These messages come through loud and clear without explicitly being stated. I know I have been affected by it, and the importance of beauty is embedded so deeply in me that I don’t think I will ever stop feeling inadequate in some ways for not measuring up to society’s narrow and unattainable view of beauty.
So Disney Channel, there is no need for you to send direct messages to our young, impressionable daughters that beauty is the only thing that is important. Please stop doing that.
My oldest daughter is moving away from cartoons to Disney live action tween shows. She started with Good Luck Charlie which from what I've seen is pretty cute, and I have no problems with her watching it, but lately she’s moved on to two shows which I feel a little less comfortable with for many reasons beyond body image, but I’m only going to address body image here.
Quick run-down: Jesse is a Texan girl who goes to New York to make it in the entertainment business (acting or singing not sure which) and ends up being a nanny.
I really don’t like this show for so many reason, but a big part of it is the many, many jokes about how some characters look and dress. The worst being the very ugly rival nanny named Agatha, who’s rather mean-spirited, in contrast to the main girl Jesse who’s very beautiful and supposedly very sweet. However, when Agatha and Jesse take jabs at each other, Jesse always puts down Agatha’s appearance rather than calling Agatha out on her bad behavior. The heroine, Jesse, takes the low road to cheap laughs by making fun of Agatha’s snaggle tooth, calling her the beast in Beauty and the Beast, etc. (not exactly as “sweet” thing to do). This constant focus on Agatha’s appearance (which she has no choice over) rather than her actions (which she does) is sending a direct message to our kids (especially girls). That what we do isn’t as important as how we look, and if you are pretty, you are good and if you are ugly, you are bad.
Quick run-down: Two teenage girls become dancers on a TV show called Shake It Up Chicago.
My daughter just started this one, but I haven’t seen as many problems as I’ve seen with Jesse (although that could change), but this one episode really aggravated me. The two main girls imagine their future without each other, and each of them ended up as fat in their nightmarish futures. Of course there were other issues of not having a great job or a husband (maybe, I can’t really remember), but the jokes that carried through the rest of the episode all focused on them being fat, like the worst possible future these girls could imagine was being a little overweight. What kind of message is that sending to our daughters? How does it make those girls who are a little overweight feel?
I know these are just television shows, but when what is implied on TV is reinforced in real life, our impressionable, young children will internalize it. I know, Disney Channel, you’re not the only one who is sending these messages to our daughters, but if you put a little more thought into your programming and stopped going for the cheap laugh, you could be that one bright spot on the television that does it right. Think about it.