My parents stopped patronizing our local cinema when I was a child because they were livid when the theater owner demanded to see a copy of my birth certificate as proof that I could pay the child admission price. The boycott lasted six years. Although it satisfied my mother’s desire to “not give that theater” her money, the theater’s business didn’t crumble. I am not sure it prevented the theater’s management from treating another young girl the same way.
It was, however, an effective display during my formative years of using consumer power as a response to outrage. It’s something I’ve practiced independently as an adult.
Yesterday, the Walt Disney Company provoked my irate consumer response when I saw images of the soon-to-be released versions of Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Goofy characters in my newsfeed. (Yet to be revealed are new versions of Mickey Mouse, Cruella de Vil, Princess Tiana and Snow White.) Disney and Barney’s New York companies teamed up on a three-dimensional short film featuring Disney characters as supermodels. It’s part of Barney’s advertising campaign for the holiday season. The launch of the film, where “runway ready” Minnie Mouse fantasizes about attending Paris Fashion Week, is slated for Nov. 14.
I’m disappointed that Barney’s marketers altered the 84-year-old character to fit to current high fashion instead of tailoring fashion to work with the icon.
And while we won’t soon be seeing skinny Minnie dolls, this is not the image we want glorified for our children, nor one I want my daughter to emulate.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 24 million people in America of all ages and genders suffer from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. It is our responsibility to keep our young people safe. As a mother, who from time to time hears her healthy teenage daughter complain about being “fat,” it’s my responsibility to actively counter market messages. As an educator of 17 years who has witnessed the social-emotional struggles and bullying of teenage boys and girls because of size bias, I need to do more than boycott this new campaign.
So I want to invoke my consumer power and advocacy and voice my disgust.
How many impressionable young people will look at these new versions of the lovable Disney characters and believe they display the ultimate body image? Too many will. Instead, what an outstanding example to young boys and girls it would be for traditional Minnie Mouse to realize her dream about Paris Fashion Week and arrive on the catwalk in the form we have known and loved since 1928. This is what we would expect from Disney.
Wicht is a teaching and learning specialist for Teaching Tolerance.