September 25, 2012

Is Disney making Minnie anorexic?

I predict an epidemic of nose jobs
to match Minnie's fetching schnoz!
Where Laura annoys friends and foes, equally...

Many friends in the ED world are exercised about a collaboration between the store, Barneys, and Disney where the holiday campaign shows the designer clothing on Disney characters - morphing those iconic figures into, well, cartoonish figures of cartoon figures.

As a friend so wisely quips, "a mouse in clothes is only slightly less ludicrous than a cat in clothes."

I'm not worried about Barney's morphed mice. I'm worried about the fact that the eating disorder world can't agree on anything, ANYTHING, but we can pull together a press release on animated characters?


I am a member of AED and BEDA and they both are doing the best work on eating disorders out there,  hands down, truly. But there is a galling irony that we can only get people to agree on stuff that not only doesn't have to do with eating disorders but furthers public confusion about eating disorders.

I say this having waited years in vain for an unequivocal statement on parents causing eating disorders, and then strung along for two years waiting for a promised statement on the role of weight restoration in resolving psychological symptoms only to be chided in the paper for having asked, and not having the question addressed. I've begged leaders in the ED world for clear statements on a number of issues that should not be controversial, but keep being told it can't be done. And yet: Barneys holiday campaign lights a fire that gets action within weeks?

Is thinness anorexia? no. Do children get their self-image from advertising campaigns for haute couture? no. Is Minnie Mouse any more realistic in her original form than in the Barney's campaign? um... no. 

What will the public get out of this? That eating disorder advocates are more exercised about cartoon figures than anything else about the illness. That deadly mental illness can be caused by mere images or ideas. Where are the joint statements decrying widespread diet industry marketing to children? Where is the rally to speak out against the lack of funding for eating disorder research? I don't see a collective movement against high school athletics programs that discourage dinner and publicly weigh athletes. Where's the petition against "Anti-Obesity" initiatives that sow terror around weight gain in children? Did I miss the eating disorder advocacy world coming out against the use of non-evidence-based treatments? I can think of 45 more important topics for public statements and none of them feature Disney.

All this firepower of outrage, this wonderful focus, and the public ear may not be possible with what we really need the public to hear: that eating disorders are deadly mental illnesses and with specialized care are treatable to full freedom from symptoms. But silence might be better, I fear, than affront over the most frivolous eating disorder controversy available.

2 comments:

  1. What an excellent post! I share your despair over the rapid, intense focus on this issue when the very pertinent and important issues go un-addressed. I hope you will keep on speaking out like this, forever, until we don't need to any more.

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  2. It is indeed an excellent post.

    I wonder whether part of the reason why such trivial issues gain so much attention is that the gritty, important issues ARE important, and controversial, and subject to vested interests and competing theories and therefore hard to handle.

    Disney is an easy target because it is well known (think of all the money that has gone into advertising over the decades). No one vulnerable is going to be hurt by repeating the story (shhhhhhh, Minnie Mouse isn't real). No one is going to be denied a hope that might have been a mirage but they had thought worth chasing as a result of it. No one is going to have to work to protocols that they find difficult and learn new skills. No one's cherished and hard thought out theories are going to be consigned to the garbage even if the campaign is 100% successful. In fact even the graphics artists will make rather than lose as a result because they'll have more work re-drawing Minnie et al if these new models are erased.

    Shame on the ED world for focussing on it by doing so confusing the outside world still further and leaving no time for the important stuff Marcella

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