Recently the kids entertainment behemoth Disney announced that effective 2015 they will no longer allow advertisements for junk food on their television and radio networks. At first blush this may seem laudable. Impressionable youngsters see the ads and beg their parents for Count Chocula cereal and a host of other worthless edibles. The Christian Science Monitor, however took issue with the ban because concurrent with the ban will be a new branding campaign whereby certain foods will carry an image of Mickey Mouse as an indication of healthfulness. In the words of The Monitor, Disney will essentially be getting into the branding health business. Lots of “good foods” might come along with what amounts to a commercial for Disney. So now instead of kids watching “Wizards of Waverly Place” and asking for junk food because of the commercials, they will see a pile of apples at the supermarket and ask to watch Disney because they see Mickey’s picture on the fruit.
While I understand The Monitor’s concern with what looks like a cynical advertising play, I have a deeper concern. Because I have an eight year old daughter, I’ve watched way more of the Disney Channel than any grown man should have to. With the exception of a handful of shows such as “Good Luck Charlie”, most Disney channel live action shows depict a world inhabited by wise cracking disrespectful preteens and teens who amazingly have no adults in their lives. In those few scenes where adults appear, they are depicted as either cruel or utterly stupid. What has always galled me is that the smart-ass dialog spoken by these kids wasn’t written by kids but by adult writers who think kids like to see other kids be obnoxious. Of the dozens of characters on these shows, I could probably count on one hand the ones I would want my daughter to emulate. What further unnerved me was that I always associated Disney with wholesome entertainment so it took me aback to see preteens shaking their asses to Disney’s lame version of rap music.
For Disney to make a big deal out of influencing what kids eat when they don’t give a damn about the role models they put in these kids minds strikes me as the height of hypocrisy. Disney needs to focus on the content in between the commercials.