Disney Channel Pulls Controversial Jessie Episode That Mocked Gluten Intolerance
Disney Chanel has pulled a recent installment of Jessie amid controversy surrounding its approach to a recurring character’s gluten intolerance.
“[W]e received your feedback about tonight’s Jessie episode which some of you accessed early on Video-on-Demand,” the kiddie cabler said via a Facebook statement posted Friday. “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.”
The episode “Quitting Cold Koala,” which was to premiere last Friday, finds Debby Ryan’s titular nanny tasked with minding Zuri’s frenemy Stuart (played by J.J. Totah), who follows a gluten-free diet. Upon learning the food restrictions that come with his condition, jokes are made, one of which involved pancakes being tossed at Stuart while he screams, “Gluten!”
Disney Channel’s apology was partly in response to a petition posted to Change.org, which stated that Stuart was portrayed as “annoying, sniveling and demanding, repeatedly teased and excluded by the other children.” The complaint asked the cabler to “stop using gluten-intolerance as an excuse to bully children with any disease, disorder or disability.”
This is not Disney Channel’s first brush with controversy. Former Disney princess Demi Lovato called out her former employer in 2011 for making light of eating disorders. “I find it really funny how a company can lose one of their actresses from the pressures of an eating disorder and yet still make joke about that very disease,” Lovato noted at the time, referencing her own very public battle with the disease.