Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Incredibly Innocuous Or Incredibly Inappropriate?

While parenting a girl in this country, it is hard not to obsess about the messages being sent to her about body image and weight. I'm sure you've heard all of the feminist rants about Barbie and her impossible-to-attain measurements (one estimate gauged the vital statistics as 36-18-33).

The most recent barrage of media body propaganda has come from my beloved Incredibles. Maggie came home last week after a trip to McDonald's* with Gramma hauling the remains of the kid-luring (and arguably falsely advertised) Happy Meal. This month's 'treasure' features plastic Incredible's characters and game cards. On the cards, you can read about each character including their specific super-powers as well as their height and weight.

The two women in the movie are outrageously thin.

My newest cartoon crush, 'Elastigirl' is purportedly 5'8" weighing in at 135. Furthermore, it is a wonder that her daughter, Violet, can even stand up, let alone perform any superpowers as she is a whopping 5'4" and 85 pounds.

While Elastigirl is thin, she is within normal range according to one Body Mass Index Website, as well as by WeightWatcher's standards (which roughly correspond to the BMI tables).

However, according to the same standards, Violet is hideously under-weight. Her BMI is 14.6 with categories as follows:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
Overweight = 25-29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

If Violet doesn't start eating at McDonald's soon, she'll never menstruate and we can probably kiss a sequel good-bye (let alone hearing the pitter-patter of little Violets on the Big Screen).

You're probably saying: "It's just a doll/cartoon for Pete's sake! Lighten up!"

And thinking to yourself: GEEESCH! Feminists DON'T have a sense of humor!

But all these images do translate into a social problem. One piece of evidence is that it is estimated that 25% of college women experience anorexia.

For now Maggie seems to be able to absorb our strange culture relatively unscathed. While she has a few inherited Barbies, she regularly asks for seconds on ice cream. I just hope we can counteract all if this media tripe and encourage her to love her body in whatever form it grows up to be.

*Note that even prior to the release of Supersize Me McDonald's has been a battle with the four-year-old. Like most kids, she learned to recognize the brand name at an early age and associated that with toys and a supposedly kid-friendly atmosphere. As it stands, she only gets to go there on special occasions with Grandma and Grandpa. As a reflection of our on-going battle, she came home after one visit to the fast-food paragon to say that after eating there Grandpa was, in fact, not "big as a house." Lesson learned in watching what you say around the little parrot. Apparently she heard me say that I'd be as big as a house were I to eat there.

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