THE BLOG
09/08/2014 04:13 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2014

Bad For Kids: New Scooby-Doo Movie Makes Ugly Stereotypes About Beauty

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about assumptions and how some things that seem like a good idea at the time (like rock climbing without ropes) are not. Someone at Warner Brothers had what seemed like a good idea for the upcoming cartoon movie, Scooby Doo-Frankencreepy -- The Curse. This so-called good idea has come under fire, including in Alanna Vagiano's Huffington Post piece a couple of weeks ago. Her story, entitled "Daphne 'Cursed' from Size 2 to Size 8 in New 'Scooby Doo' Movie" includes a clip of Daphne, in what looks like a room in a scary, old house (classic Scooby Doo backdrop). Complete with threatening music, Daphne stares in horror at her reflection in one broken mirror after another, terrified by her reflection. Only, this Daphne looks different from the usual Daphne. This Daphne is decidedly plump, from her figure to her hair.

If you haven't seen the clip yet, I encourage you to watch it. I think you'll have the same reaction I did, as Alanna Vagianos did. This Daphne isn't a size 8; she's blown up like a balloon. When she falls to her knees, sobbing, as the sinister voice tells her, "I warned you . . .," the angle of the scene is from below and behind Daphne, with her now-ample bottom in prominent oval display. The villain tells Daphne that, because of being cursed, each of the friends will now lose the things they hold most dear. Daphne tremulously responds, "Is this why I've lost my looks?" Really? Who thought this was a good idea? The script had to pass somebody's muster, probably several people. As a therapist who works with eating disorders and body image, it's hard for me to count my objections and I'm far from alone.

In the world of spin, Warner Brothers came out with the following statement in response to Vagianos's piece: "Although you are correct that Daphne becomes bigger in the course of the story, the message is actually a much more positive one. The plot of the movie involves the Scooby gang becoming cursed and losing what means the most to each of them. Fred loses the Mystery Machine, Shaggy and Scooby lose their appetites, etc. Daphne loses her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair)."

So, what are the assumptions here? I can think of several: 1) good looks are determined by figure and hair; 2) a size 2 body equates to good looks, but a size 8 body does not; 3) straight hair constitutes good looks but poofy hair does not; 4) becoming larger is equivalent to being cursed.

Warner Brothers went on to explain that Fred doesn't notice the change and says Daphne always looks great to him. Warner Brothers assumed Fred's scripted reaction would be more relevant to the audience than their own reaction. Wrong. Young, impressionable kids watching this movie are going to get the message, and, in many cases, it won't be Fred's.

I'm not sure which was more disturbing to me -- the clip itself or Warner Brothers' explanation. Both contain potentially damaging assumptions, especially to younger minds that lack a broader context for such visual messages. I understand what Warner Brothers was trying to do but am appalled at the way they went about it; and surprised that no one up the line questioned those underlying assumptions, especially in this day and age with the sensitivity to body issues.

Warner Brothers isn't the only entity that bobbled badly of late. Malaysian Airlines has had to rename a contest in Australia and New Zealand, trying to recapture lost market share after the twin Malaysian airline disasters. The contest was called, incomprehensibly, "My Ultimate Bucket List," with prizes including electronics and a free flight on the ill-fated airlines. Really? Who thought that was a good idea?

Hindsight is, as they say, 20-20. And not every idea that makes it is a good one.