Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obese Toys?

Active Life is an organization that advocates physical activity, good nutrition and the creating of a well balanced environment that supports healthy lifestyles. I am totally all for that.

In an effort to highlight obesity in children, they have launched an interesting advertising campaign.

Obese toys.

More specifically a Barbie doll, a Superman doll and Playmobil Pirates.

Now, I can understand what the campaign is trying to do here. And there is no doubt that we've become less active and more sedentary. Our ancestors used to live most of their lives outdoors. Hunting. Gathering. Walking miles and such. We spend more time indoors now than outdoors. Hunting and gathering can be accomplished with the click of a button and a delivery to your front door. And the walking for miles things has gone by the wayside with the invention of the wheel.

So physical fitness continues to grow as a significant global concern. And props go out to the creative and artistic minds who think of advertising like this.

But I don't know how I feel about it. I mean, for starters, Barbie is an unrealistic toy to begin with. Her measurements are not attainable for any girl living in the real world. And Superman is, well, a guy with super powers. Not a real person. The Pirates are certainly more reality based, but maybe I'm just reading too much into things. It is a campaign geared for children and families.

What do you think?


Carrie said...

Deb, this one is interesting. I think that toys are about fantasy and play and fun. I wouldn't want children to fantasize about being overweight. Nor would I want them making fun of people who are overweight.

Why not some crazy veggie toys? Or a build-a-meal game?

Dr. Deb said...

I get the idea, but I didn't like the toys being used. Maybe the artists want a reaction like ours?

Wanda's Wings said...

I don't think it is a good idea at all. With all the eating disorders there are why obese toys? My eating disorder started as a child. I don't think having an obese toy would have help much with self image.

jumpinginpuddles said...

the other day we were in a playground with our five children who are not obese by any stretch but are also not graced with being skinny either. And two children came up teh them and started calling them fat, it sonly stopped after i intervened.

What makes me really upset is my children swim five days a week in summer because its so hot have swimming lessons once a week in off season, ride bikes, eat fruit, dont overindugle and arent alowed soft drink or chocolates, yet they remain slightly over weight.

Bringing out a fat doll only continues the bullying of kids like mine, and enhance hatred of self. When is soceity going to learn we all coem in various shapes as sizes and not all of them are the model star quality. And wetehr people like ti or not some children like mine have a more proportionate amount of baby fat just like me as a kid and their dad, and their now thirteen year old brother who is five foot seven and a star sportsman but guess what ?????? he was once covered in baby fat like his brothers.


phd in yogurtry said...

Are these actual toys or merely an ad campaign designed to show that too much of a good thing (internet, TV, video games) can lead to obesity?

As an ad campaign, as a PSA, I kind of like it. It's a succinct visual. I got it immediately. Barbie spending too much time online equals overweight, unhealthy Barbie. (not that original Barbie is a great role model).

phd in yogurtry said...

P.S. You find the coolest topics to blog about!

Tiptoe said...

While I understand their message, I think there are better ways of showing it. Why not give positive messages of health rather than the negative ones?

Leesa said...

Childhood obesity is a problem. But I don't think shame works well. I agree with others that we should be talking about the positive. If kids kept hearing how good fruit tastes, perhaps they would reach for strawberries instead of a Snickers.

Teresa Lynne said...

I think that people/businesses have "good intentions" but they don't always go about it the right way.

I think that no matter what the toy industry does: Too Skinny, Too Overweight dolls - they are not gonna win our vote either way.

For years, people complained that Barbie was too skinny and unrealistic. Now, we have obese toys and people don't like that either.

Its a no win situation, I think.

This looks more like a campaign to me..pushing exercise maybe...as they are all sitting down near the TV, laying on the bed playing on the phone or a video game.

I don't know...it depends what their goal is here.

CrackerLilo said...

I think it's very shaming, and I say this as a chubby woman who was a chubby child. I think a *much* better motivator for a child who's already fat or getting fat would be to show, say, children with all kinds of bodies playing a game like soccer or hockey and having fun. If you're just getting told you're fat and therefore ugly and gross, that's not exactly motivational. Doesn't make you want to get up and show yourself off in a pair of gym shorts. I'd love to see that change in strategy. Like, a "Doesn't Matter How You Look, Just Move!" campaign.

(BTW, sorry in advance for what I said about the Islanders!)

Dreaming again said...

(posting my own thoughts before reading others comments)

I think that if they *really* want to effect body immage ..they need to work on Matel getting Barbie and Ken into more realistic bodies. Rather than emphasizing the negative, how about emphasizing realistic and healthy!

Why do we have to have one extreme or the other, but not healthy?

~Deb said...

Well, going too far is going too far. I think being proportionate and voluptuous is ok- I mean back in the days the "real women" were looked at as attractive if they had a little spare tire around their mid section. Now? You have to be a rail. But these dolls are a bit much.... I mean, that one Barbie has more chins than a Chinese phone book---not good. They should make them "realistic", not unhealthy.

STAG said...

Maybe its a numbers game. How many people die before their time due to obesity compared to how many people die before their time due to being teased for being overweight? (I know, I know, its more complicated than that...)

suicide rates....(11th on the list)
30,602 in the year 2001

Obesity rates....(first on the list)
300,000 per year.

Of course, as my old pa used to say, "when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember that your goal is drain the swamp".

SOMETHING has to reduce the epidemic of obesity. At 55 years old, I have found that all my "fat" friends are dead. As a phat auld phart myself, this is disconcerting. Its time I read the message which is written right under my nose. The one written in large letters. On the icing.

Jedi Master Daryl said...

I think it's pretty cool! I'm diggin' Barbie's double chin! I wonder if Ken will turn chubby chaser, or go for a skinnier chunk of plastic now that Barbie is pleasantly plump.

traci said...

I think it's disgusting.

Muser said...

Issue 1: I'm not a fan of making "obese toys." But as I understand it, AL isn't making obese toys per se, but rather have an ad campaign with obese toys as the figures. Which seems more eye-open than opening-for-ridicule.

Issue 2: It's true that children need to be taught sensitivity. And it's true that Barbie needs to get a healthy body form. But I think we as parents and adult influences in our children's lives have to make the effort to (a) model active and healthy lifestyles and (b) bring home toys that do the same.

Over the past 15 years (working first in toy and doll stores and then in child psychology) I've seen that fashion dolls that present "normal" body shapes and active not-fashion/image-based lifestyles don't last more than a season or two whereas Barbie (and now Bratz) are going strong. Maxie (sp?) and Sindy were good figures; Sindy held on for quite a while, but Maxie didn't last more than a few years in the 80's, as I recall. And sadly I can't remember the names of the other "healthier" dolls. But I've seen lines with wonderfully jointed bodies, great poseability, great accessories, nice face molds, good representation of ethnicities, in detailed outfits for soccer, horseriding, mountain biking, camping... that hit the clearance stores within a year of their release because they're just not selling. What makes it difficult for parents (and children) to incorporate healthier dolls into the family (at least to some extent) is the same issue that pregnant Midge has faced; hard to find clothes that fit!

I think if parents petitioned Mattel, Barbie could get a healthy friend. In my early twenties I wrote Mattel arguing for accessory packs with wheelchairs, guide dogs, leg braces, etc. A year later the first Barbie friend in a wheelchair was released. I don't *really* think it was my letter alone that triggered her creation (but it WAS a good letter *grin*), especially since they haven't made a Barbie friend with Down's Syndrome as I also suggested. But if parent special interest groups and parents in general all wrote, all threatened to boycott, Mattel might get the picture and expand their line.

Muser said...

That said, also not loving the notion of making obese toys for an ad that actually does open overweight individuals to ridicule. So it's an interesting concept but I think they could have gone other ways, such as celebrating the healthy lifestyle rather than "dissing" an unhealthy one.

jenji said...

I don't think the artists are expecting a reaction like yours, I'm sure they probably meant well, however they are still holding on to idealistic nonsense as to who/what is healthy and attractive in society and may not even be aware of the implications of these unrealistic ideals regarding barbie etc.

i think they thought they were doing a good thing and it has translated in a less than realistic fashion.

then again, (here comes jenji's gratuitous media/corporation rant lol) it's entirely possible that the move was strategic in an effort to further magnify and dictate our roles in society: overtly attractive men and women. These bodies, barbie/superman are not the norm and simply do not exist in that capacity.

I'm actually working with a production company that is trying to start up and get funding for what carrie mentioned: veggie toys, so to speak. Actually, interactive veggie animations, build a meal education for young children and a superhero character whose main focus is proper nutrition. We've shot quite a few demo reels with these characters; small educational shorts/skits for our presentation this thursday to the execs with the funding.

i agree with you deb, good idea, bad execution. it suggests that barbie, superman et al. are the ideal and that is so far from reality.


Jade said...

Hmmmm....My take on this is that children might see the change in their beloved characters that they are used to (since children normally base perception on what they already know..)

I would think once a little boy saw the overweight superman, unless they glorified the characters power of extreme weight, I believe that the kids would be turned off by the look.

Now if they showed the characters being lethargic, with blood sugar spikes, and losing his breath when he bends down to ties his shoes.... I'm pretty sure the kids would be turned off... I HOPE!

Ian Lidster said...

Actually I think the toys are screamingly funny, though I know that's not the intention. But I also think your comments about Barbie and Superman not having normal physical attributes is well taken. As for your other point, I have never really known an overweight farmer, logger or fisherman. Sedentary life is the killer.

Kahless said...

I dont like it. Not sure why but sits uncomfortable with me.

Tracy said...

Hmmmmmm, I think i agree with you regarding this topic. My first reaction was, well how does this really get the point across to your children??? These objects are not reality based.

Lisa Marie said...

I don't like it, but can't pinpoint an exact reason. It just seems extremely distasteful.

Health Pain said...

This is the case, we are what we eat, but there is a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables because it is more advisable, I recommended this http://dietas-efectivas.com and I welcome their diets are fruit and exercises and really low weight, and took a week and I dropped 2 kgs, I think in a month down 7 kgs. I have of being overweight, and I do not have to be obnoxious with diets where only my anxiety by eating, you think ..?

Zee said...

I think it wouldn't hurt to come out with some dolls with a healthy weight, but obese dolls? That just weird.

whizkidforte said...

What's next - a morbidly obese Care Bear figurine?

Dr. Deb said...

Interesting and provoking comments all. Thanks!

Deb S. said...

Childhood obesity should be taking seriously. Still, I'm not feeling this campaign.

Awake In Rochester said...

How did you get that photo of me?

Anonymous said...

That 300K figure is outdated obesity data that has since been discredited and retracted by the CDC health statistics department. The epidemic is more marketing than facts. This might be of interest:

The idea that today's kids are little slugs has also been soundly questioned by quite a number of studies and certainly doesn't describe the kids I see in my practice:

BTC said...

Great post and discussion!

It seems a little extreme to me. Does everyone who is slightly overweight spend their days horizontal infront of the TV chain-eating junk food? I doubt it.

There is no real evidence to link being slightly overweight to health problems in fact, the metabolisms of people who are overweight have to be much more high-functionning than those

Yes, obesity is an issue but is this blanket-labelling everyone (and every child) who is overweight a good idea? - isn't there enough ignorance already? and enough bullying in schools etc?

Also, is this aimed at parents or kids? I think the advertisers, the advertising and the message is as confused as I am.

And I agree with Carrie - toys should be about play and fun. Children are already over-burdened with self-image paranoia when they should be enjoying their childhoods. If the message is for the parents then its missing the mark imho.

Thanks again for a great post!


emmy said...

I think that we underestimate the idea that fat kids know that they are fat. We can be their cheerleaders all we want and hand them role model toys, but they are still going to not like being fat or being teased. We can stop enabling them and only have healthy foods and snacks in the house and take them out to have fun climbing on rocks, and that might work. But giving a kid a doll that looks like their worst nightmare isn't going to make them feel better about themselves.

Id it is said...

I'd be curious to know the ultimate outcome of this campaign! I hope it's not another of those swings of the pendulum and lo and behold it swings right back in the opposite direction, and just as strong.

Anonymous said...

i think that people think that obesity is big issuse but what about all the people with eatiing disorder why not have a doll with bulima or something like that ,personaly i think they are both as bad as each other, the obese dolls are a great idea ,this should teach the kids and parents that it is there own fault that they are obese no one put food in their mouths for them, i am overweight 16 year old and size 14/16 but its my fault i put the food in my month and enjoy it and my boyfriend is also a chubby . chaser so it helps my views probaly make no sense lol but thats what my veiws are .