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.