This past may, the popular Disney show “Jessie” aired an episode that made fun of a gluten free child. Shortly after, this episode was removed from the regular programing schedule. The “Jessie” episode was called “Quitting Cold Koala”. In this episode, a teen nanny was taking care of a child with a gluten free diet. Jessie, the main character was one of many to make derogatory statements about children who need gluten free diets, mocking the character on the show.
1.8 million Americans have celiac disease and many may not even know that they have it. Children across the country watch this show and it projected a negative image and allowed the encouragement of mocking this medical reality. CBS news quoted a mother who has two children with celiac disease but are also “Jessie” fans. She explained how upset and enraged her children were.
Often times with dietary restrictions, children already feel isolated. CBS quotes Amy Raslevich, mother, saying, “Disney gave children permission, and an example, to further isolate my children and others like them because of their medical conditions.
In response to the many upset families across the nation, Disney posted this statement on its official Facebook page. “We are removing this particular episode from our regular programming schedule and will re-evaluate its references to gluten restrictions in the character’s diet. Please accept our apologies for the upset this episode caused you and your family. We value your feedback and thank you for watching Disney Channel.”
Personally, as a teen nanny and someone with celiac disease, I am appalled that Disney would ever consider filming an episode like this. I was an avid Disney fan as a child, and it concerns me as to the other derogatory marks regarding different types of people that they may have made in the past and that I may not have noticed. I also believe that Disney should not have simply posted this to their Facebook page. While I do believe that social media is the most efficient way to distribute this information, I think that Disney should have also held a conference with characters of the show, to repair the damage done to those children. This would allow the children to see familiar character’s faces, and comfort them in this grave mistake.
Check out the CBS news article for even more information regarding celiac disease and this story.