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This Kid Is Called Fat in Front of Millions

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This season's "Desperate Housewives" focuses on Gabrielle's four-year-old daughter's obesity. Madison De La Garza's portrayal of Juanita Solice is funny, compelling and relatable. But, De La Garza is also a real-life child whose appearance is the butt of a joke. Can she come out of this unscathed?

It's reminiscent of when Tracey Gold played Carol Seaver on "Growing Pains" from 1985 to 1992. On the show, her older TV brother poked fun at her by referring to her as chubby -- although in reality she was average weight. The make-believe banter had a real-life effect on the actress, who admitted it contributed to her long-running battle with anorexia.

Madison isn't the first child cast in a questionable role. After Linda Blair played a possessed child in 1973's "The Exorcist," the 16-year-old actress received death threats. Jodie Foster played a 12-year-old prostitute in 1976's "Taxi Driver" when she was 14. While the role didn't seem to affect Foster -- she is often seen as the poster child for child actor success stories -- it certainly had an effect on society. Her character was the inspiration for John Hinckley Jr.'s assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1982. More recently, a then 12-year-old Dakota Fanning played a victim in a rape scene in "Hounddog." Although director Deborah Kampmeier says the filming was very technical and Fanning never acted out the rape, many groups protested the film and the AMC theater chain pulled the feature from their cinemas.

Paul Peterson, who from the age of 12 to 20 played Jeff Stone on "The Donna Reed Show," formed the child star advocacy group, A Minor Consideration. Momlogic asked him if scripts like this can have an effect on the child in their real life. He said, "I watched my movie father being hanged on the set 55 years ago. The image is still with me." He said that although some children may seem like they are wise beyond their years, its important to remember they are paid to pretend. 

Momlogic spoke to an ABC spokesperson who assured us that producers have been taking precautions from the get-go. For instance, they made a conscious effort to hire an older actress to play the part. Madison is seven, playing a four-year-old. In addition, we're told the writers are very protective of Madison and they have an ongoing, open dialogue with the young star and her mother. Also, Madison is never present during scenes featuring the adult characters talking about her weight.

In future episodes, we'll see the storyline evolve into Gabrielle's struggle with her family's HEALTH issues, rather than just her daughter's weight issues -- something many American mothers can relate to. An ABC rep makes it clear though -- "Housewives" creator Marc Cherry thinks Madison is an excellent addition to the cast and breathes new life into the show. We asked if Madison watched the episodes showing her ridicule, the rep said she did not know.

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16 comments so far | Post a comment now
amanda October 15, 2008, 8:59 AM

I am glad that Desperate Housewives has this issue on the show. The growing trend of overweight kids has been getting larger. No pun instead. The girl who plays the part…well that is something that comes with the role. Why arent you asking about why the parents are subjecting their child to this? I mean she isnt the kid who first started stuffing her face. Her parents had to help her along the way. The bad thing about this is now she will have all more access to all this cake, candy, calorie ridden food in front of her while shooting scenes.

Erin October 15, 2008, 10:25 AM

There’s a whole article about it in this week’s People Magazine. What they don’t talk about is what are they doing for this girl and her weight? By they, I mean her parents. Will they keep her overweight so she can get roles and make them money? Isn’t her health more important than a higher risk of adult onset diabetes?

mary October 15, 2008, 12:22 PM

I think it is fine to have her on the show and it’s up to her parents to make sure that she is not watching the show. Erin raises an interesting point about her health, and so maybe in the future, Madison will be losing weight for her character’s role, which would also help her in real life.

Princess Poon October 15, 2008, 12:40 PM

I think parents who allow their children to become obese should be treated like abusers. Adults are supposed to make informed choices for their children, and stuffing them with garbage should be considered a form of child abuse.

Leslie October 15, 2008, 8:11 PM

I think that “child abuse” is taking it way too far. It’s not necessarily that simple. I was overweight as a preteen and eventually overcame it, while my brother and sister were average weight. Although I can see your point with assuming it is an issue of neglect, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the parents. Your assumption would’ve been wrong in my particular case. There is certainly a child obesity epidemic in our country, but exploiting this child will only lead to additional problems for her. I really rather doubt it will change the problem we face as a society. If there is any sign of child abuse it is that of the exploitation of this girl, rather than her weight.

ame i. October 15, 2008, 8:55 PM

That sweet child. Like she is never going to catch an episode, even if she is older? What if she is still obese when she does watch it? How is that going to make her feel?
I went from average, to stocky, to chunky, to chubby, to fat as a child. My parents finally got their heads out of the sand and helped me do something about it, plus I hit a growth spurt and grew 6 inches taller in a year.
I am a parent. We see it coming. When we don’t do something about it before it gets that far out of hand, it is neglect.

Chrissy October 16, 2008, 6:58 AM

Maybe the child wouldn’t see the show. But what about the mothers of her freinds? Or her friends overhearing their mothers talking about it? Or even her family - aunts, uncles, cousins? There is no fool proof way of the comments on the show not getting back to her. Or for her not to know that she was hired because she was fat/overweight.
ANd yes, the parents are responsiblie for her weight. They, not the child, controls what she is feed. She doesn’t do the grocery shopping or cooking. Nor gets to make the decision of eating out, when, where, how often.
Unless, she has a medical condition that casues her to be fat/overweight, it is the parents’ fault. And statiically speaking - few obese child have a medical condition responsibile for their weight.

Ali October 16, 2008, 10:53 AM

I’m missing something here…is she really obese for her age and height? I have not seen the show and can’t tell much from the photo, but maybe she’s a healthy weight for a 7-year-old, but would be obese if she were really 4 and weighed that much. I expect that’s how it’s been explained to her.

Jami October 16, 2008, 1:20 PM

Yes her weight is a big issue but as parent I would be equally worried about her acting out scenes like this one that she is playing a bully. I was teased about being fat when I was a child, but I was a healthy weight and in high school the weight came off as my body changed. Not all children are going to be thin it is more important to teach healthy eating and getting up to play instead of just watching TV. If kids do this and are still chunky and yes some of them will even look over-weight it does not mean that they are not healthy. Having children that do not eat enough is very dangerous even if they look slim they are loosing important vitamins that will also cause health problems when they are older. This country is to concerned about the outer appearance. I have known many children that looked over-weight but they were very healthy and did not eat a lot of junk food and they were very active children. Not everyone will have the same body types. I have also know kids that were thin and would only eat junk food and did very little physical activity, but because they are still thin nobody is concerned about their health.

Sandra Deffner  October 16, 2008, 1:24 PM

All you perfect people make me sick .. That child could have an Illness causing her weight gain or depression (like I suffered with) its not always from sitting and watcing T.V. and video games ( which most of your children do and have … there is nothing she or her parents can do without a doctors help … I wish all you perfect parents would get off the damn computers and see what you not so perfect children are doing … it WILL suprise you

Shell October 16, 2008, 10:45 PM

I am just shocked at some of these responses. I have seen both sides of the weight issue. I personally was a very skinny child. When I became a teenager, I started gaining weight. I was still very active and I ate healthy food. My doctors never seemed concerned. By adulthood, I was overweight. I tried everything to lose weight. Sometimes it would work, but only for a few pounds. My doctor offered me phen-phen, and I lost LOTS of weight. I also gained a leaky heart valve from the meds. After going off the meds, I confronted the doctor. He asked me if I’d rather be thin with a “little heart flutter,” or fat. Nice huh? I’d rather be fat and alive than a skinny corpse! By the way, my weight gain was cause by an underactive metabolism and underactive thyroid.

Should my parent have been charged with child abuse? I think not. Maybe some of us ought to get off our skinny soap boxes and realize that everyone is different. If you haven’t walked in their shoes or if you don’t know their history, don’t make asumptions!

Anonymous November 1, 2008, 10:10 PM

Sandra, you need to pull your snickers loving head out of your butt! I bet you dont even have kids cause you obviously have no clue about what your saying. The kid is not sick, shes minorly overweight! And thats just how the producers want her to be. If she did have an illness, I’m sure shes got more than enough money to cover it coming from the show. If she wasnt that size she probably wouldnt be on the show. And by the way you blog, I’m sure you didnt have depression problems, you probably just needed attention! All the help she needs is from exercise and veggies, no doctors!

Valerie November 1, 2008, 10:15 PM

Shell you are awesome!!!

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obama hater April 30, 2011, 7:39 PM

damn she is still a fat little lump of fat hahahahaha

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