Size zero Minnie

Daisy Duck 2.0.

Daisy Duck 2.0.

It takes a special kind of artistry to make super model Gisele Bündchen look frumpy. But those talented people at Disney are giving it a red-hot go.

Armed with the latest in digital image manipulation technology and the best animation artists in the business, the rodent-led entertainment behemoth has re-imagined some of their most famous characters, including Minnie, Daisy and Goofy, as supermodels for a Christmas ad campaign for US clothing retailer Barney's.

The results are, politely, truly awful. The emaciated limbs of this menagerie make heroin chic look plump.

The 'new look' Minnie featured in Barney's Christmas campaign.

The 'new look' Minnie featured in Barney's Christmas campaign.

Gone are the curves and the paunches that gave these characters whatever charm they had in the first place, replaced by more angles than a protractor. Minnie looks like a lab rat that has been used in experimental trials for a weight loss drug, or perhaps a house mouse that got its neck stretched in a mousetrap.

Let us pause for a moment and think what it says about our society when even a mouse is no longer allowed to be short and curvy.

It's not entirely clear who Barney’s or Disney are targeting in their campaign. I'm no marketing guru, but watching emaciated cartoon versions of rodents, waterfowl and whatever Goofy is, doesn't really scream 'fashion forward'. And if they’re going for the children’s market, hoping to get them young, then the whole thing seems both sick and dangerous.

This isn’t exactly new territory for Disney. While its figurehead characters, such as Minnie, have always been curvy, other characters have tended towards the unhealthily thin. And more often than not, in the Disney universe, thin is code for 'good'.

A 2004 study about messages of beauty and thinness in children’s media that appeared in the journal Eating Disorders, for example, looked at the physical characteristics of characters in children’s films, most of which were Disney animated features.
 
The researchers found that not only were protagonists depicted as more attractive than antagonists, but that protagonists were also thinner than antagonists. Unsurprisingly, this applied particularly to female characters. The less than subtle message of Disney’s animations is that physical beauty = thin and thin = moral goodness.
 
Other studies suggest that as children get older — especially as they reach puberty —  they start to take note of, and prefer, thin characters. In a 2008 German study, for example, researchers took popular children's characters, including one of the Bratz characters, and changed only the character's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). In one version, the WHR was that of a young girl, while the others had smaller and larger WHRs. The researchers found that 70 per cent of both boys and girls preferred the character in her normal state. Of those who preferred one of the alternatives, boys were more likely than girls to choose the character with the larger WHR, while girls were more liked to prefer the smaller WHR.
 
Disturbingly, the older the children were — and ‘older’ here means 11 and 12 year olds — the more likely they were to prefer the small WHR, which suggests that children learn to prefer thin characters.
 
Of course there will be those who claim that we’re only talking about cartoon characters, not reality, so it’s all just a bit of fun. But that’s delusional. The cult of thin is learned and it’s learned from an early age. By putting its characters on extreme diets, Disney is effectively saying they couldn’t give a Donald Duck about children.
 
Be honest: if you actually saw an anorexic mouse tarted up in Barney, you'd do one of two things — run the other way screaming or reach for the Ratsak. 
 
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child.  www.kaseyedwards.com

25 comments

  • Interesting article but I take objection to the title and the overuse of "size zero" by the media. It's not actually as small as most people think, as US sizes are different to Australian sizes. A size zero is actually pretty much a size six, which can be a perfectly healthy size if you're not 5'10" or similar. I have many clothes from the US which are size zero and size two and I'm not that skinny. My WHR is 0.68 which is greater than many women who wear much bigger sizes. I believe the average at present is about 0.83.

    Commenter
    Cimbom
    Location
    Real World
    Date and time
    September 05, 2012, 9:11AM
    • Actually it's more like a Size 2; although in the US, as in Australia, sizes are not particularly standardised, you generally subtract one size from the Aus to work out your US size.

      Commenter
      Clem Bastow
      Date and time
      September 05, 2012, 11:52AM
    • actually to get the US size from AU size you subtract 4. an AU 10 is a US 6. I was a 6 when I left the US and have been a 10 here in OZ. though it seems the practice of vanity sizing is getting worse in the US as I'm still a 10 here, but now approaching a 4 in US sizes. It's all over the shop, these days I can be anything from a 0 to 8 in US sizes.

      Commenter
      skinny fat american
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      September 05, 2012, 2:43PM
  • I'm a Disney nut. And I'll admit, this looks weird. But if you Google "disney barneys new york" and look at the other images available atm, it doesn't seem as bad as all that. Goofy is Zoolander-esque and, I think, highlights the tongue-in-cheekiness of the campaign. It will be interesting to see the full show and quite funny, I think. Had they thinned out the actual character bodies (ie, mouse with tail and duck with feathers, etc) it would be shameful. But it's clearly just the heads on fashion-sketch bodies and I'm not convinced it will do any harm. What I'm more surprised at is that Minnie is Caucasian. I'd have thought they'd take the opportunity to make her cross-cultural. Although as a character she's definitely Caucasian, in such a double-fictional creative world, she could have been a beautiful African model.

    Commenter
    Kate
    Location
    Erko
    Date and time
    September 05, 2012, 9:26AM
    • These pictures are hideous! What goes on in the minds of those who think this is a good idea?

      Commenter
      kalobr
      Date and time
      September 05, 2012, 9:36AM
      • I think they look great. Do I need to apologise for that? Does that make me a bad person?

        Commenter
        Sylkie
        Location
        Melbs
        Date and time
        September 05, 2012, 9:54AM
        • It doesn't make you a bad person, it just indicates that you're a product of the conditioning identified in the German study referenced here. As we all are, thanks to being bombarded since birth by the 'thin and pretty = good' message in movies, TV and advertising.

          Commenter
          Amy
          Date and time
          September 05, 2012, 10:37AM
        • Oh please, give me a break. I also like the original versions. Do not assume you know what I am a "product of". You know nothing about me. How incredibly self indulgent of you.

          Commenter
          Sylkie
          Location
          Melb
          Date and time
          September 05, 2012, 11:53AM
        • Well, Sylkie, you did ask the question...

          Commenter
          Donna Joy
          Date and time
          September 05, 2012, 12:56PM
        • I assumed by your question 'does that make me a bad person?' that you were asking us to make a judgement about your liking these images. No? What were you looking for then?

          Commenter
          Amy
          Date and time
          September 05, 2012, 1:04PM

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