Outraged. That’s how some parents felt after watching the latest episode of JESSIE, “Quitting Cold Koala,” which mocked the issue of Celiac disease.
The controversial show, which was supposed to air on Disney Channel May 17, drew attention to a 9-year-old boy named Stuart, who was incapable of consuming gluten due to his health condition.
According to Entertainment Weekly, when the character “gives 8-year-old Zuri a gift basket, she rejects the gift and tells him that if he calls her “sweetie” again, he’ll “be eating some gluten-free knuckles.” Zuri also tosses a pancake at Stuart, causing him to shriek “Gluten!” and cower, wiping his face furiously. (“He makes me look macho,” quips Zuri’s brother Ravi.)”
One mother, Amy Raslevich, who caught the episode early via VOD (Video on Demand), went so far as to write a petition, calling for the network to “stop bullying gluten-intolerant children.” She says, “For my kids, this is real. They have had friends make fun of their food, been disinvited to parties because of their diet. They have been made to sit alone, have had waitstaff roll their eyes and snidely comment about their requests to make their food safe for them to eat. Their condition is real, and their feelings are real, yet Disney gave children permission, and an example, to further isolate my children and others like them because of their medical conditions.”
After there were enough signatures on the petition, Disney yanked the show from the schedule, and released the following statement: “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.”