Not long ago, Erica Palan found it troubling that “America is waging a war on Krimpets.” This is a brand of snack cake, and the Disney empire had decided no longer to carry advertising for it. But Palan believes that such an attitude will backfire and cause more trouble in the long run. The psychological effect on parents is not helpful. Palan says:
By banning junk food commercials, Disney is letting parents off the hook when it comes to educating their children about healthy eating. Shielding kids from the available options doesn’t help them understand why they shouldn’t guzzle a gallon of Pepsi — teaching by example and conversation does. In short, commercials aren’t causing childhood obesity.
The last statement is a bold one because many authorities disagree vehemently with that position, and believe that advertising is massively destructive.
As for the “letting parents off the hook” part, she is right. Parents do need to teach by example, and have conversations with their children.
Tongue in Cheek?
The subtitle of Palan’s Philadelphia essay is, “Don’t just stop with banning junk food advertising. Birthday cakes and Cookie Monster must go!” This is a hint that perhaps the writer is not entirely in earnest. Only the first part of her essay is serious. The rest is devoted to some tongue-in-cheek ideas about reducing childhood obesity.
Except … exactly how serious is this woman? Because her first suggestion is “Just say no to Halloween,” which is a totally legit idea shared by many adults in the helping professions, and by even more parents. It need not be completely abandoned, but Halloween could stand a vigorous reinvention. Palan is very funny and we won’t spoil her humor by paraphrasing it, but this part must be quoted verbatim:
Cookie Monster should be rechristened as Veggie Monster. He currently reminds children that cookies are ‘a sometimes snack.’ But no more! Parents and their offspring don’t have the self-control to understand the word ‘sometimes.’
What is this? Satirical humor, or a straight-up 100% accurate diagnosis? She appears to mean it, and it does seem self-evident that obesity is rampant in our society. Grownups don’t have self-control. Kids don’t have self-control. So, what’s the joke?
Truth Is Subjective
But then, the writer turns around and makes a clearly absurd suggestion. Or maybe not. What one person recognizes as absurd may be another person’s gospel truth. For instance, the politician Sarah Palin has expressed thoughts about child nutrition that caused many people to say, “She’s got to be kidding.” Yet her many supporters are quite convinced that she is correct.
The last time Childhood Obesity News caught up with Cookie Monster, he was a reformed character. The blue puppet had changed his public image from insatiable consumer of cookies, to reasonable fellow who tamed his appetite for cookies and broadened his diet to include other, more nutritious foods.
Cookie Monster’s video is still on YouTube.
Source: “7 Ways to End Childhood Obesity,” PhillyMag.com, 06/14/12
Image by Anthony J.