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  • Sheila Hughes
    Sheila Hughes

    Has Disney Gone Too Far?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--CesarKensen

    Celiac.com 05/29/2013 - Television's the Disney Channel has always been known to be kid friendly and parents approved, but a recent airing has parents viewing this network in a new light.

    Photo: CC--CesarKensen"Jessie," a fairly new sitcom, premiered on September 30, 2011. It follows the life of an eighteen year old who nannies for a high profile family of four children. Seemingly harmless, right? In a recent episode titled “Quitting Cold Koala,” Stuart, a gluten-free child, is victimized. Several jokes were made in reference to the character's diet such as, "You call me sweetie again, and you'll be eating some gluten-free knuckles." In another part of the episode another child throws pancakes at Stuart as he screams "gluten!" and wipes his face.

    Those who are diagnosed with celiac disease must live a completely gluten-free life. Gluten is a very common protein which is found in foods made with wheat, rye, and barely. When ingested their immune system literally starts destroying them from the inside out.

    Amy Raslevich, was outraged by the episode in question when she watched it with her two gluten-free children. She was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette saying, "There were tears in my daughter's eyes, and my son's fist was clenched.” She started her own petition on Change.org asking the Disney Channel to no longer air this episode.

    Disney has made the decision to pull this episode for now, and is currently re-evaluating whether it will be shown again.

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    I've noticed this kind of insensitivity on other TV programs. I think all the talk about gluten avoidance as a fad gives some people the idea that everyone has a choice like, becoming vegan or vegetarian. I like the comment about gluten killing us from the inside out. That pretty much sums it up.

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    Sadly, the Disney Channel is right, these things do happen at school all the time. Even worse, it happens to adults in the work place as well. I've even had a boss contaminate my food, just to see if I was lying and what would happen (I got sick in his office, knowing he had done it).

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    Ok, I've discussed this with my 14 year old daughter because she is the one with celiac and she is the one that deals with this on a daily basis - not me. Teens and kids are mean. When adults and parents are not around to protect them in the lunch room and around their friends, kids are just downright mean to each other. We grew up with it and now, our kids deal with it. On a daily basis, my daughter is offered sandwiches, cookies, donuts and various other things as jokes. She has toughened up and handled it. Not because I taught her that - because she learned how to handle the environment. Disney threw a character out there that was overly-Geeky, out there for other kids to make fun of at the meal table and he was obnoxious. Throwing food is unacceptable behavior and that should be addressed. But, kids tease. My daughter actually thought this was funny and because the kids was never taught how to deal a little teasing, but she's the one with celiac. Bullying is wrong all around, but when it comes right down to it, I want a kid that can stand up for herself and say - No, I can't have that it has wheat it in. No, you can't do that do me. No you are treating me wrong. Instead, this kid was portrayed like a whiny baby - thus the food being throw at him... but, that really is the point of this entire show, isn't it? Maybe Disney shouldn't select a such sensitive topic for such a whiny show. I'm so proud of my daughter! She is a able to laugh and enjoy life and know what to eat and what not to eat. But, she also knows how to stand up for herself at 14!

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    Sadly, the Disney Channel is right, these things do happen at school all the time. Even worse, it happens to adults in the work place as well. I've even had a boss contaminate my food, just to see if I was lying and what would happen (I got sick in his office, knowing he had done it).

    I think this is something that needs to be addressed. I too have experienced harassment/bullying/hostile work environment (whatever you want to call it) because of my diet restrictions. It went so far as to have cake smashed on my car. I had to have my locker in a separate area because someone was putting crackers in my bag. (lockers are shared so not always locked). I would come back from lunch to find crumbs scattered on my desk. Worst thing about this---I work at a hospital!!!

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    I worked at a hospital where the HEAD of the dietary department threatened to put flour in my mailbox because he was tired of me asking if something was gluten-free. A co-worker in my small office at the hospital ate 1 1/2 pounds of pretzels a day in front of the fan that was blowing my direction just to antagonize me and make me sick. I couldn't get anyone at the medical center to get it to stop, so I quit the job. That was at a HOSPITAL and people wonder why I don't want to ever be hospitalized? That was 7 years ago, but I wonder if things have changed much since then.

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    Yep, Disney went too far -- very insensitive and done selfishly in the name of entertainment. I've witnessed my nieces and nephews learning from books and cartoons that something is fodder for teasing, when they never had the idea in their head before that. Although the stories usually come around to trying to point out that teasing is bad, once the seed has been planted, kids often experiment with playing the role of the "teaser" until a caring adult in their lives steers them clear of such mean behavior. So thanks a lot Disney for planting the seed in many children's minds that gluten-intolerance (or any food allergy) is to be made fun of and that kids with food allergies should be bullied.

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    The show Parenthood also makes disparaging remarks about gluten-free kids in at least two episodes. I think it must be the misinformed thinking that it's a choice diet vs. a serious illness.

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    I have arcolepsy and dermatitis herpetiformis. The DH is cured by being fanatically gluten-free. There is no cure for narcolepsy, although being gluten-free helps with my neurological symptoms. It is another disease that is misunderstood and made fun of. It is also auto-immune like DH and celiac disease.

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    It is hard enough being a young person, add in celiac disease and it is worse. We all need to be encouraged to see the good side of the disease--better health, freedom from many of the problems of that have beset us from early life on, and the great gluten-free foods that are out there if one looks for them.

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  • About Me

    Born and raised in Northern California, I am an out going, adventurous individual. I've studied English at Santa Rosa Junior College, and also a bit of business. Throughout my school years English has always been my favorite subject.

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