly, too much fatty foods and don’t engage in enough exercise. If they want to turn that into a ‘game’ for children to play they need to back those messages up. Get rid of the additive laden foods that are served, get rid of the hot dogs, and offer healthy, fresh, additive free foods instead. Otherwise – aren’t they just joining the ranks of the villains?

      • So, you’re comparing all theme parks to Disney World? Since you haven’t been to Disney World, I can tell you it has a lot of healthy food choices (even at the fast food level). All the children’s meals come with healthy sides even if you’re ordering a hot dog for them. My children actually eat just as well on vacation (sometimes better) than they do at home. Do some menu research and you’ll see for yourself…

    • There is nothing wrong with children having a treat from time to time. I know that Disneyland and Disneyworld offer healthy eating options in addition to the junk food they offer. It is up to the customer to make a decision. Epcot is an educational center and always has been. They are addressing a huge problem in our society.

      • Yes, and they’re addressing it ineptly by promulgating negative stereotypes about fat people, then blaming folk for the low self esteem caused by exactly this kind of stigmatisation. The more children – of all sizes -are taught to fear and revile fat, the younger they will start dieting, developing eating disorders and wrecking their metabolisms. This process is just as harmful to the bodies and self-confidence of fat children as it is for thin and average sized children. If you want a fatter society, keep up the bully tactics and discrimination.

  43. Bear in mind that most of the “Disney stories”, like Little Mermaid, Snow White, Cinderella, etc…were stolen outright by the Disney company when the copyrights expired on the original Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Anderson stories…and made their own. Disney didn’t make those characters villains or bad guys or just plain bad examples; the original stories did (and boy, did the Brothers Grimm have stepmother issues!). The Disney machine just capitalized on those themes and continues to do so. They also will sue anyone anywhere who attempts to use as their symbol anything that looks even vaguely mouse-eared, and they’ll win.

    So boycotting Disney World/Land would not make a drop in the bucket because the theme parks aren’t the biggest money makers in the Disney empire. Marketing is. I still think a massive letter-writing campaign could still have an impact, however. Maybe since the Huffington Post already picked up Ragen’s work they’ll be interested in this as well.

    The fact that Ragen has so much research and science to back up her statements and ties to so much of the HAES movement is very, very powerful. And the billboard victory is just gravy. Disney is huge, powerful, one of the biggest corporations on the planet with ties EVERYWHERE (even places you wouldn’t ever consider)…but I think we could shut this exhibit down; we’d just have to be careful how we did it. Shaming them into taking it down is the same tactic the exhibit itself uses to promote weight loss which would gain us no victory.

    • The Brothers Grimm didn’t have stepmother issues, actually– the original stories (which were collected, not written, by the Grimms, who were early folklorists) cited these atrocities as being committed by the children’s mothers, and they thought it would be more palatable if it was stepmothers instead… though statistically children are more likely to be killed by their own parents than anyone else. :(

      Sorry, I know that’s a bit pedantic and off-topic, but I am also a folklorist and sometimes it’s frustrating to see how often people credit the Grimms with creating those tales just because they were the earliest to record them. The Grimm stories actually had a long, rich oral tradition first.

      As far as the actual post goes, I am very angry to hear about it. That fairy-looking one… how many of these kids will have an aunt, mother, granny, or other adult relative or close friend who looks just like that cute, cheery figure? “Don’t trust Grandma to give you a cookie, look what will happen!” How about hell no.

      In their defense they’ll say “well of COURSE we don’t want children to be afraid of/ cruel to fat people, but that’s a silly conclusion to draw from this and kids will know better bla bla” but um, no they don’t, and that’s exactly the kind of conclusions they draw from shit like this. You can’t fear and hate fat without fearing and hating those who are fat, because, wonder of wonders, there’s no loose fat walking around without a body! We aren’t talking about some abstraction, we’re talking about real human beings, with feelings… many of whom are kids.

      Repulsive.

  44. In addition to the fat-shaming ‘villians’, the one that really broke my heart was Insecura, who represents the “bad habit” of low self-esteem.

    I volunteer with kids around the age that this is being targeted to (7 to 14 year olds), and it absolutely floors me that someone would try to blame THEM for their own low self-esteem. Seriously, with all the bullshit society tosses at kids, it’s a wonder that any of them have any self-esteem at all. Newsflash to Disney: low self-esteem isn’t a bad habit that you can just break. It’s a real problem that needs more support from adults in the community than just a shitty reductive video game.

    Also, perhaps some of that low self-esteem is to do with all of the blatant body-shaming that adults seem interested in bombarding kids with?

  45. It’s time to man the ramparts again and do battle against the actual demons of shame and prejudice.

    Point my sword in a direction, someone. That’s all I need.

    And if I come up with a good idea first, believe me you will all hear about it.

    It may take me some time with all the sputtering and swearing, but I am going to take on the mouse and WIN.

  46. Disney has always been pretty evil IMO. There’s all that early racism like in Dumbo and the early cuts of Fantasia (Song of the South, anyone?). Then there’s the overwhelming number of movies where the girl’s story ends with a wedding. The boy stories are much more likely to end with him becoming King. What does THAT teach young girls? A lot, if the Cinderella wedding industry is any indication. Princess worship shouldn’t really be a thing anymore. I think the closest Disney has ever got to a positive fat role model are the aforementioned hippos from Fantasia. But even then, it’s difficult to discern whether the reptiles want to dance with them or devour them.

    Disney has pretty much always asserted that people are exactly what they look like. The only time this isn’t true, is when that’s part of the moral of the story (Jiminy Cricket making a BIG difference, for example). If the likes of Ursula, The Queen of Hearts, or Mad Madame Mim are any indication, ALL fat women are evil–though women in general seem to be either maids, eveil witches, or beautiful young girls waiting to be rescued.

    That said, that they would directly apply this kind of dicketry to children–children they know full well LOVE Disney, is just disgusting. With all the good they could be doing, it’s appalling that they’d waste time and money on making kids feel bad. Maybe it’s so the kids will be too embarrassed to complain when they can’t fit in the dinky ride seat.

  47. I am a travel agent and send people to Disney all the time – this just disgusts me. I actually have a client headed there now and asked her to check it out. She’s a fatty too so is outraged.
    After reading this I checked it out and found this great article about it:
    http://www.canada.com/health/small+sized+world+after+Disney+slammed+anti+obesity+attraction/6204988/story.html

    Sure the attraction has a smoker – and that “enemy” is thin, as is the Sweet Tooth character, but another one that ignores his doctor’s advice, also fat. I’m just appalled and feel so sickened.

  48. Here’s an update on snacks; I haven’t been to Disney in 6 years but apparently they’ve been changing things while I’ve been away. They are implementing healthier foods and have been for a while, as a part of the Magic of Healthy Living campaign. http://www.mouseplanet.com/9883/Walt_Disney_World_Resort_Update#food

  49. I just took a look at the gallery, and it’s horrifying overall.

    As if the fat characters weren’t bad enough, they also have Insecura (low self-esteem), the Duchess of Doom (negativity), Stress Case (stress) and Hothead (‘temper tantrums’). I don’t know about the rest of you, but as someone who’s had issues with depression and anxiety since my teens, I think telling kids that their feelings, however icky, are ‘bad habits’ to be overcome (rather than perhaps a valid response to some of the real shit in their lives) is hugely harmful. (That’s leaving aside the fact that the first two characters have a distinctly Goth look about them, thus further singling out a particular group of kids. Oh, and Stress Case is also fat.)

    Add to this that two of the other bad habits are…gossip and bullying. How exactly do they think they’re going to overcome those two when much of the rest of their exhibit is about demonising people who don’t fit in? You can’t beat bullies by throwing broccoli at them, real or virtual.

    OK, maybe we do need to see how this thing works in its entirely, but from the previews I’m not desperately hopeful. My brother has a place near Orlando, and my great-nephews (I have four, aged from 3-6), who vacation there pretty frequently, may well end up getting taken to this. *headdesk*

    • Wait, what? That seems even worse to me, perpetuating a vicious circle. So first, they’ll make kids feel bad about themselves and their bodies. Oh, but those bad feelings? Those are the enemy, too! If you had enough willpower, you obviously wouldn’t be bothered or feel bad at all!

      Just one more way to feel not good enough, inside and out. How did no one see how outright cruel and bullying this is?

  50. UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH. I really don’t know what else to say.

  51. I am so sad and disgusted by this.

    If you want to teach your kids about healthy habits that’s all fine and great but what ever happened to going to disney to just be a kid and have FUN? Why are we trying to terrify our children of being fat and unhealthy every place they go now?

    I feel like I absorbed a fair amount of food/dieting messages as a child and that was before the “epidemic” scare. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be a kid now absorbing all of this.

  52. Well, I am not at all surprised that Disney has done this. It is right in line with the way that they have always portrayed fat people -with very few exceptions as either evil or comic relief. I would also like to remark that the racism and sexism in Disney movies is not gone – it is simply more subtle. Noel Cazenave, a sociology professor at University of Connecticut, argues that “Racism is as sophisticated as it needs to be” and it is because of this that most Disney fans cannot see the terrible racist portrayals in Disney films. We can think, for example, of Enchanted. This is a film that I personally am enthralled with, but it takes place in NYC and the casting is not very diverse at all. Most of the actors are of European descent, and even the extras tend to be “white.” African Americans show up as musicians and dancers (and really, being entertainers has always been approved of for people of color), and the three who have speaking roles (one of whom is fat and comic relief) are angry and confrontational when they enter. Only when the sweet, “white” princess intervenes does the African American couple learn to love each other again. Lest someone say that I am reading too much into this, I highly, highly recommend that you all take a look at Mickey Mouse Monopoly, a documentary that examines the ways that themes of race, gender, and consumerism become normalized through Disney films. It is worth watching and is available in five parts on youtube the last time I checked. This fat hatred and fat shaming is in line with the way that Disney operates and is to be expected. Not that we should not fight back, but we all have blinders on when it comes to Diseny. It would be wonderful if this could shed enough negative press on them to make them start to rethink their value system, which is explicitly stated in the film.

  53. Not that this is an excuse in the slightest. But I wander if perhaps this is a matter of utter lack of thinking.
    I have an obsese wife (I am not obese myself) I love her so much, I’m not into big girls, I just love her…her, her body is part of her and I love that too, my single concern is her health, that the doctors think she will die THIRTY years before she would if she could shift the weight.
    If they want to create heroes to inspire children then perhaps they should have heroes who are overweight, who start their diet/exercise/whatever it is, and the bad habits are the enemy (an evil oily burger or a grey smoggy monster who could represent a bad habit) and the heroes could become healthier in varying different ways.
    One hero could remain large but the emphasis is on that he has a good heart and lungs and gains more energy
    One hero could go from being all grumpy and unhappy to being happier and gain a better outlook on life (the thing about excercise helps battle depression)
    One or a couple of the heroes COULD get slimmer to show that this is one of the changes that happens too.

    I totally agree that what they are doing, whether they actually realised it or not, is going to inspire only more bullying and degradation of overweight children who could well be eating healthy and trying to excercise. It will destroy their moral, inspire more eating disorders and generally make the life of someone who has a few extra pounds ever more unhappy.

    • I really disagree that becoming thin could be considered also an improvement when you exercise. Being thin is not automatically better than fat. Becoming thin should not be seen anymore than just a symptom when it comes to exercise, a symptom some people get and others don’t, nothing more, nothing less.

  54. NAAFA is circulating a press release tonight and we have started a petition that can be signed at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stop-Disneys-war-on-fat-kids/. Spread the word and ask everyone you know to sign the petition!

  55. Do you remember the end credits of Wall-E where all the people from the spaceship reclaim the earth? It shows all these really positive images of fat people being happy, having families, being active and helping the environment recover. As far as I’m concerned, I think that instead of creating “villains” surrounding “behaviors” they should instead create a virtual game that teaches about healthy food choices, and exercise activities that everyone can do, regardless of size. I remember they used to have this exercise video series when I was a kid called “Mousercise” in the early morning on the Disney Channel when I was a kid. Even though I detest exercise videos in general, the truth of the matter is that they were far less insulting and outright singling out of fat people and more Health For Everyone centric. Of course, none of this is really something that ought to be handled by an amusement park, especially not (as posters above have pointed out) when they sell candy and fried treats by the truckloads with very few healthier alternatives.

    • Yes, the end credits were very nice. Unfortunately, they appeared at the end of a film that had spent 1.5 hours equating fat with laziness and overindulgence. I hate that film. It draws a direct line from habits to fat, and of course fat is bad. In the absence of any other discourse from Disney regarding fatness, I cannot imagine how we are supposed to think that they believe anything positive about fat people.

    • As I recall, they also show those fat people getting thinner over time.

  56. Hi there! We just wanted to chime-in that we did a write-up of this attraction shortly after it opened, Feb 5th, and submitted it to several Disney fan and tourism blogs for publication.

    Our view of the experience was negative and we mentioned in our write-up that the fat-shaming in it made us uncomfortable. We were told by the Disney fan-blog editors that we submitted it to that we were being “too hard on Disney” over the quality/content of the attraction.

    We ended up posting our review to our own blog Epcyclopedia.com and a friend at MiceAge.com also picked it up to run in their weekly update. You can find it here: http://www.epcyclopedia.com/2012/02/05/habit-hereos-proves-unable-to-save-itself-at-epcot/

    It’s nice to see this getting some mainstream press now. Honestly, this attraction is just mean spirited and poor quality. We really appreciate seeing so many people agree now! Honestly, it seems like a lot of the media that wrote about the attraction when it first opened didn’t even experience it – they just quoted Disney’s press release with a few bits of embellishment.

    We hope you all keep spreading the word! Maybe this will lead to a better offering replacing this mistake!

  57. You’ll be happy to know Disney closed the attraction today indefinitely – rumored to be reworked.

  58. I grew up being about 10 pounds overweight and was ridiculed about being fat. I was very active physically but due to my weight becoming the measure of my worth I ended up years later in the hospital for a month for eating disorders. I agree obesity is dangerous but I believe negative thinking worsens the problem. How many eating disorders and worse yet, suicides, will it take for Disney and Blue Cross to wake up. I am sickened by their ignorance.

  59. They closed the attration after less than three weeks! http://www.epcyclopedia.com/2012/02/24/health-care-professionals-call-for-close-of-habit-heroes/

  60. I read your post on Friday and was also upset at Disney. Guess what I just found out? They closed the exhibit today!!! Great job bringing this to everyone’s attention!!! Check this link… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/disney-habit-heroes-anti-obesity-disney-world-epcot_n_1299664.html

  61. This made me so sad. I’ve always been a chunkier person, I would have hated to have gone to an amusement park and seen something like this. Way to go Disney, for making some little eight-year-olds who still have some baby fat, a thyroid disorder, or maybe even just some crappy parents who don’t know how to feed them right feel like sh*t about themselves. :(

  62. While I do agree with you that this attraction is wrong in so many ways, I do have a question for you about your idea to dress up like the villains (processed food, lack of exercise, etc) and state that you are not the enemy. If the American mindset of “eat garbage, sit around” is NOT the enemy here – responsible for so many cases of diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and countless other diet-related illnesses…that what IS the enemy? It’s not the children. It’s the HABITS. While shaming the kids is not the right approach to this at all, it’s not cool at all either to sit back and say “hey, cut these kids some slack – let them eat junk, become sedentary, develop unhealthy illnesses…and then blame society – because it’s not their dietary choices that are at fault.” Sorry but reality check – yes, those factors ARE the villains. While Disney’s approach isn’t the right way to address those villains, the fact of the matter is that they are hurting our society and that they do need to be addressed.

    • The idea to dress up like the villains was meant to be a joke. I believe in giving people information and letting them make their own choices. I would suggest that Disney (and everyone else) encourage eating a variety of foods and developing a life-long love of movement but I’m not for demonizing specific foods, I’m also not for telling other people what to do. People of all sizes do all kinds of things that don’t prioritize their health (from not getting enough sleep to running Iron Man triathlons) and it’s a slippery slope when we start to judge. I think if we’re interested in public health then we (including Disney) focus on making sure people have access to food, safe movement options they enjoy, and evidence-based information and health-care and after that we mind our own business, lest other people start thinking that it’s their job to judge us.

      ~Ragen

  63. I think what bugs me about this is that Disney (the people who made Beauty and the Beast) are telling us “Hey boys and girls, let’s judge people by their appearance!” Look at the Snacker fairy up there, I mean really look at her. Not her round body but her face. She looks happy. She looks KIND. She reminds me of a lot of plump, warm, generous, loving women I have known in my life. If Disney is genuinely telling us it doesn’t matter what you are like as a person – only what you look like – then they have gone WAY too far.

  64. It hurts my heart.

  65. Ragen – met you at the Chamber event, we talked about Marilyn Wann and queer tango. I forgot to put up a comment when I read this. I found this through some prominent blog or news service – no longer remember which – but it was prominent enough for me to be thrilled you were quoted there. Congrats!

    • Hi Matt,

      I remember you! Thanks for the comment :)

      ~Ragen

  66. Hey there – I just found this post and I am so happy that I did. I was disgusted to read about Habit Heroes, and I just wanted to say – have you been to Country Bear Jamboree? My husband and I went to see this show last summer, and as a bigger person, I was so sad to see the treatment of the bear ‘Trixie’ as part of the show. She’s a big female bear, but has a beautiful voice – but there are fat jokes written as part of the show (Wow Trixie, you have a BIG voice!). All the kids in the theatre with me started to laugh and call her fat. I was so upset, and I am 24 years old! I was just wondering if you had noticed this as well (if you’ve been on Bear Country Jamboree) or not.

    • Yikes – I haven’t been to Bear Country Jamboree – that’s awful :(

      ~Ragen


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