Is celiac disease funny? I don’t think so. Symptoms include everything from cramping and bloating to joint pain, dental issues, infertility, depression, migraine headaches, vitamin and iron deficiencies, and GI cancer.

It’s not funny at all.

But Disney seems to think so. One episode of the “Jessie” show called “Quitting Cold Koala” had characters mocking a little boy for his diet — the most annoying boy on the show, whom the writers decided should be gluten-free. This included throwing a pancake in his face as he batted it away in a panic while another boy commented that this boy made even him seem macho.

One mother isn’t too happy about this episode. You see, she has children who were diagnosed with celiac disease, and it hasn’t all been flowers and sunshine for her kids at school since then.

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 wait staff roll their eyes and snidely comment about their requests to make their food safe for them to eat. They have watched others, sometimes strangers and sometimes not, act as if their requests are somehow just a trend, just a request of an overanxious parent or a spoiled and coddled child…Yet Disney gave children permission, and an example, to further isolate my children and others like them because of their medical conditions. Their characters made it okay to characterize a real illness as an annoyance that is justification for the ‘cool kids’ to make fun of the ‘others’. This isn’t acceptable for anyone. It is the definition of bullying.”

She has started a petition asking Disney to stop airing this episode, and to proactively make sure that gluten-free children aren’t bullied on their shows again. You can sign it here.

My sympathies are completely with this mother. I think many kids' shows today show a lack of empathy and thrive on making fun of others, so it is certainly not out of the ordinary behavior. Perhaps the bigger problem is that we (or at least children in general) think it is amusing to make fun of others, whether it is because they are "dorky," have dietary needs, or are in some way different. 

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