Removing Disney fat-shaming exhibit doesn’t change the message

Recently, Disney jumped on the latest trend, fat shaming, and opened an exhibit at Epcot called Habit Heroes. The interactive game featured two “heroes,” the buff Will Power and Callie Stenics. Cute names, huh? Unfortunately, the cuteness stops there. Will and Callie’s virtue and worth are based entirely on their able-bodied physicality, and the villains (The Glutton, Snacker, and Lead Bottom) are labeled as evil because they are overweight.

Fortunately Disney has actually realized their mistake with Habit Heroes, and the exhibit and the corresponding web site have since been shut down, a victory to those of us who are often told, “Complaining about a problem won’t do anything.” Still, it doesn’t undo any damage the exhibit may have done.

In one part of the interactive exhibit, Will Power and Callie Stenics urge visitors to point and shoot the empty calorie foods shown on the screen such as cake, ice cream, and candy. (I wonder if some of the waffle sandwiches and funnel cakes Disney serves at the Epcot restaurants were also on that screen.)

More disturbingly, it appears visitors also had the option to shoot the Snacker character, who disappeared in a puff of fairy dust when shot, then reappeared to continue conjuring sweets on the screen. The message is clearly promoting more than “kicking bad habits.” Violence and shame is being directed at overweight characters.

In a later part of the exhibit, visitors were urged to pressure Lead Bottom (“positively,” of course) to work out with Callie Stenics. The workout routine was a series of basic calisthenic moves, but like many of the suggestions in Habit Heroes, the assumption was that every person was able-bodied and physically capable of performing such exercises.

The exhibit clearly linked “bad habits” with a lack of virtue, and made the assumption that every overweight person has habits like watching a lot of television, eating fattening or sweet foods often, or not working out, which obviously isn’t true. Though Disney did well to respond to criticism and take down the exhibit, the company’s history speaks for itself, and they’re certainly not coming off my Watch List any time soon.


2 thoughts on “Removing Disney fat-shaming exhibit doesn’t change the message

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  1. I really just can’t believe that there wasn’t someone, SOMEWHERE along the way who thought that maybe, just maybe, this might be a bad idea.

  2. Unfortunately, Stacey, as long as society pushes the idea that we all should look like Stepford Wives (and Husbands), with perfect hair, perfect features, perfect skin, perfect figure, and who cares what’s on the inside!!, we’ll always have this problem. Kudos to Disney for at least taking this down, but whoever came up with this stupid idea should be fired! Don’t we have enough girls and women running around starving themselves and taking diet pills and throwing up food because they can’t stand the way they look in the mirror? Why does anybody think that this is a good thing? Unfortunately, this is not the first time a commercial espousing “healthy habits” went too far. I remember seeing a commercial on TV once during kids’ usual morning viewing time that had a group of kids that took a break from playing soccer to beat up on two fat men that were wearing black sweatsuits with white lettering on them that said things like “CHILDHOOD OBESITY” and “JUVENILE DIABETES”. My question is what does that really portray? While no one wants kids to get diabetes and we want them to be healthy, it shouldn’t use what appears to be condoning violence against fat people as a good message to hey, kids! get off the couch and exercise! How? By going around and beating up on some fat kid to encourage him to “get healthy”? Plus, it leads to a negative connotation of fat people as being freaks that deserve a good pounding in order to get them to “lose the lard”. Yeah! If making fun and shaming isn’t going to do it, what makes you think we’d go out there and start jogging if we have to worry about gangs of thin people just waiting around the corner to jump you and beat off those extra pounds? Stupid!

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