Friday, April 27, 2007
My thoughts on Shrek
I had hoped some readers would offer their opinions on whether Shrek is a bad influence in the anti-obesity movement before weighing in with my own, but it seems I will have to be the first.
I find it interesting that anti-obesity groups would rather spend time and energy nitpicking the government's choices instead of creating programs that promote their purported goals. Then again, maybe nitpicking the government is the only way they know to promote their own agenda.
The question at hand is whether the government erred in choosing Shrek as its "spokesman" to encourage children to be more active when the character is also involved in the endorsement of McDonalds Happy Meals and sugary breakfast cereals.
According to an Associated Press article released Thursday, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says the upcoming Shrek sequel has too many promotional ties with unhealthy foods.
"There is an inherent conflict of interest between marketing junk food and promoting public health," Susan Linn, the group's director, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.
"Surely Health and Human Services can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character who is a walking advertisement for McDonald's, sugary cereals, cookies and candy," Linn, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, was quoted as saying in the article.
I have to give Linn credit for her idealism. In a perfect world, there would be numerous healthy role models for children. But our world isn't perfect. And let's be realistic here: Kids listen to cartoon characters, whether adults like that fact or not. I remember first trying canned spinach as a kid to mimic Popeye, and my niece and nephew begging for cucumbers and tomatoes because of VeggieTales.
Based on that experience, I'd say the government is smart to use a cartoon character in its anti-obesity campaign. So what if Shrek also endorses Happy Meals and candy? If kids can remember that McDonald's has Shrek Happy Meals, then I'm sure they can also remember Shrek's recommendation that they exercise at least an hour a day.