Disney's Habit Heroes has closed
Well, that didn't take long.
Walt Disney World has pulled down the Habit Heroes website for maintenance and it seems the Epcot exhibit is also closed. In addition to complaints from fat activists, Eating Disorder groups and a number of bariatric doctors also complained loudly about how the exhibit shamed fat children. Right now, the best anyone knows is that the site is closed for retooling.
This is what concerns me. Sadly, I imagine those bariatric doctors carried the most metaphorical weight with Disney. While many bariatric doctors and organizations, like Yale's Rudd Center, share fat acceptance's opposition to socialized fat shaming, their motives for doing so are, in fact, still inherently fat shaming. There is a rather considerable difference between opposing fat shaming because it is disrespectful and hostile towards fat bodies, and opposing fat shaming because you feel it its not productive at inducing weight loss. I mean, its not, but neither are the alternatives these people propose and they all are still fat shaming in their way. Anything that defines a fat child as something to fix is going encourage that child to feel ashamed. We don't give kids enough credit to realize they can pick up on even "good intentioned" fat shaming.
What I want to see from Disney and the Habit Heroes exhibit is probably very different than what a doctor who specializes in telling patients to stop being fat would want to see. I hope that Disney incorporates perspectives from fat acceptance and from medical professionals who believe in Health at Every Size. I suspect, though, that the exhibit as designed simply is too far from being retooled to meet our needs. Maybe they can tweak the site and the game to stop rewarding players for bullying children (which is seriously how the video game plays), but the essential message that fat people are bad hardwired. Especially in the actual EPCOT exhibit which features elaborate artwork and virtual reality videos depicting fat bodies as lazy and villainous.
Frankly, I think the best we can expect from Disney is for "Habit Heroes" to just go away. Fat stigmatization is built into the exhibits DNA and I won't be encouraged to see what might result from them placating critics who disagree with fat shaming, but still think fat bodies are unacceptable. I'd encourage Disney to start from scratch and find ways to model better behavior without creating moral imperatives to meet them or by presenting fat bodies as the problem to be solved.