Foot Odor-Fighting Superhero Out to Sell Shoes? FCC Is Investigating

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Foot Odor-Fighting Superhero sketchers

This image provided by Skechers shows characters from a new children's television show called Zevo-3, produced by the Skechers shoe company and scheduled to air on Nicktoons in October. Credit: Skechers / AP

A superhero named Kewl Breeze who fights foot odor just happens to wear Skechers shoes.

So do his superhero colleagues Z-Stap and Elastika. After all, you need a good pair of shoes when you're going up against the likes of Dr. Stankfoot.

So, these characters regularly appear in ads for Skechers tucked into shoe boxes. So, their new cartoon might help move a few sneakers.

Who cares? The Federal Communications Commission, for one.

The Washington Post reports cynics at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood complained to the FCC that the cartoon "Zevo-3," set to debut Oct. 11, is nothing more than a half-hour shoe commercial.

Surely, the creative minds behind Kewl Breeze and Dr. Stankfoot came up with the characters as a means to alert children to the very real danger of smelly feet. Selling shoes was probably just a happy -- but purely unintended -- consequence.

Noentheless, the FCC is investigating.

The Children's Television Act of 1990 places limits on commercials aimed at children. Some believe companies might use half-hour cartoons as thinly-veiled attempts to hawk their products.

The creators of "Transformers" may have simply wanted to tell a cautionary tale about society's dependence on technology -- technology that could turn vicious if your neighbor's Oldsmobile happens to be a robot from another planet.

However, because Transformers were toys before they hit TV and movie screens, eyebrows were raised by those who suspected an ulterior commercial motive.

Ditto G.I. Joe.

G.I. Joe dolls (er, action figures) hit the market in 1964, as a sort of male alternative to Barbie. Joe and Barbie were the same height and could even, if they were feeling frisky, swap accessories. Joe could drive Barbie's dream car while Barbie used Joe's bayonet to teach Ken some manners.

In 1982, Joe suddenly shrunk to six inches. And rather than being a generic figure whose adventures were left largely to the child's imagination, he found himself with a complex storyline with specific characters and situations.

These were all laid out in a cartoon series that, lo and behold, debuted three years later.

Again, with the toys coming out before the shows, some people wondered if Hasbro was more interested in selling toys than telling animated stories.

These ponderings led to some of the restrictions contained in the Children's Television Act.The act requires that no cable TV operator air more than 12 minutes of commercial matter per hour during children's programming. The act also requires a clear separation between commercial content and programming matter.

Could the act succeed where Dr. Stankfoot has failed and vanquish Kewl Breez, Z-Stap and Elastika?

FCC officials say their lines are open. They will take public comments on the complaint against Skechers and Nicktoons, the network that agreed to run the series.

If Skechers is allowed to air the show, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood director Susan Linn tells the Post we may as well brace ourselves for the "Cap'n Crunch Variety Hour" and talk shows hosted by Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger.

"It's clear that Skechers and Nicktoons are flouting the policies established by Congress to protect children from excessive commercialism," Linn tells the newspaper. "Zevo-3 is a 22-minute commercial masquerading as a kids' TV show."

Not so, says Kristen Van Cott, co-executive producer of "Zevo-3" and a senior vice president of Skechers Entertainment, in a statement quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

"Skechers Entertainment is tremendously proud of 'Zevo-3,' " she says in the statement. "It's a fun, action-packed and beautifully animated series."

Never mind that Z-Strap, Elastika and Kewl Breeze each represent a specific shoe style. There are no sales pitches in the cartoons, Van Cott says in the statement. The show deals more with issues such as peer pressure and bullying than shoes, she adds.

Related: Are Educational Toys Just Commercial Products In Disguise?

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