Sunday, March 04, 2012

Walt Disney World and the Obesity Controversy

I have always loved Walt Disney World ever since I was a little kid. I recently went back for a trip with my family. I am not sure if I am just old enough to realize something I missed when I was a kid but as an adult it is easy to see that the Disney Corporation is trying to take on social causes that they believe will appeal to the majority of their customer base, even if the message is contradictory. For example, on a rainy day, my family and I were stuck in Epcot’s The Land exhibit and to pass some time, we watched a movie called Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable -- obviously designed for those who are passionate about the environment. In the film, the cartoon characters lament how terrible mankind is for knocking down trees and entire forests for development, which would include business expansion. At this point, I could not help thinking, “How do you think Walt Disney World was built?!”

More recently, Walt Disney World found themselves under attack from The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance for allegedly being insensitive in another cartoon by reinforcing stereotypes that obese people eat junk food and watch TV too much television. Regardless of the merits of that argument, I object to Disney’s argument on other grounds. The fact is, people do not become obese from eating junk food or watching too much TV. You can become obese from eating excessive amounts of any type of food, regardless of whether it is junky or not. Also, you can watch all of the TV you want, but watching TV does not cause obesity. If Disney wants to promote any type of message about obesity, it should simply be this: if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Not too hard to understand. Even Dumbo can understand that. If you want to add something to it, you can say that eating too much, often combined with too much inactivity can cause obesity. People should not feel vilified for eating candy bars, drinking soda, or being a coach potato once in awhile. It’s all a matter of balance and doing things in moderation.

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