Disney Pulls Gluten-Free Bullying Episode

jessie-tv-seriesThe Disney Channel have pulled an episode of the show “Jessie” off the air after receiving lots of feedback from an unhappy gluten-free community.

The episode, called “Quitting Cold Koala,” featured a boy named Stuart who must follow a gluten-free diet. Why he is on the diet is not mentioned. A variety of jokes are made at this boy about his need for gluten-free food, including the main character of the show pointing out that Stuart has a list of dietary requirements which is five-pages long.

At one point in the episode, another child is shown throwing pancakes at Stuart whilst he screams “gluten!” and wipes them away from his face.

Amy Raslevich, who has two children with celiac disease, started an online petition on Change.org asking the Disney Channel to stop using gluten-intolerance as a reason to bully children. The petition was signed by a huge number of people and a thread on Reddit was also started on the issue.

A channel aimed at children should know better than to use a child with allergies or intolerances as a reason to bully him. Bullying is already a big enough problem amongst children. Do we really want the TV shows our kids watch to give them the idea that it’s alright to bully and isolate other children because of a medical condition?

What are your thoughts on this? Are you happy the Disney Channel pulled the episode?



Post authored by The Gluten-Free Traveller

18 thoughts on “Disney Pulls Gluten-Free Bullying Episode”

  1. I am so glad that Amy Raslevich started this campaign to pull the episode. I agree 100%. I cannot believe that the Disney channel would be so insensitive to such a large group of children that have Celiac and gluten sensitivities. Thank you Amy Raslevich – your efforts are recognized and appreciated by many!!!

  2. No matter what, it’s never right for a television show to portray bullying in a favorable light. Portraying the change to a GF diet as a huge issue is also silly. While making that change is difficult, it’s the sort of thing that one does as a medical necessity, just as diet is used to manage and treat diabetes, heart disease, and food allergies. Making it full of angst isn’t appropriate no matter what venue. It simply feeds the phobia that people have about changing anything about their diets.

  3. Why not show the main character thoughtfully providing gluten free cupcakes at a party for her friend who has to deal with the challenges of a gluten free lifestyle instead? I’m sure that there must be some talented writers out there who can write an entertaining show that does not include humiliation and put downs. I rarely allow my children to watch these Disney shows as the characters are often mean spirited. My children know how I feel about these programs and on the occasion that I do allow them to watch they assure me that they recognize this bad behavior and vow that they would never treat others in this way. This episode, or what I have just read about it, touches an additional cord with me. My daughter, who would love to watch these programs more often, has celiac disease. I can’t wait to share this information with her and ask her opinion about it. I’m practically speechless about the character throwing pancakes and shouting gluten. Why do provide this type of entertainment for our youth? It saddens me.

  4. Shame on Disney for being so insensitive to an issue that is beyond our control. It’s hard enough for my 11-year-old Celiac daughter to attend sleepovers and birthday parties that are full of pizza, hot dogs, birthday cake, cookies, doughnuts, pancakes and other gluten-laden goodies she can’t have without Disney drawing even more negative attention to this issue. We always send her own food to social events and school birthday parties, but I know it makes her feel “different” when she can’t eat the same thing as the other kids. Too bad Disney had to highlight a gluten-free diet in a negative way instead of using it as an opportunity to teach sensitivity and compassion.

  5. A thumbs up to Disney for pulling the episode, but two thumbs down for ever allowing this particular episode to be made in the first place. What were they thinking?!

  6. This was very disappointing to hear that Disney had a show promoting bullying. Disney has many of its stars going around promoting different ant-bullying campaigns. Some have even sang songs about anti-bullying. Children who have never had gluten or children who have had to go off of gluten are no different from the rest of us. It is already hard enough for a child to go to school and have a student bring in a treat that they cannot have because it will harm them. Why make fun of them? Glad to hear that the show has been pulled. Kudos to the mom who started the petition! Would be nice to see Disney promote gluten intolerance in a good light on the “Jessie” show now. Of course, when the show is mostly digs at others and sarcasm, don’t know how they would pull it off.

  7. It would have been nice if the change.org petition had been against the portrayal of bullying first, the tormenting of a child who can’t tolerate a food second. The fact that the main plot of so many child oriented shows and films is bullying has never ceased to amaze me. If we keep showing examples of intolerance to our children there is a chance it may seem acceptable or cool, right?

  8. Wow. Would they also be willing to show one child throwing peanuts in the face of another child who has a nut allergy? I hope not. Sounds like they need to be edumacated…

  9. Wow, I am appalled that Disney would even think about making a show of this nature. I think they should film an episode where the other kids are showing compassion for the child who HAS to eat GLUTEN FREE.

  10. I suspect that Disney was making fun of people that follow a gluten-free diet as a fad rather than for medical reasons. It’s still no excuse for bullying, but I can’t see them deliberately belittling food allergies. Unfortunately, I have celiac and I’ve encountered this misunderstanding more than a few times. I can’t tell you how often I get the eye roll or “It’s just some crouton crumbs, get over yourself” attitude. In fact, one of the workers at a restaurant that I absolutely *love* screwed me over recently on a take-out order. We all ordered the same thing and my GF order wasn’t labeled. When I called, I was told that everything was GF. I was sick for three days and when I tested the leftovers, they all tested high positive for gluten (unfortunately it’s $10/test and not really cost effective to test every single meal that I eat). When I confronted the restaurant, the response was “well…I didn’t tell the chef because it’s all gluten free” (the chef knew better, but the person taking the order just assumed that Gluten-Free was a choice and not a medical issue). That would never happen with peanuts or eggs or seafood. These stupid gluten-free fad diets provide us with access to a lot more packaged foods, but they’ve really done a number on people treating gluten sensitivity seriously.

    I’m glad that Disney pulled the episode, but disappointed that the writers and production staff didn’t just consult with the food services people that they have on staff. Disney’s cruise lines, resorts and parks are all pretty sensitive to the gluten issue and could have provided some valuable insight. They seem to have missed an opportunity to entertain and educate people about food allergies and sensitivities.

  11. Disney should be zero tolerance for this kind of programming and so should the public have zero tolerance for Disney. There is nothing redeeming or really worthwhile watching these programs so why not smarten up and turn off the t.v. . Read a book, do something outside, do something creative, start preparing a healthy meal from scratch.

  12. I am glad they pulled the episode and am glad my six and half year old did not see it. My son, now recovered from autism primarily due to diet intervention, has been gluten, dairy, soy and egg-free for three years now. Transitioning to public school this year was tough for him because of his dietary restrictions. He was very embarrassed when he first went to Kindergarten not wanting to be different from his peers. I have worked very hard to make things as normal and as comfortable for him as possible in the classroom. Had he viewed this episode, I am sure it would have emphasized his fears about eating differently. The message of the particular show was that is not okay to be different with various food restrictions, that it makes you some kind of “nerd” and that people will bully you, make fun of you and possibly even throw food at you. This would have terrified my six and half year old. I am a writer and know what it takes to get copy and scripts approved. This script passed through many hands to be finally recorded. I can’t believe that somebody did not put the “kabash” on this early in the game. In my opinion, whoever wrote this script needs to go off gluten because clearly they are having brain function issues if they cannot see the inappropriateness of this episode/subject matter.
    Just one more warrior mom and mother bear fighting for what’s best for her child

  13. This is shocking.

    As the parent of an adult child who was diagnosed at age 2, we endured years of adjustment to a special diet, where the child is embarrassed about having a “disease” and not being able to eat what her friends are eating at school and at a birthday party. It still takes courage to tell a waiter that her meal must be gluten free due to an allergy.

    I was also diagnosed with Celiac Disease much later in life and rather than bring this up at a group lunch meeting, I informed my boss in private after the meeting, specifying that I actually had a gluten allergy. The reaction was along the lines of…”Why can’t I simply take the bread off and eat the inside of the sandwich? I’m sick and tired of people who are so fussy about what they eat…” Interestingly, this was at a medical facility that is renown for treating Celiac Disease. And this was well before “gluten free” became a fad diet. Now, I make sure to specify that I have a real allergy…and I’m not on a fad diet.

    What were the writers at Disney thinking? Yes, it’s good that they pulled the episode, but there’s more that’s needed here. What would any TV writer hope to accomplish by ridiculing people…children or adults…because of a medical condition?

  14. Is anyone really surprised? Media thrives on creating conflict, even in the kid’s shows. They don’t call it the Boob Tube for nothing.

  15. Why would Disney make fun of any child with any allergy or any deformity. I think those who allowed it to air should be fired. How stupid are they.

  16. How disappointing! As the mom of a celiac, i am always nicely educating others how it takes only a crumb to make my daughter sick for weeks. Its sad that all our efforts have been negated in a single 30 minute episode! Disney parks and cruises have made a huge effort to meet the needs of celiacs. Sounds like the movie division needs to get on board!

  17. I cannot comment specifically without seeing the episode. It seems surprising that any bullying is being promoted on any children’s channel these days. It truly makes me wonder if it’s as bad as described, or if someone is subjectively sensitive to this. I also am GF, and eat whole plant based foods, mostly, and get really tired of being considered high maintenance, and being made fun of. However, I also have little patience for overreacting…now I want to see the episode. :)

  18. It makes me angry that Disney, a company that I always thought respected allergies and sensitivities, would do something so inconsiderate. It’s terrible to imagine this happening in real life, and now thanks to them, it might actually happen. Shame on them!

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