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An Obesity Double-Standard: Kid Movies

obesitySugar-sweetened beverages, big portion sizes, unhealthy snacks, mixed with television, computers, and video games are a recipe for obesity among children.[1] Yet, this world is not kind to those who are overweight.1

Today’s children’s movies are also surprisingly unkind. In Kung Fu Panda, the overweight black-and-white bear is told he will never become a martial arts master due to his “fat butt,” “flabby arms,” and “ridiculous belly.”1 In Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Theodore is called a “fatty ratty.”1 Shrek the Third’s Donkey is called a “bloated roadside piñata” and told he “should really think about going on a diet.”1 This is what is portrayed to children: discordant presentation about food, exercise, and weight status.1 It glamorizes unhealthy eating and sedentary behavior, yet condemns the outcome.1

Eliana M. Perrin, M.D., M.P.H. and colleagues conducted a study, analyzing the top-grossing G- and PG-rated movies from 2006 to 2010.1 They included four movies per year for a total of 20 movies.1 Segments from each movie were assessed for the prevalence of nutrition and physical behaviors that corresponded to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ obesity prevention recommendations for families, assessed as healthy, unhealthy, or neutral.1

Researchers found that 26 percent of the movies segments with food depicted exaggerated portion size, 51 percent depicted unhealthy snacks, and 19 percent sugar-sweetened beverages.1 Regarding physical activity and exercise, 40 percent showed characters watching television, 35 percent showed characters using a computer, and 20 percent showed characters playing video games.1 In fact, movie segments rated as “unhealthy” outnumbered those rated “healthy,” and 70 percent included weight-related stigmatizing content.1

This sends a mixed message to children: while unhealthy behaviors are promoted, obesity is stigmatized.1 This can lead to self-esteem issues, eating disorders, low confidence, and other adverse psychiatric effects.1



[1] Nauert, R. (2013). Kid Movies Present Obesity Double Standard. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/10/kid-movies-present-obesity-double-standard/63102.html

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