Monday, June 30, 2008
Fat Acceptance and the Kid Movie Dilemma
Not only do I want to write about pregnancy and birth in women of size, I also want to start some dialogue about fat parenting and the dilemmas that can arise for parents of size. And one of the more delicate issues to navigate is what to do with negative media messages about obesity, especially in programs aimed at kids.
All my kids (from teenager to toddler) love animation and silly movies. So do we, their parents. So my kids are all jonesing to see the latest movies this summer, including Kung Fu Panda, Wall*E, and Get Smart. But all three have fat jokes in them. Should I let my kids see them or not? It's a difficult choice.
Both of us parents are fat, to one degree or another. Our kids are not fat, but you can see the genetics at work...there's a tendency towards "well-roundedness" there, and it may increase as they age, especially if my daughter ends up having my PCOS (a very significant weight gain in late teens/early 20s is a common symptom, one which I definitely experienced). I don't know yet if my kids will end up fat, but regardless of whether they do or not, I want them to be accepting and respectful of all people's bodies, including mine and including their own.
So over the years, I've tried to insulate them from the worst fatphobic messages out there. If there was a diet ad or a TV show with fat jokes, I changed the channel, hit the mute button, or turned it off. When the kids' teachers scheduled a play that had a fat joke in it, I took my concerns to the teacher; she was shocked that I had a problem with it (!) but she agreed to take it out. We only keep size-positive or size-neutral books around the house. We've talked about how people's bodies naturally come in a myriad of differences. So I think we've done a pretty decent job of trying to insulate or at least water down the fat hatred out there.
As my two eldest kids have gotten into their tween years, we've started talking more frankly about fat jokes and why I dislike them. My kids don't quite "get" it though. They see those jokes as mostly harmless and think I'm being "oversensitive" about it. Even my husband, who is not a small person, thinks I'm being too overprotective/uptight about it.
I don't. Hate language is hate language; biased messages are biased messages. I won't expose them to that kind of prejudice and pretend like it's okay.
But alas, real life is often more "gray" than not. That's when parenting gets tricky. Sometimes you go see movies that make you squirm a little but you try to discuss the things that you don't like with your kids. It's an opportunity for discussion and consciousness-raising. But there's also a line you draw.......at some point the "opportunity" for discussion is exceeded by the sheer offensiveness or negative messages of the piece and it's not worth seeing. So where does that line fall in fat acceptance? Frankly, I find this line difficult to navigate.
We did recently see "Get Smart" with the two older kids. I was unaware of any fat jokes in the film so I didn't even think twice about going. Overall, it was a mixed bag. I *loathe* the skinny-actor-in-a-fat-suit gag. There was the "I lost 150 lbs" bit, making it seem like anyone and everyone can do this if they just try hard enough, when the real-life stats are a LOT different. I hate that.
But then there was the dance scene with the fat chick. It actually was more respectful of the actress than I would have thought, and in some ways it was more of a "You go, girl!" kind of scene....she really danced up a storm and it was kind of her showing up the snotty skinny girls on the side, so I was kinda won over by that. But at the same time, at the end he does a lift with her and struggles to hold her up and the laughter for that was not nearly so understanding and kind, you know? So I really had mixed feelings about "Get Smart."
So now we are looking at "Kung Fu Panda" and "Wall*E" and trying to decide what to do. The reviews on the fatosphere are that Kung Fu Panda isn't so bad and actually is kinda empowering, despite a few obligatory obnoxious fat jokes. So we might consider that one.
I'm really torn on "Wall*E" because it's hard to tell from others' previews just how bad it is or not. I'm leaning towards not taking the kids, my husband thinks I'm being oversensitive, and my kids are resenting me for censorship. They tell me that fat jokes don't bother them......and that bothers me the most. Fat jokes SHOULD bother them, they should bother ANYONE watching. The fact that they don't bother most people shows just how accepted the size bias is, and how far we have to go.
So now that I've enabled comments on my blog, I'm asking others (parents or not) to contribute their thoughts on this dilemma. How do you protect your children from fat jokes and size bias in the media, and how far do you go in trying to do that? Will you/would you take your kids to see the three movies above? Why or why not? Speak up and share your thoughts.