Horseland: Saturday Morning Television Teaches Anorexia Skills to 7-Year-Olds

Laurie and Debbie say:

This could be the single most offensive story we’ve seen in twenty-five years of body image activism.

CBS runs a Saturday morning TV show called Horseland, part of its “Kewlopolis” series. The show is rated “Y7,” suitable for kids ages 7 and up. It’s a daughter show of a successful and popular online game site of the same name.

The show features a group of young girls and their horses. The girls look like this:

pencil-thin cartoon girls with huge heads

Longtime readers of Body Impolitic may remember this post, in which we talked about media glamorization of anorexia, and photoshopped images of movie stars, including this one which pretends to be Christina Aguilera:

Christina Aguilera slimmed down to absurdity

See any similarities?

But that’s not enough for CBS, Kewlopolis, or Horseland. Instead, in late 2008 they ran a show called “Added Weight.” Lyn, at Escape from Obesity (a weight-loss blog) came across this by accident while channel-surfing). Here are some excerpts from her scathing report (but read the whole thing if you can stomach it).

I heard this come out of the mouth of a perky little cat on the show, who was swishing her tail and holding her head high in pride: “Cats are naturally slim!” I paused to listen, as the animals on the show looked over one of the horses, and the judgement started.

“Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds,” they say to the horse. “We’ll have you back in shape in no time.” And one of the animals replies, “She already has a shape: round!” They all laugh.

The embarrassed horse, by the way, looks no fatter than any of the other horses. But the taunting continues. As she is training to jump the hurdles, the skinny girls get in some weight-related jabs: “I hope her belly doesn’t hit the bar when she goes over!” Then the girls all laugh at the horse. (Yes, your child gets NOT ONLY a lesson in eating disorders, but ALSO a lesson in how to taunt and make fun of someone who is fat!)

Later, when the other horses are eating, the skinny girl/owner says to her “fat” horse, “I don’t know whats wrong with you! You can’t do anything right lately. You’re making me look bad!” She walks away. Dismayed, the horse says to herself, “It’s all my fault because of all this extra weight. I’ve got to stop eating so much. No, I’ve got to stop eating, period!”

Finally, all her hard work pays off! She is thin again! The praise begins, as her skinnygirl owner saddles her up for a race and notices that the saddle fits her again. “Pepper! You’re your normal self again!” she says. She gives her a treat for being thin… a carrot… but the horse refuses to eat it. But that’s okay. She gets lots of praise for being thin again.

A fat pig is wallowing in the mud, and the Naturally Slim Cat tells the pig that she should exercise a little more. The pig says, “there’s a right size and shape for everyone!” (Finally! A bit of body acceptance, perhaps?) The pig continues, “Imagine if I were as slim as you!” The Cat asks, “And what would be wrong with that?” Pig replies, “I wouldn’t look like my beautiful, round, piggy self anymore!”

(Yes, of course! Because if a chubby girl is watching this show, now she feels all sorts of love for her beautiful, ROUND, PIGGY SELF.)

This isn’t just wrong, it isn’t just shocking, and it isn’t just shameful. It demonstrates all too clearly that the people who write, produce, advertise on, distribute, and watch Saturday morning television have gotten to the point where they cannot recognize destructive, unhealthy, potentially life-threatening messages. Thin has become such a holy grail that we’re confident they’re proud of their messages, and their visuals. If you started a conversation with them about encouraging anorexia, they’d say, “Oh, no! We just want girls to be thin and healthy.” If you brought up taunting and shame, they’d point to the “self-esteem” messages that follow the taunting and say that was their message.

Why not? They almost certainly do it themselves: in lunchrooms on the production site, in their own kitchens with their daughters, with the people that they date. It’s how the world looks to lots of people, who can’t distinguish “Starve yourself” from “Eat your vegetables.”

They don’t even have to put Barbie on a diet: they just have to replace her image with images of pure starvation and describe them as attractive.

Thanks (as so often) to Liz Henry for the link. We can’t find much about this in the blogosphere, so let people know.