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Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy Go Anorexic (Seriously)

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

With a little help from Barneys, New York, Disney has morphed a few iconic children’s characters into waif-ish, albeit stylish, runway models. In an upcoming campaign called Electric Holiday, Disney decided to sell out on our kids and whittle Minnie from a robust, kid-friendly mouse into a high fashion, stick thin something or other. Walt would roll over in his grave.

Fashion designers, who spend millions each year marketing clothes to our painfully impressionable and fickle youth, knew exactly what they needed to do in order to get to the next level of consumers—little kids.  So they pulled our kids’ beloved cartoon characters into the bizarre fold. How low can you go? Really. Daisy and Minnie? Shouldn’t they have immunity or at least be put off limits by the geniuses who created them?

Eating disorders are no laughing matter, and they are life threatening. The scope of those young women (and men) who have them can’t be adequately tallied because they come in so many varieties beyond the classic anorexia nervosa.

But Disney seems to have no problem advertising straight-up anorexia because one glance at Minnie and you know that’s what she has. Few with bulimia or mixed eating disorders can look this thin. This is true-blue unabashed starvation in its purest form. And we know that anorexia nervosa is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to eating disorders, which are so rampant on college campuses.

Several years ago I spoke with a young woman who returned for vacation from her Ivy League college. She confided in me that “every girl” on her dormitory floor routinely vomited their food in order to stay trim. Routinely starving or vomiting takes a lot of discipline, so no wonder it is so popular on elite college campuses. Even the brightest, most disciplined kids out there succumb to the magic of good marketing. They will get thinner at any cost because that’s what women do in America.

And they aren’t the only ones soaking up the sad but powerful messages. In my experience, more mothers are. While I can’t find data, I am seeing more mothers in their thirties and forties (especially wealthy, highly educated mothers) wearing smaller jeans than their daughters. The saddest part is, they’re proud of it. Come on, Moms. Let your girls have their day. Besides, what does this teach a daughter, when her mother wants to be thinner than she is?

Clearly, Disney knows exactly what it takes to snake into the pocketbooks of American women. Go thinner and they’ll buy clothes. Period. We have come to worship bones and demonize strength. Even if we women don’t participate in the get-rid-of-flesh-at-any-cost-wars, we are just as guilty because we allow clothing designers to get away with hurting our kids. We still buy their stuff.

I’m not much of a boycott fan, but I do think that Disney needs to hear from us on this one. How about it?

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Feeling a a bit uneasy about having "the talk" with your son or daughter?
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