Shrek under fire for mixed messages

Oh, Shrek. You know I love you. I do. I was just singing your praises a couple of days ago. I appreciate a good flatulence joke. I like to think we understand each other. You continue to make me giggle, and I continue to go see your movies and buy them when they come out on DVD. I try to reserve judgment when it comes to seeing your mug adorning half the foodstuffs at the supermarket, you know, because I understand that you have to make a living. And not everyone can do that just by blogging about cartoons. You’re entitled to do what you need to do.

But now you may have gone too far, Shrek.

It seems that Shrek is slated to be the spokesogre for an ad campaign designed to target childhood obesity. And not everyone is happy about it:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says the soon-to-open “Shrek the Third” has too many promotional ties with unhealthy foods to justify using Shrek as a health advocate.

“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 HHS 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,” said Linn, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The article lists the multiple product tie-ins for the upcoming Shrek the Third, and highlights what seems a reasonable query:

“Why would young children follow Shrek’s advice about healthy living and ignore his entreaties to eat Happy Meals and Pop-Tarts?” Linn wrote. “If government agencies are serious about combating childhood obesity, they should stop cozying up to industry and start taking real steps to end the barrage of junk food marketing aimed at children.”

The idealist in me agrees and wishes that my children could have that sort of commercial-free childhood for which the advocates are working. I don’t particularly enjoy food decorated with or—even worse—pressed into the shapes of popular characters.

But the smart-aleck in me would like to point out that Shrek’s love of pop-tarts doesn’t make him an unsuitable voice for a fitness campaign. The fact that he’s got a gigantic beer belly makes him an unsuitable voice for a fitness campaign.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to clear that up for everyone. Carry on.

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