I'm not surprised, are you?
A study out of the journal Sex Roles took a look at preschoolers' attitudes towards obesity by means of Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. They took 55 girls aged 3-5 and had them choose which character they wanted to be. 69% chose the thinnest, 20% the average and 11% the largest. Moreover when asked to swap thinnest for largest, 63% refused.
One of the study's authors apparently was surprised by the findings and she was quoted in the Montreal Gazette stating,
"I was surprised that kids as young as 3 were so emotionally invested in their game piece that they would say to a complete stranger, 'No, I don't want to switch with you. No, I hate that one'. It was completely shocking to me"Really?
You were surprised that 3-5 year olds didn't want to switch from the character they initially chose by themselves? I'm guessing you don't have kids or you've forgotten what 3-5 year olds are like.
I'm also not shocked by the bias.
Because kids' movies quite regularly point out that fat is either bad, clumsy, funny or stupid, and unlike thin villains and foils, obese characters' weights are almost always central to the jokes and situations they find themselves in so even when not an outright villain like Ursula, they are shown to succeed despite their weights (Kung Fu Panda and Shrek leap to mind).
Oh, and lots of parents say awful things about weight. Whether it's comments like, "Do these jeans make me look fat" or disparaging remarks about others, it's not as if weight isn't the last socially acceptable form of stereotype and it's not as if kids don't pick up on the things their parents say.
So colour me unsurprisingly sad by this study. It's too bad that the authors didn't take their sound bite opportunities to drive home how sadly unshocking these results were.
Harriger, J., Calogero, R., Witherington, D., & Smith, J. (2010). Body Size Stereotyping and Internalization of the Thin Ideal in Preschool Girls Sex Roles, 63 (9-10), 609-620 DOI: 10.1007/s11199-010-9868-1