Sunday 26 October 2014

Liam Fay's PS

Liam Fay

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

Obesity hysteria is getting more cartoonish. The latest target for the fury of fat-busting crusaders is Homer Simpson and all the other animated TV characters who stuff their faces with unedifyingly large quantities of junk food.

A new survey by paediatric diet specialists finds that unhealthy food features in 47.5pc of the scenes in which eating is depicted on children's programmes shown by RTé and BBC. Cartoons receive particular censure, and broadcasters are asked to concentrate on animations that show healthy food in a positive light.

Chewing and viewing are undeniably related activities – hence the popularity of TV dinners – but establishing a direct link between what people watch and what they eat is a fool's errand.

After all, large swathes of the adult population enjoy haute cuisine programmes like MasterChef while munching rubbishy snacks.

By adopting a literal-minded approach to TV's depiction of food, the survey also overlooks the extent to which many contemporary cartoons contain strong elements of social satire, lampooning rather than glorifying their protagonists' behaviour.

Nutritional deficits are an undeniable problem but so too is the frequency with which healthy eating advocates seem to suffer from an irony-deficiency.

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