Monday, March 30, 2009

FREE Eating Disorder Lessons for Your Little Girl

Yes, it's true! Thank you CBS for broadcasting FREE eating disorder lessons for our little girls on Saturday mornings, in the form of the show "Horseland" during the "Kewlopolis" block of cartoons for children (because, of course, it is so "kewl" to have an eating disorder).

According to the TV Parental Guidelines, this show is rated Y7... for kids ages 7 and up. So yes, even your 7-year-old is ripe and ready for some body-hate lessons on the weekends! So turn on your TV, because we *all* want our daughters to look like this:


All nice and thin, with sticks for thighs and waists 1/5th the size of their heads. Gorgeous little things, aren't they? Anyway, the lesson doesn't end with the visual assault of anorexic-looking "cool" pre-teen girls (which we all want for role models for our young, grade-school and pre-teen daughters, the set this show is aimed at). No. You get actual lessons in anorexia from the talking horses on this show!

A couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing and came across this cute show about pretty horsies. I am not really into pretty horsies like I was when I was 9, so I was about to change the channel, when 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!) The out-of-shape horse IS struggling to get over the bars a bit. "Those bars must have gotten higher," she exclaims, panting, after trying to jump them. But her cute horsie friends just reply, "maybe you've just gotten wider. Once you lose a few pounds you shouldn't have any problems. Or you could just use the extra weight to plow through all the obstacles." (Cue horsie laughter).

What do you think so far? Good lesson? It gets better.

How To Become Anorexic, as taught by the cute horsies:

Back in the barn, the tired, "fat" horse says, "I'm really looking forward to dinner tonight." But the skinny girl has decided to cut back on her oats to help her lose the weight she gained. This makes the horse even more miserable, as she complains, "It wasn't my fault.. how come I have to be the one to suffer? Everyone's making such a big deal about a few extra pounds." At bedtime, she is so hungry that she can't sleep. Looking rather depressed, she sneaks out of the barn for a midnight snack. "Besides", she says, "everybody already thinks I'm fat. What's the use of denying myself a little nibble?"

In the morning, our "fat" horse tries to run and jump with the other horses, but she can't run as fast as they can, and she is afraid to try jumping the river. Time for a little taunting from the other girls and horses: "Maybe she could float over! She's as big as a balloon!" Insulted, the horse tries to jump the river, but doesn't make it. She falls in, and everyone laughs at her.

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!" The horse dumps her food on the ground, eating nothing. "I've got to lose this weight fast and make her proud of me again."

The next day, our anorexic horsie is licking the grass to pretend she is eating. "I've got too many pounds to lose," she tells herself. "The grass sure does look yummy. No! I'm not going to do it! I've got to think of something to take my mind off food."

The other horses notice that she is not eating, and tell her she should eat some healthy food, like grass. But she is not persuaded. "You just want me to be out of shape and fat so you can win!" she runs off. Suddenly the other horses have a bit of sense come into their heads. One of them says to the others, "She's sensitive because she feels overweight and out of shape. Encourage her instead of teasing her." Gee, ya think?

After a day of running around, our anorexic horse is looking bad. She says she is "so tired and hungry," but when the skinnygirl brings her grain for dinner in the barn, she knocks it on the floor and buries it in dirt and hay. She doesn't eat at all. "I don't want to regain the weight I lost with all that running." She looks into a bucket of water, and sees her reflection, distorted, looking fat and ugly. For days, she runs and runs, dumps her food each night and hides it. The other horses are worried about her, and try to convince her to stop, but she thinks they are just jealous that she is "getting back in shape." She calls herself an "out of shape butterball." (Yes, with this show you even get FREE new vocabulary for your child to use on herself or any friend who gains weight).

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.

They get ready for the racing tryout for the State Finals. "I want you to look beautiful when we cross the finish line," her owner says, brushing her mane. But her hair is falling out. Later, the horse stumbles, but says, "I'm not some roly-poly pushover anymore. I'm a mean lean racing machine!" (Yes, because we all know that people who do not race are roly-poly. They are butterballs. They are pushovers. Remember that, little girls!) But oddly enough, our pretty horsie has no energy. She is breathing hard and she can't finish the race. She collapses in a heap. "I'm really tired and hungry. I haven't eaten very much lately. I just wanted to lose weight. I didn't want you to make fun of me for being fat anymore." (Is this supposed to be a lesson in compassion, hidden within the intense focus on thinness and name calling?) "We didn't mean it," say the other horses, "we were JUST teasing."

Later, the girls find apples and carrots buried in the hay and realize the horse was not eating. They take the blame, because of course, the horse got "fat" from the girl not exercising her enough.

Now we are at the end of the show. Just one more lesson for your little girl.

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.)

Yep. It's a real show, and yes, I sat here watching it and taking notes so I could accurately quote what is being taught to children all over America. What do you think?

On a final note, (as I thought this would be the end of the post), I did think that this surely must be an isolated Eating Disorder Lesson, even though the show is all about ultra thin popular girls and their horses... all about looks and "beauty." But just last weekend, I surfed into this show one more time. After five minutes, I was done.

Fat piggy says: "Breakfast is my favorite time of day, next to lunch and dinner and midnight snack!" He is eating with gusto, his face covered in slop. A skinny girl comes by and mentions that she is going to start giving the pig a new food, with less fat, and filled with nutrients. The pig, hearing this, is distraught. "Why!! WHY oh WHY!" he sobs. "Nothing can be as good as THIS!", he exclaims, as he continues to lick the empty trough. (Because we all know that pigs are the ones obsessed with food and eating.)

I turned it off.

Thanks, CBS, for helping us bring up a whole new generation of anorexics and bulimics, and giving the other kids ammo to fuel their pain.

51 comments:

Sherre said...

I got sick just reading your account of this show. Thank you for alerting us (even those of us with no kids and no cartoons in the house). I'm going to let CBS know how disturbed I am (and then I will hope they don't figure out that I'm not their targeted demographic).

Karen in Tennessee said...

OMG...if they were trying to provide a positive message about body acceptance they totally missed the mark. They needed the help of some professionals when making that cartoon!!!!

Rebekah said...

wow that is insane.

bbubblyb said...

Wow is all I can say, how terrible. I would hope my daughter never comes across this show it sounds dreadful. I have a feeling this show may be short lived and maybe thanks to you.

Jules said...

OMG! This makes me so angry! This is just confirmation why I only limit the cartoons we watch to noggin & disney playhouse. This makes me sick. I agree... i think I'll be writing I nice little letter to CBS also. Thank you for the "eye opening" blog that reminds up to be ever diligent in advocating our childrens futures and the bombardment they get from the media to be what they shouldn't be.

Twix said...

Ewe...glad I don't let my trio watch Sat. comics! Sad disturbing show!

Emily said...

This sounds like it came from a good idea - teach kids to eat healthily - but that it was REALLY poorly implemented! Why include the whole first part about teasing? Why include the part about not eating? Wouldn't the message have been just as affective if it had focused on the horse gaining a bit of weight because of lack of exercise and too many treats from her owner and her OWNER - ie. the one responsible for this - learning to take proper care of her animal? That way you not only get the healthy eating/exercise message but also the importance of caring for animals instead of all the teasing/blaming/eating disorder messages.

Lia said...

I am intrigued! How can the producers not think about these kinds of things? I mean really, in this day and age. ESPECIALLY with childrens shows, which any informed television producer knows are some of the most influential and impactful things on children these days. I checked out the show after I read this....not okay with it either.

It's good that you wrote about it to remind people to be aware of what TV is showing, especially for parents to be aware.

elife said...

That's appalling.

Do you remember which manufacturers* advertised during the commercials? Because money talks and that's who CBS listens to. If the manufacturers get complaints, they'll tell their media agencies that they do not want to air during this show. If ad spending gets pulled, CBS will pull the show or insist its content be changed.

moonduster said...

Wow. Just wow.

Deb said...

That is shocking and utterly horrifying.

skinnyhollie said...

The whole time I'm reading this, I'm thinking, "This can't be a real show." You've got to be kidding me!

Ria said...

That show sounds absolutely awful - the distorted sizes of the characters and the content content are horrible.

I love elife's idea of complaining to the advertisers.

ryry the adventurous said...

I have only four words for this:

Oh my f***ing god.

Letter to my congressman in 3....2....1...

You know, my mom didn't want me to have My Little Ponies when I was little, because she thought the emphasis on physical beauty would be a bad influence for a little girl.

I would buy my kid 100 My Little Ponies before letting her watch this piece of crap. The writers of this show need to be shot.

Anna said...

There is a whole interactive website for Horseland for girls. According to the site the show is in its 3rd season. The script you relayed is truly unbelievable. Thanks for the heads up.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

As if the way that mainstream cartoon animate girls isn't bad enough for self-image.

If people really looked like the girls on most cartoons their head would fall off from the weight of their eyeballs.

Tina said...

Seriously? I work in kids marketing and that is totally unacceptable. I think you should write a letter. We get some every once in a while and it is taken VERY seriously by our clients.

~TMcGee~ said...

I decided to watch some Horseland videos on YouTube and while it's not a show I'd probably encourage my daughter to watch, I honestly don't think they meant to be vindictive.
My guess is that they have some writers who have not struggled greatly with obesity, so they took what they thought would be a great story (and it would have been) and then did a crappy job of writing it.

You know, in a way the girls on the Horseland show kind of resemble those dreaded Bratz dolls. LOL I think the Horseland girls are a bit more modest though, thankfully.

new*me said...

Thanks for bringing it to our attention Lyn! We are still on Noggin most days so I hadn't heard about this show. Nothing surprises me anymore.

L1z4 said...

OMG, that is atrocious and infuriating. I don't have kids, but I feel angry at the ED messages they're promoting to millions of girls. Good one for pointing this out! Some activism would be appropriate to get this show off the air. And it's a good message for those with children to sit down and watch what your kids are watching and how it affects them!

Anonymous said...

The writers of the show seem to be trying to teach girls AND boys (don't forget some boys watch these shows and suffer from anorexia, too) to not adopt anorexic habits b/c it isn't healthy. The show also seems to be telling young teens to not make fun of others, even if they are a little bigger. I think it is a good idea to teach this to young teens, since more and more of them are suffering from anorexia. I don't see the problem. I think you interpreting the show incorrectly or are looking it from one perspective. I used to suffer from anorexia, so I understand all too well why they would do such a show, a much-needed one at that, like this. If only they could have more cartoons that address sensitive, social issues.

Hope said...

OMG! That's horrible, and sad.

Memoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pubsgal said...

Hmmm...that show sounds pretty screwed up. I can see why it bothered you, Lyn. Though I suspect TMcGee has the right take on it: people without awareness or experience in this issue run amok. Oy, they had to choose the pig as the size acceptance role model? Could they not have chosen a powerful draft horse, like the lovely and noble Percheron? Preferably running over the obnoxious cat while winning a horse-pull?

The online community sounds like something I would have enjoyed as a kid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseland), and I probably would have wanted to watch the TV show, too, even though it sounds appalling to me now. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseland_(TV_Series) At least it sounds like they tried to be sensible in the "Riding in Style" episode. ("An equestrian fashion designer comes to Horseland, and the gang is thrilled to model for the subsequent photo shoot. However, the clothes are impractical and too dangerous to ride in. The kids must speak up before someone gets hurt.")

You might be interested to know that this show is being promoted by 4-H clubs, in exchange for a year's worth of commercial spots during Kewlopolis (http://www.fourhcouncil.edu/horseland.aspx).

antgirl said...

Wow! That's awful!

It seems to be all one extreme or the other - never teaching to eat properly or preaching to not eat at all. Not that the starlets with the enormous heads help.

Anonymous said...

Wha??? I kept thinking that you were going to tell us all you made it up! Oh my goodness! Maybe CBS needs a phone call or a nasty letter!

tahnyay said...

alright i agree, the girls are way too pretty, perfect, skinny bitches (and where on EARTH would you find horses that looked like that?) but don't you think it's good to teach our children about eating disorders at a young age? that's when their learning is most effective, and seeing this could actually help girls avoid being anorexic. So although this show is hypocritical by teaching girls about eating disorders , at least there doing something about this disease.

Scale Junkie said...

WOW! I don't have kids but I have nieces and there is no way I'd want them watching that kind of crap!

Karyn said...

Oh my word!

Heather said...

oh my goodness! that contains just about every stereotypical thing imaginable! no wonder kids grow up to have issues....

♥ Dee ♥ said...

Have you written to the show producers? This is outrageous!

I've linked to this post from my blog, and I've emailed the link to everyone I know.

Meg said...

I can hardly believe it. What can we do? We have to say something to CBS. Its pure evil. Who wrote that crap? I'm devastated.

IRJessica said...

That is horrifying. My baby girl is almost three. I hate the way shows "teach" "lessons". The show spends 27 minutes modeling horrific behaviors, and at the end there is some "lesson" learned. Then my baby marches around the house arguing with her dollies like she saw the naughty TV character do, or being a poor winner or loser, or ... you name it. She usually works through it in an hour or two... but still- I never want her working through the weight thing.

Bethany said...

Oh my word. Wow. That is just scary sick. I'm sure glad I don't have a t.v. That would be enough to make me wanna smash it...
Bethany

justjuliebean said...

That's just awful. I'd almost think you were joking, but I don't think you are. I guess the moral of the story isn't too awful, but the execution is seriously lacking!

Krista "Phoenix" said...

OH... MY... GAWD.

That's ATROCIOUS! I am appalled. I hope you don't mind if I link you from my blog... I want to share this! Thank you for posting it!

VeeGettingHealthy said...

Unbe-freaking-lievable! I don't usually surf Tv on Saturday mornings, but maybe I should. Tween likes the dinosaur shows and Spiderman, but ... well, he probably wouldn't be caught dead looking at that horse show. Good thing. He's stick thin at 12, very deep voice already, and chest is starting to fill out. He doesn't need any issues about weight -- he has his neurotic mom! I admit it. I'm one of those who make excuses.. like my blog posting this morning that describes my binge after my hubby left yesterday. I got a little ticked at your post but read the whole thing. I realize you're right. Consistency is the key. Life change. Being able to work through problems without resorting to food. Thanks for the posting. Vee at www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

Lyn said...

justjuliebean~

no joke! The episode is called "Added Weight" and it is from Season 3. It was originally aired in November 2008. I can't find a video of it online or I'd link!

Anyone interested can send a comment to CBS from their website.

Nina said...

The pathetic and sad thing, as others have kind of said, is that PROBABLY they think that this is a well-stated and appropriate social message, and that they are being socially responsible.

*sigh*

Cold Spaghetti said...

Where's the addresses for CBS and it's affiliates where we can write and complain??

FreshInIngUp said...

i saw this episode too and was completely disgusted. it was randomly on and i could not believe it!!! this needs to stop.

Mary - A Merry Life said...

WOW. That is freaking terrible. I can't believe that is what was in the show... and the sad part is the writers probably thought it was teaching a great moral lesson about body acceptance. Sad.

badgermama said...

Here is a link to the contact information on the Horseland site:

http://www.horseland.com/corporate.asp

Horseland LLC
PO Box 5549
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
U.S.A.


And here is the CBS site's feedback form:

http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.php

There is no option for feedback on Horseland or Kewlopolis that I could see. But you can choose "Other - Not listed" and your complaint or comment will go through.

The Kewlopolis.com site has a contact form but that form is broken:
http://www.kewlopolis.com/pages/contact

Anonymous said...

Don't complain here, WRITE the sponsor and network. And tell them SPECIFICALLY what you don't like and how you will vote with your $$$$ by not buying their products. THAT is what will make a difference. Use the power of your voice where it will make a difference!

Wei Sic Meow said...

This is just terrifying. Please please please tell me it's some sort of April fools joke.

I work for a broadcasting company who put out kids' channels and I hope I never see anything like this in our programming. I think it is appalling that something like this could be approved.

Lyn said...

No joke, Wei. Sadly, I saw it with my own eyes. You can verify the episode name, "Added Weight," and air date if you look up Horseland on Wikipedia. It aired during season 3.

Anonymous said...

A good idea is to go buy DVD's of cartoons from the 80's and early 90's ( the years before the child obesity hype) for your daughters. Even though I don't have children yet I'm already stockpiling as many She-Ra, Wonder Woman, and other 80's cartoon DVDs as I can so when I have a daughter of my own she will have something worthwhile to watch.

At least She-ra and her friends didn't gripe about the size of their thighs as they were more concerned about protecting Etheria from the bad guys.

Amigobear said...

(please at least read the final note first. Since I'm defending kids cartoons in general since it somewhat applies to what your saying)

Your are forgetting the fact that your a adult watching a kids show. It's just a show that's all that it is, when I was a kid I saw the cartoons the I had when I was a (90's)kid I only got the jokes that only a kid could understand. Looking back now, I see the homosexual undertones in ren and stimpy, the adult humor in all of the Spielberg cartoons, but I still love these shows and if I had kids I would let them watch it.

Just because you see the "messages" in the cartoons, doesn't mean your children will be doing the things it imply them to do. when I was a kid I never got the impression when watching he-man, voltron,or thundercats of being a giant musclebound hulk and beating up people to solve my problems is the only way to go. it was just entertainment for me, nothing more.

it's stuff like this(overreacting to stuff thats not there)is what killed Saturday morning cartoons, and after-school cartoons and the action cartoons to used to exist in these places.

finalnote: aren't all horse jokey, male or female really skinny and short. And aren't all of their horse suppose to be skinny as well. That goes for any sports, you have to be physically fit if you want to win.

Anonymous said...

My opinion was that this show was watched by a biased person, as she continued to watch it after she heard "Cats are naturally slim". I feel that maybe the opinion was formed from that line on. There was the lesson that teasing has consequences and that you should be happy with your body. Of course a Pig is going to reference itself as "piggy" that doesn't mean that the creators want the children watching this to think of themselves as such.

I'm not a twig, but I've become comfortable with my body after dealing with years of teasing from my family and friends.

I just feel that it's an innocent children's show. Heck, I look back on shows that I loved as a child and think "How could my parents let me watch this." It's because I'm looking at it with an adult mind, whereas children don't.

Anonymous said...

For the person who made the comment about horse jockeys all being skinny and short - that is generally true for jockeys, which is specific to horse racing. There are many disciplines in equestrian sports, such as dressage, eventing, reining, jumping, etc etc. You do seem to see some preferences for different body types in different disciplines for the rider. There is definitely a preference for lean individuals throughout the sport, and riding has been getting fairly bad for body image issues (not to the point of ballet, but still not so great). Riding is a sport, and it's good to be at a healthy weight for various reasons, however, there has been a lot of debate recently regarding plus-sized riders as well as overly skinny ones.

Anonymous said...

my best friend has bulimia/aneroxia, which she is partially recovering from, if she watched this show, it would encourage her and she wouldnt eat for a week...