Mickey's Major Misfire On "Habit Heroes" !
The folks at Disney are about as well tuned to their customers wants and needs as any company you'll find. But it looks like they've really dropped the ball on a new attraction called "Habit Heroes". It was supposed to encourage kids to have good eating habits, but wound up offending so many people, Disney shut it down Saturday, just three weeks after "Habit Heroes" had opened !
I talked about this rare Disney misfire on today's BHL,and here's some more background for you:
The exhibit has come under fire from two fronts. One point was that the attraction itself was substandard and that it did not provide any real entertainment. The other, which exploded this week, was that the tactics used in the attraction were counter-productive and in fact would harm those that it purported to help.
A story by Misty Harris of PostMedia News appeared in major newspapers throughout Canada and their websites, quoting several experts on childhood obesity, who unanimously condemned the exhibit. There was no indication of whether there were health professionals who disagreed with those quoted.
One of those cited was Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and family medicine chair of the Canadian Obesity Network. "It's so dumbfounding it's unreal," Dr. Freedhoff was quoted as saying. "I just can't believe somebody out there thought it was a good idea to pick up where the school bullies left off and shame kids on their vacation.… There's no doubt in my mind that overweight and obese kids going through this exhibit are leaving feeling horrible about themselves."
Writer/dancer/activist Ragen Chastain wrote on her "Dances with Fat" blog: "…I’m crying because I know how excited kids get about Disney. Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth and now fat kids – who are subjected to a barrage of shaming, humiliating, stigmatizing, and bullying messages from society on a daily basis – will go on vacation and find out that people who look like them are villains who other kids fight for points and bragging rights. Why doesn’t Disney just hold fat kids down and let park guests kick them?"
A major point in this is that kids who are fat suffer from plenty of self-esteem issues already. In fact, many become fat by assuaging existing self-esteem issues by eating. Will telling them that their snacking is evil make them feel better and more likely to eat healthily, or will it just lead them to diving further into the low-nutrition comfort food?
There's no word yet on if or when Habit Heroes will reopen.
An editorial comment here: As a "Pooh-sized" person myself, I really was uncomfortable with this exhibit based upon many of the photos and videos that were posted. "Working together, you have the power to defeat him," hero Callie Stenics says about "Lead Bottom." "Because he can't resist the power of positive peer pressure," continues hero Will Power. Is positive peer pressure the solution to all physiological problems? I don't think so.
"Habit Heroes" is a classic example of how many people think that quick-fix solutions are the only way to address problems, and that nothing is too difficult or complex to be resolved this way—and that not changing to meet societal norms makes you a "villain." I'll tell you right now that making me feel bad is not going to make me want to do what you want me to. I much preferred the approach of the late, lamented Wonders of Life pavilion, which instead took the approach of making the taking of the first steps more fun and enjoyable. The "Habit Heroes" approach of pitting the "healthy" skinny kids against the "evil" fat kids will only make things worse.
It can only be hoped that the problems with Habit Heroes and the content of the exhibit will be rectified if Disney does reopen the exhibit. Perhaps a better solution would be to instead reopen the Wonders of Life as it existed before its closure. Who wouldn't like to ride a "Wonder Cycle" through Disneyland again, or take a few swings in the batting cage? Watching Buzzy manipulate an adolescent through a stressful day and riding Body Wars' miniaturized vehicle through a human body provided a much better approach to understanding health and perhaps inspiring better choices than the bludgeoning provided by Habit Heroes. Let's see what Disney comes up with. They've got the talent and the ability to do this right. Let's hope that they do.