26 January 2013

Fast Food and the Caped Crusader

I recently read a study in Pediatric Obesity titled “What would Batman eat?: priming children to make healthier fast food choices.” Unfortunately, it left me with a lot of questions.

The study was small, involving only 22 children. (Interestingly, just six of those were non-Hispanic whites.) During weekly lunches at Burger King the researchers asked the kids, “Do you want apple fries or French fries with your lunch?”—“apple fries” being the chain’s term for apple slices.

At the outset only 9% of the kids chose the fruit. But when shown “12 photos of (6 admirable and 6 less admirable) real and fictional models” and asked what those folks would choose, the kids’ choice of apples went up to 45%. Not even half, but still a significant jump.

Alas, the study doesn’t list all the people in those photos. Two of the admirable figures were Batman and Spider-Man (spelled without the hyphen in the abstract). One of the “less admirable” figures was the Penguin—a villain whom Dick Grayson chuckled at in 1941 (see below) and who has only gotten more roly-poly and villainous since.

The other nine figures remain unknown. Did they include the Hulk, an embodiment of id with no regard for body issues—yet usually on the “admirable” side? What about Bouncing Boy of the Legion of Super Heroes, chubby and heroic? What about Stephen Hawking? What about a villain in excellent physical condition, like Deathstroke?
(One of the early Bruce Wayne’s brief attempts to be mature and parental. Within a few panels he was referring to the Penguin as “that fatty.” But then the man turned out to be a criminal, so it was okay to look down on him.)

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