Thanks to Karl Cohen for sending this my way. Karl asks the question "Isn't this too absurd to influence kids to be super skinny?" My response is, never under-estimate just how absurd very serious people can be when the very existence of humanity hangs in the balance.
A group by the name SumOfUs, which claims to be fighting for people over corporate profits, has launched an online petition calling for Disney to "Stop using your children's characters to promote dangerous body images." They are upset over Disney's collaboration with Barneys New York on a set of super skinny, super modelesque proportioned versions of Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and other classic Disney characters, all aimed at young women, to be used in upcoming Christmas displays. According to the petition:
Young girls are already bombarded with waif bodies and impossible figures, contributing to soaring cases of anorexia, bulimia, and other dangerous eating disorders. Now Disney is using children’s cartoon characters to promote the least realistic, unhealthiest body image yet. Send a message to Disney that starvation isn't sexy, and dangerous body types should never be mixed in with children's cartoons.
Tell Disney to keep its characters healthy, and not use its classic children's cartoons to promote dangerous body images.
Is this just another in the endless barrage of "where do you draw the line?" decisions we face every day? Why stop at Disney? Why not go after America's Top Model? What about Vogue magazine? What about Sport Illustrated? What about thin waisted, large breasted agents in Archer? Yah I know, Lana is insanely hot. Leave her be.
One could make the case that a large percentage of both "classic" and contemporary cartoon characters and their actions exemplify or glorify images and behavior upsetting to any number of groups around the world. A depiction of the prophet Mohammed in contemporary literature, film, even in a South Park cartoon, enrages some groups to the point of violent street demonstrations and rioting.
The 14 year old in me thinks the people behind this petition should really get outside more often, that cartoons are just that, CARTOONS, by definition exaggerated, silly, ridiculous and outrageous, designed to elicit some type of emotional response. So bite me. The parent of a troubled child in me knows full well the narcotic-like power some types of imagery can exert on a kid, especially an at risk kid. I often shake my fist at the television when I see my daughter watching an endless parade of contrived, faux-gritty urban scenes powered by an unstoppable media and fashion business juggernaut. "Yo Dad," she'll say, "I don't like when you get all up in my face." I bet Minnie never messed with Mickey's "bidness," especially while starving herself to fit into the polka-dotted camisole our furry Disney icon really likes to see her wear.
Christ people, we live in an age where our media darlings rise to power through sex tapes and DUIs. Should a few glamor model-styled Disney cartoon characters really be the focus of our societal rage?
Ultimately, we fall back on "parents need to parent and teach their kids context, perspective and making good choices" as they grow up, learn about nasty things lurking in plain sight and how they should deal with them. Sage advice, practical advice, but not necessarily useful or helpful or even doable advice. When's the last time you met a kid over age 3 who actually listened to his or her parents?
I have no idea whether or not visions of a wafer thin Minnie Mouse will inspire bulimia in a generation of teens. Let's just hope it doesn't inspire a generation of teens to get whisker tatoos, tail piercings or go under the knife to round off the tops of their ears.