Thursday, September 12, 2013

The insanity of political correctness continues

 WARNING:  This is another of my rants.

Now apparently there is a group demanding no one can make fun of people who are on gluten-free diets. Did you know that folks who are avoiding gluten in their meals are being ostracized? This sounds like a sketch but it’s real.

The Disney Channel has pulled an episode of their sitcom, JESSIE, because angry parents made a huge stink when derogatory jokes were made about kids who needed gluten-free diets. The episode first appeared on line and Disney responded by pulling the episode off the air.

Here’s one of the offensive jokes. A character says to the dieter: “You call me sweetie again, and you'll be eating some gluten-free knuckles.”

Ohmygod! How could anyone allow that on television?

Yes, gluten-free diets are necessary for people with celiac disease. And I’m sure they’re a pain in the ass. This is not a choice, it’s a burden they’re stuck with. And when it’s so important for kids to fit in, anything that isolates them is like a scarlet letter. As someone who was an outcast and geek in school myself, I can totally empathize.

But come on. Where do we draw the line? The jokes weren’t malicious. At worst they were glib. Have we become so overly sensitive that gluten-free diets are now an incendiary topic?

Where are the asthma zealots? Their activists are dropping the ball. There’s an episode of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER where one of Beaver’s friends has an inhaler. Shouldn’t that be yanked off the air the way AMOS AND ANDY was? I think there’s also an inhaler joke in THE WONDER YEARS. Burn the negatives!

Comedy needs to have edge. It needs to ruffle some feathers. When we’re so afraid of offending anybody we might as well not even do comedy.

You kill the sacred cow; you kill the golden goose.

I will happily grant you that we have a responsibility not to be overly cruel. There are lines of good taste and if we have any humanity we need to observe those lines. There was a big discussion of that just this last weekend in this blog.  But we also need to lighten up. And we as comedy writers (I refrain from using the pretentious word – artist) can’t walk on eggshells. We can’t self-censor ourselves in fear that some whacko parent group will protest. Because here’s the thing: no matter what you write someone will take issue.

I was at a Dodger game recently, sitting in the press box. Nancy Bea Hefly, the stadium organist played the MASH theme between innings, a sweet little nod to me. Well, it so happened the Dodgers had a Korean pitcher working that night. And Nancy Bea got an angry note from someone that by playing the MASH theme she was being disrespectful to the Korean community. Huh??? First of all, we on MASH went out of our way to be respectful of the Korean community. Korean leaders in town praised our portrayal of their culture. And second – really? The stadium organist has an ax to grind and is playing a song to belittle a community? This is insanity!

Now I expect a flood of angry comments (most of them by “anonymous”). I’m insensitive. I have no compassion. This is yet another example of how irresponsible I am. What if a child read this blog? By inference I must also condone torture (I got those trolls when I had the audacity to like ZERO DARK THIRTY).  I’d make fun of handicapped kids too. I’m not funny was never funny. I’m in bed with the insidious Gluten industry. I’m too old to understand anything. This is why I’m no longer producing television shows. And this is proof I have it in for Woody Allen.

But once we can’t make fun of anything we’re on a comedy-free diet. And at the moment there are no activists for us. So please, have a little compassion for me.

By the way, there is a gluten-free dating site.  I'd make jokes except... y'know...

80 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll bet you any amount of money that the person complaining about the MASH tune wasn't Korean or knows any Koreans as friends.

Whenever you hear these complaints all I can think of is “Won't somebody please think of the children?!” ―Helen Lovejoy

Carol said...

I think people have forgotten to look at the context of a situation. Years ago my Autistic son got in trouble because they said he 'theratened' a teacher, when all he did was repeat a song lyric another kid on the bus told him to repeat. I said 'he said words the teacher interpreted as threatening his intent wasn't to threaten.' There's a difference. And the line was something like 'I'm a gun'. And it was a song. I asked if he sang a song about being Macbeth would he be accused of being a regicide?

Brian Ware said...

Agree completely. I'm not a comedy writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I can do accents. I did an Indian (India Indian, not Native American Indian) and he said I offended him. I laughed and continued on. A nobody mimicking an accent is offensive, but an actor doing the same thing isn't. And before anybody jumps on me for it, I said "Yes, I can do an Indian accent as well" and said nothing remotely offensive. And differentiating between India and Native American is also not offensive. For those who are offended by it, might want to get to work on some thicker skin. Yours is becoming almost translucent.

Anonymous said...

Q: What's the last thing that went through the minds of the 9/11 jumpers?

A: Their ankles.

There's no such thing as political correctness in the comedy world, and there shouldn't be. Because once you start censoring content, there's simply no way to tell where you'll stop.

McAlvie said...

Some people just enjoy being offended. Righteous indignation is all they have. And I feel sorry for them because life is going to be so much harder for them than it has to be.

Extraneous_Ed said...

I'm not a comedy writer, and I'm not in the industry in any way. But I think there needs to be different sets of rules if you are writing for kids and tweens on the Disney Channel, and if you're writing for adults.
I'd have to see the episode to know more about the context, the joke you cited is harmless, but there are scenarios where as a parent, if my son (who is gluten free) were watching I could be upset by it. When you are talking about adult comedy, I agree 100% about no barriers, no rules. But as a parent who lets their kid watch Disney Channel, there is a trust there that there will be lines that won't be crossed. And causing your child to feel belittled or singled out is one of those lines.
I have no idea if this episode actually did that or not.

Doug said...

So playing the MASH theme in public is insensitive to the Korean community, but not veterans of the Korean War? How about people whose loved ones have killed themselves? The title of the song is "Suicide is Painless"! As for the Jessie joke; most of the people who are on gluten free diets do not have Celeriac Disease. According to recent research, many have a sensitivity to a protein in newer, high yield wheat strains. Switching to organic wheat products takes care of the medical issues for many. The remainder who don't have Celeriac or the protein sensitivity are on gluten free diets because its the in thing to blame all of their (or their children's) medical issues on. I'd give odds that the complaints came from the last group.

Pete In NY said...

"I'm sorry sir, you cannot have any peanuts."

"What?" I asked the flight attendant.

"A mother has asked us not to distribute peanuts on the plane because her son is allergic to them."

So because of one unnecessarily over-the-top, heli-mother, no one else could eat peanuts on the plane. Geez, what about the people who brought their own peanuts with them? Is crazy ass, myopic mom going to police every seat?

Talk about a nut case. (Sorry, was that politically incorrect, too?)

emily said...

I can do a twenty-minute version of "The Aristocrats" if anyone needs to offend the entire world.

B.B. Callow said...

A copywriter friend of mine wrote a very funny commercial for a minivan a few years back. A cute spot about a family dog checking out the vehicle's interior for the very first time. When the dog jumps into the ample cargo space, he says, "Wow! Enough room to swing a cat!"

The commercial aired for less than a week before it was pulled because of a couple of complaints by cat lovers who found the line offensive and, I suppose, insulting to cats.

PC insanity indeed.

Mike said...

Gluten-free dating site. Are you getting your oats?

YEKIMI said...

Been announcing soccer games for over 30+ years. I play music before games and during halftime. Years ago, no one complained about anything I played. Nowadays I can't play anything without someone coming up and bitching that the song is "offensive". For example: "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" by Ohio Express. Had someone come up and said I was "promoting oral sex by playing that song" because of the lyrics. Played "Timothy" by The Buoys; accused of "condoning cannabalism" Even had one person come up and hand me a CD of music and he demanded I play it; told him he could go get his own announcing gig and play it. Yet these same people will sit through a set of warm up music that the players want to listen to[mostly rap] and some of the songs drop the "N" word and have profanity throughout and nary a peep from the "parents" because "well, this is what the kids need to get pumped up for the game". I put my foot down this year and refused to play any of their crap. I'm thinking about just starting to play nothing but pop instumentals. Wonder if anyone would get it if I played the instrumental version of "Naturally Stoned".

Hamid said...

I agree with every single word you said, Ken. Political correctness has blighted TV and movies, which is why when occasionally a non-PC film or show comes out, it's usually greeted with a chorus of fury from people whose entire raison d'ĂȘtre is to be offended.

The UK is particularly affected by political correctness. A few years ago, a local authority banned Punch & Judy shows because a parent complained it promoted domestic violence. I'm just waiting for the day someone complains that Man of Steel might make kids want to fly off a building or Terminator is offensive to cyborgs that may exist in the future.

Scooter Schechtman said...

That's why I stick to Sunday night cartoons. The asthma jokes in "Bob's Burgers" absolutely kill. As for Linda's mentally unstable sister...the PC worriers can stick it up their beefsquatch.

Erich617 said...

I imagine that, in this case, a large part of the uproar was due to this being a kids' show, as you note. I assume that most of the complaints came from parents who were looking out for their children's feelings. They may have been overzealous, but it's not impossible that some kids' feelings might have been hurt.

As a comedy writer, I have no problem with saying that we should have the latitude to make jokes about these sorts of things. But I also always consider who the butt of the joke is. Comedy can be very powerful, so why use it to take down the already powerless? If I find myself using an easy insult, I edit and ask how I can go in a completely different direction. Invariably, the result is funnier and more original.

As a kid, I watched sitcoms where characters made fun of each other incessantly (that is, both my watching and the insults were incessant). And I really thought for a long time that that was how people interacted and that insulting people was cool. As a result, I was a horrific jerk. Would anybody really want to spend time with Carla Tortelli? Kids are already vicious enough to each other without us sending the message that it is cool. Comedy should be entertaining first and foremost, so why use it to make people feel bad?

Anonymous said...

Great topic Ken. What makes each of us laugh is personal. Some people laugh at pain or cruelty or absurdity. Some of us laugh at irony or physical comedy or word play. Because of these differences it would be impossible to safegaurd the majority of an audiences "feelings". I say if you are a comedy writer STOP writing for disney ASAP and get yourself to a place where artistic expression is not rabidly censored.

As far as a joke "making" someone feel bad, seriously???
Jokes don't make us feel bad, we OURSELVES allow ourselves to feel bad.
We as a priveledged, entitled culture need to get over our preciousness and laugh for a change.....sheesh.

Ray Sanford said...

Political correctness operates on the assumption that you can pick up a turd by the clean end.

sean said...

This is why it is impossible to make a funny comedy series in Canada, unless it is on cable and they say screw everyone ie Trailer Park boys.

Michael said...

I remember a letter published in SPIN complaining that the name of the magazine was derogatory and insulting to dyslexic Japanese-Americans. Pretty sure it was a joke, though.

Tim W. said...

sean,

You think there's MORE political correctness in Canada? Really? Are you Canadian?

And the reason they can't make a good comedy series in Canada is because all the good comedy writers are writing for American shows.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Everybody hates JESSIE anyway, so... yeah.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Censorship pisses me off.

I'll suggest this: How about a series on cable called, "The Comedy Writer's Room" where absolutely nothing is censored or forbidden.

Bet that'd be fun to watch!

Hey, rather than a scripted show, just roll tape in the rooms of shows that are on the air. Cheap production costs, great entertainment.

Where's my agent?

H Johnson said...

First off, wasn't MASH a send-up of our own military? And in reality weren't we in Korea to save Koreans?

And jeez, gluten free, et tu? If no one is allowed to make fun of any one with a disorder, who's left? Is the word disorder offensive? Or the word different? As a man, should I be offended of every joke told by a female comedian?

For a guy raised on Bugs Bunny cartoons, this PC world sucks.

There. I have offended everyone.

Marc Cetrone said...

I'm in favor of pulling the entire series of Jessie but she's also hot so I'm kinda torn on this one.

Tom Swofford said...

The real problem here are the producers, writers, network execs, etc who cave in to the demands made by what is undoubtedly a very small portion of the viewing public. When something appears on the net, I think a lot of people still labor under the false impression that it somehow means that it's representative of the feelings of a huge number of people. Back when people had to actually write letters of complaint to a network about something, I'm guessing that complaints like these went right into the garbage can, unless the number of them surpassed some network magic number. Now someone starts a damn Facebook page for people who are incensed at something, it goes viral, and somehow it becomes an event worthy of notice. Maybe it's about time that writers, producers, and execs make a stand and learn how to say "hey, fuck you...it's funny and it's staying in. If you don't like it, don't watch the show". This is a lesson that everyone should learn; if you don't like something, then don't watch! If enough people feel as you do, then the show gets canceled. If not enough feel that way, then it just proves that you're just another hypersensitive nut case, howling into the wind.

Pat Reeder said...

I have read the Bill of Rights numerous times. I have found a right to free speech right up front, but try as I might, I've yet to find a right not to be offended. So f--- off, gluten Nazis.

BTW, Jake Johannsen has an hilarious bit about gluten.

Dodgerdog said...

Well, this is interesting. Technically, "knuckles" by themselves ARE gluten-free. The more traditional threat of a "knuckle sandwich," presumably made with bread, would be offensive and unnecessarily cruel to a gluten-sensitive person, even metaphorically. So, the writers should be commended for making an ADA appropriate accommodation.

Jake Mabe said...

This is insanity.

The truly sad part of it is, given all of this garbage, there's NO WAY the networks would put something like "All in the Family" or even "M*A*S*H" on the air today.

We've reverted in a lot of ways, taken backward steps. Political correctness is an Orwellian nightmare.

Steve the Creep said...

Okay, here I'm going to push back.

As a couple commentors before have mentioned, this is a kid's show. I know you pulled out one joke that doesn't really seem to be at the expense of a kid, but I'm sure there were others in there that could make a child watching with celiac disease feel bad about themselves.

Would you be fine with a Disney after school show that was nothing but a string of fat jokes? I spent most of my childhood tormented by bullies because I was overweight and didn't fight back. I could just imagine how coming home and watching Ducktales rattle off more tubby humor for 30 minutes.

You think children on gluten-free diets aren't getting teased at school. Anything that makes you stick out is an excuse to get mocked by other kids. And none of these kids are gluten-free by choice. It's either their metabolism or their parents. Both out of their control.

Now if this was a prime time sitcom, who cares. We're adults. If we can't take a joke, why should we even be watching comedy? But lumping all this together under "stupid political correctness" doesn't allow the nuanced discussion that seperates this possibly valid complaint from the truly insane complaints like playing the MASH theme at a baseball game.

Mary said...

Peanuts on airplanes -- I've got a two year old with a peanut allergy. At 15 months old we brought her to the emergency room, her face swollen to unrecognizability, vomiting and shrieking. From peanut butter chips in a granola bar. They said that subsequent exposures could cause worse reactions, potentially fatal, but impossible to predict. She gets hives when I eat something that "may be contaminated" with peanuts and then kiss her, or if we pass too close to a roasted-nut vendor at a festival.

So I do feel bad about asking the airline not to serve peanuts when we are on an airplane, with no emergency room, no doctors, and just one epi-pen (what if we don't use it right?)

I do not. But hey, sorry you don't get your nuts, bud. Suck it up. You're a big boy, and I'm sure there'll be some at the airport as soon as you get off the plane.

Mary said...

(Even if we do use the epi-pen right, actually, the effects wear off after about 20 minutes. It's meant to keep someone's throat from closing up so they can't breathe, long enough for an ambulance to get there. So again, on an airplane? I am not messing around.)

Victor Velasco said...

Someone else here mentioned the word context and I'd agree that the P.C. police ignore context continually...a lot of times this is guilt alleviation; I'm in San Francisco, consider myself 'to the left' but sometimes it's like a throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bath-water kind of deal i.e. 'if you'll joke about gluten-free diets you're no different than the Westboro Baptist church'...uh-oh did i just make a child abuse joke?

Barbara C. said...

OK, of all the things to get outraged about with a Disney tween shows...this is what it takes to get one pulled?

Terry Kline said...

So, your kid is so sensitive to peanuts that you ask them not to serve peanuts on the plane. Someone sitting 10 rows away from you snacking on a bag of Planters puts your kid at risk? Ok, for the sake of argument, I'll buy that, but then I have to ask, what do you do about the other 100 flights on the plane before the one you took, where they did serve peanuts and all that deadly peanut dust and loose peanuts are floating around the cabin? Do you think they sanitize the cabin in between flights? How do you know that the person sitting in the seat before you didn't spill the whole bag right where your kid is sitting? If your kid is seriously so allergic to peanut products that someone sitting at the other end of the plane can't eat them, then you are putting your own kid at a hellacious risk every time you take him someplace where peanuts might have been consumed at some point prior to your being there (you know, like an airplane where they serve peanuts to the whole plane every time they fly). I know it's cathartic to scream across the forest like the mama bear protecting her cub, but if the peanuts merely being in the presence of your child is so dangerous, then it's actually you who is putting your kid in risky situations, not Joe Smith in row 9 snacking away.

But damn, it does feel good to get righteously indignant, doesn't it?

Pete In NY said...

@ Mary - so you're the one!

@ Terry - Right on!

cshel said...

Ken -

First let me say, I don't have celiac disease, or any food allergies for that matter, nor do I know anyone with celiac disease, or food allergies, nor do I follow a gluten-free diet, nor do I have any children. And I agree with a previous poster that only a small percentage of the population have true Celiac disease, but many people are suddenly adopting gluten-free diets because they think it's some kind of new health fad.

But I disagree with you in this case. I would agree with you if this were an adult sitcom - let the gluten-free fist jokes fly. But this is a Disney show for kids, so I can understand that it probably was not a good idea to include that joke, even though I thought it was funny. I'd have to see the whole show to have a complete opinion. But some kids can be mean, and can be influenced by what they see on TV. In fact, I'm surprised that the threat of physical violence - a knuckle sandwich - wasn't just as upsetting, or more so, than the gluten-free diet dig, to these concerned parents. The anti-bullying campaigns have become so ubiquitous these days - and rightly so - so why no outrage there - or a realization on Disney's part to begin with? That's just an observation on my part - not a call to arms, protests, boycotts, or even overly stern reprimands. Although I strongly advise Disney to roll out a series of public service announcements showing various Disney characters talking about the heartbreak of Celiac disease - Mickey, Goofy, that singing teapot from Beauty and the Beast - and even Hannah Montana (read the fine print in that contract, Miley, Disney still owns your twerking a$$ - it's like a pact with the devil in exchange for super-stardom).

However, a previous poster mentioned the peanut allergy thing, and the obnoxious mom on the plane regarding the peanuts. That's a whole other, much more serious issue. That can be deadly, and some kids are apparently THAT sensitive. There was a story in the news recently about a 9 year old girl who died after exposure, even though she was administered 2 doses from an Epi-pen. And apparently some bully-type kids like to chase these kids around with peanuts because they think it's funny. So, even though I used to think the peanut-free paranoia went a little overboard, I get it now. If I were that plane mom, I'd probably be paranoid, too. I'm sure she doesn't enjoy it, and neither does the kid, but what choice do they have? You can't smoke on a plane either, and that doesn't pose the threat of immediate death except to that one kid with the asthma inhaler.

At least with Celiac disease, no kid will die from being chased around with a piece of bread, even if they are forced to eat it by a knuckle sandwich.

Cap'n Bob said...

If you took all the shows off TV that offend me, you'd have nothing but a blank screen most of the day.

Hamid--back in the fifties a few kids tied towels around their necks and jumped off roofs or out of windows. Some people blamed the Superman show. Cooler heads prevailed and the kids were seen as morons.

A local Italian restaurant boasts "glutten free" food. I'm still trying to decide if they don't have glutens or don't want gluttons in there.

Cathie Glover said...

I'm offended by this awful blogger template with the terribly narrow column that squeezes all the words together.

Cathie Glover said...

Good point about no one getting upset about the violence. The parents get upset about the gluten joke but not about the violence. What a warped society we live in.

CRL said...

Hey, at least she wasn't twerking.....

Jan said...

You said "We can’t self-censor ourselves" but who else are you going to self-censor?

Terry Kline said...

You miss my point, cshel. There are absolutely people in the world who are so allergic to peanuts that just the inhaling of peanut dust can kill them. These peoples' lives are ruled by their allergies. My point was that if your child is so allergic to peanuts and peanut products that merely touching someone who has touched peanuts can be a deadly risk, then putting that person in an environment where peanuts are consumed routinely, and there would be peanut residue on the seats, floors, fixtures, and flight attendants' hands, would already be a highly risky endeavor. Asking them to refrain from serving peanuts on one flight does nothing to negate all the residue in the plane from all the previous flights.

Anonymous said...

How do you equate a valid health issue with the desire not to offend by using politically incorrect jokes?

Do I have a peanut allergy? No. Would I be morally offended if someone asked me not to eat my peanut M&M's on a flight because they had a valid health issue? No. Would I be pissed off if they didn't like the joke I had on a t-shirt I was wearing? Hell yes.

One is a health issue not under anyone's control, the 2nd is being an insufferable twit.

I saw an 18 year old kid get kicked off a flight because he was wearing a shirt that said "my name is Indigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die". If that isn't a statement on the world today, nothing is.

cshel said...

Well, Terry, I did miss your point. I was busy writing my overly long post when your post went up.

I was under the impression that they vacuum and disinfect the planes between flights, and, good God, I can only hope the flight attendants wash their hands before handling passenger food and drink. Thanks for making me doubt. Now I have to worry about MRSA, SARS, new Chick-Pig jumping to human viruses, bed bugs, scabies, and all manner of contaminations when I fly. : )

A parent of any child has to balance the risks of anything against leading a normal life, and just take all of the precautions possible. They can buy a Volvo and an iron-clad baby car seat, but you put your kid at risk every time you drive them to a soccer game. They could be killed in a car accident or a soccer accident. But the alternative is locking them in a plastic bubble.

If a mom wants to do everything in her power to ensure a peanut-free, but possibly still risky, flight across the ocean, so a kid can go to visit his beloved grandma lying on her death bed in Hawaii, and she doesn't know how to sail a boat, I'm sure Joe Smith in aisle 9 would be willing to give up his peanuts, just this one time, and have a delicious fruit cup instead. : )

mp said...

You ban peanuts for everyone (including 10 aisles back) because the jackass across the aisle from the kid with an allergy will raise hell that people 10 rows back got peanuts and he didn't. "The kid's got the allergy, not me. Not my problem! Give me my peanuts!"

And that jackass's name? Pete. Oh don't worry, "Pete from NY", not you...this guy's from Jersey.

Pete In NY said...

The point is not the peanuts. Sure I could do without them. It's the unnecessary, over protection that deludes people into thinking they can protect their children and themselves from harm. What's going to happen when peanut kid goes to the movies? Is mom going to appear on the screen pointing a finger telling everyone in the theater not to eat peanuts or anything that was manufactured in a facility that uses peanuts - which is practically every snack food? How 'bout when peanut kid goes to college or works in an office? Prevent it all you want, but shit is going to happen. It helps us to learn how to deal with it and move forward.

cshel said...

Ken - Sorry we derailed the comments section from gluten-free jokes to deadly peanut allergies.

Terry - Seriously, the letters in the code word for my last post to you were "terri". It would be so weird if the series of numbers in the code were your street address off by one number.

Pete - Yes, shit happens. Weird shit like the above.

Anonymous said...

You're insensitive. You have no compassion. This is yet another example of how irresponsible you are. What if a child read this blog? By inference, you must also condone torture. You'd probably make fun of handicapped kids too. You're not funny, and never were. You are in bed with the insidious Gluten industry. (Insidious Gluten - remember him? the villain in Man from U.N.C.L.E.) You're too old to understand anything. This is why you're no longer producing television shows. And this is proof you have it in for Woody Allen.

RCP said...

I agree that many people work overtime to be offended; I also agree that, depending on the context of the situation (for instance a show aimed at kids), comedy can be steered away from one joke that might set up certain kids to be targets in favor of another joke that won't. Self-censorship or sensitivity?

I was channel surfing some years ago and came across one of those family sitcoms featuring a scene between a father and son. Right as the kid leaves, he turns and says, "Don't worry Dad, I like girls." His father looks heavenward and mouths, "Thank you." So while that might be funny to most, to a gay kid who's already being bullied or is terrified that his parents will reject him if they ever find out, that scene just reinforced the accepted belief that not only will this kid be rejected by his parents, but by "God" as well.

For the most part, PC drives me nuts too and I don't support self-censorship - I don't want a law saying you can't write this or that. I'd hope though that writers would think twice about certain jokes.

Adam said...

I don't care at all about gluten-free jokes. I have a first degree blood relative with celiac disease. (Really glad that was the diagnosis because the other thing the doctors were worried about was colon cancer.) What I have a problem with is that I have to spend so much time reading the freaking teeny little labels of every damn thing I buy to see if it has a forbidden ingredient. Which is not just "gluten" but all kinds of other odd scientifically concocted additives (that make you really doubt whether anyone should eat it at all.) And I have to read every damn label every damn time I buy anytihng, because companies change their ingredients depending on what's cheapest. We even had vitamins for a while that had gluten in them as a binding agent. It's frustrating! Because GF diets have become an "in" thing, waiters/waitresses often don't take us seriously when we say we need gluten free--yes, because of disease, and no, not just for fun. (We rarely eat out, FYI--but sometimes have to.) I had an easier time in a small town in Australia and a teeny town in France while traveling than I ever do in one of the largest cities in America when trying to feed my family members who require a GF diet because those countries have labeling laws--our country is not really regulated. Consequences for a celiac patient are serious diarrhea, gas, anemia (due to malabsorption of nutrients like iron), and eventually cancer due to chronic inflammation of gut lining. So joke away--we laugh about it, too. But it is a gigantic pain in the ass--especially here in the USA.

Brandon said...

Amen and amen, sir. It's getting to be a world where no one is better than anyone else and everyone's the best at everything. Did you write that, BTW? It's from 'The Simpsons'. Cheers!

Erich617 said...

This reminds me of a post from this very blog:

"In terms of personal parameters: ... I try not to dwell on physical appearances. If the person can’t do anything about the reason for the joke it seems cruel to do it. A guy is a pompous ass? Fair game. An actress is in love with herself? Let the insults fly. But if a girl is 20 and looks like Eleanor Roosevelt at 60 I give her a pass."

I doubt that any children would have been irreparably harmed by seeing this TV show, but-- just like an unattractive person-- a kid with a gluten allergy being made the butt of a joke "can’t do anything about the reason for the joke".

To me, it seems like a pot shot at an easy target. Save the insults for the pompous ass who needs to be taken down.

The network decided not to air the episode because of backlash from viewers. That isn't censorship so much as a business decision. I don't necessarily question the right of a comedy writer to make fun of anything or anybody. But do you want to be the one who's making fun of a scrawny kid who can't eat gluten?

Rosariorose9 said...

One of these days, Ken will ask himself from which side of the political aisle these ridiculous proscriptions about which he has ranted originate...and cognitive dissonance notwithstanding, he'll come to the painful realization, as have I,(and I say this as a lifelong dem), that "we have met the enemy, and he is us."

sean said...

@ Tim W. yes I am Canadian. And the reason all the good comedy writers go south to the USA (besides the obvious factor of $$$) is because here in Canada, everyone has ALWAYS been so risk-averse and terrified of offending, that what is produced is bland crap with no edge whatsoever. This new PC atmosphere Ken describes has been the status quo in Canada forever, it's a myth woven into fictional DNA. As I'm sure you've all heard, 'We're nice up here.' It's not that we don't have out foulmouthed standups and writers with dirty minds, it is that we are told that to be like that is 'Un-Canadian' and the choice is to get out of the Industry or get out of the Country.

Hamid said...

In the annals of "cruel" jokes in a kid's show, this gluten one must rank as the mildest. Do those parents seriously think kids will be subjected to abuse based on such a corny throwaway line, given most kids have 2 second attention spans and watch TV whilst simultaneously Tweeting and Facebooking and probably don't remember what someone in real life said 5 seconds after they said it, let alone a character in a TV show?

Some people need to understand that being offended by something is not grounds for banning something outright. As an atheist, I found an episode of Belle's in which an atheist character was portrayed as a thoroughly unsuitable boyfriend incredibly offensive on many levels, but here's the thing - I would never call for that or any show I don't like to be banned. It may be a cliche but we all have the choice to either switch off or change channels (though in this instance I was watching on Youtube as Belle's isn't screened in the UK).

The point is that there are those who think their indignation gives them the right to decide what everyone else can watch. Fuck that. And whilst I would call myself a liberal, much of the hysteria comes from elements of the far left, especially here in the UK, who are preoccupied with getting offended on behalf of Islam every five seconds. Any film that features Islamic terrorism is called racist, as though Islamic terrorism doesn't exist and is purely a Hollywood fiction. If they got as worked up about forced marriage, child brides, suicide bombers and various other atrocities committed by Islamists as they do about action films, I'd take them seriously.

ltrain8 said...

I heard an interview with Mel Brooks a long time ago on this subject. He talked about how after Blazing Saddles came out, he got a letter criticizing the campfire scene. "Dear Mr. Brooks, I've been a fan of your work for a long time, but I can't support it any more. Me and my daughter have struggled with our chronic flatulence..."

LAprGuy said...

Meanwhile, they have an American pre-teen speaking his lines in an Indian accent ...

Anonymous said...

I'm a single father with 3 kids and yes, sometimes I watch Jessie with them. There have been times where some of Jessie's lines were so overtly provocative I did a double take. "No, that's just me being a dirty old man" I would think to myself, but the lines started to ad up, and now I'm convinced that the show's writers DEFINITELY pull some tongue-in-cheek stunts probably to break up the mind-numbing monotony of writing for Disney. I can't remember the line that stuck out the most, and I don't want to paraphrase, but it had something to do with some foreign businessmen surprising her and she had to "stretch first" or something It could easily have been taken way out of context but easily sailed over my kid's heads.

gottacook said...

It so happens I was looking at some issues of Mad I'd recently unearthed, circa 1968-73, when I was a subscriber starting at age 12. It seems to me that a typical piece in Mad of that era satirized white people quite as much as anyone else, although I can see why someone today might take offense at a given caricature of (for example) a swishy gay man.

Doktor Frank Doe said...

This is what you get when you have a mere nine studios controlling the word. There is no free speech anymore, only the illusion of it.

Mark said...

I asked my Korean wife if she was offended by the theme from MASH. She said, "why would I be offended? It's nice music." I told her the premise of your blog post and she pointed out that if the UN hadn't intervened in 1950, she wouldn't be alive today because South Korea wouldn't exist. She couldn't figure out why anyone would be offended. So there you go, an actual opinion from an actual Korean.

Austin said...

Howdy Ken. Whenever this argument comes to mind, I think back to old Jerry Lewis movies where he plays the Japanese butler with the big buck teeth and the lisping Asian accent...the level of tolerance for offending material has always been decreasing since those times...and I think the people who complain feel that they are making the world better...and it may be the case on some levels...but creativity and the freedom of expression are the casualties. The world becomes better, and yet, more bleak.

DwWashburn said...

The current Disney management has no spine. They have proved this time and time again. My apologies to the vertebraly challenged. Unless you're that way in business. Then you deserve what you get.

Johnny Walker said...

Here's another take on the matter: It's an episode of JESSIE -- who gives a two flying farts if it's pulled?!?

"No! Not JESSIE! I pray to God this doesn't ruin their chances of a third season!"

Our culture has not gotten suddenly poorer. We're not about to enter into a new Dark Age. The world has not been deprived of deep insight, meaning or genius. Hell, I'm sure there's avid JESSIE fans who care less!

In an age where we already have too much mindless entertainment, what exactly is worth standing up for here? It's JESSIE. A damp, mediocre sitcom that makes BLOSSOM look like FRASIER. The biggest crime here is that it exists in the first place. I feel if we really cared about what's happening to our culture, we'd petition to pull the entire show.

So, the bottom line is: In order to lower the chances of a kid somewhere in the world getting bullied or feeling ashamed for having gluten intolerance, they edited out a few lines.

How will we survive without timeless bon mots like, "You call me sweetie again, and you'll be eating some gluten-free knuckles"?

It's going to be tough, but I think we can make it.

Rowan said...

I agree with you, Ken. Pulling an episode because of a couple of jokes are played at the expense of a gluten-free child character sounds like it's an over-reaction. So many kid shows over the years have made fun of the nerdy kid with oversized glasses, high-water pants, high-pitched voice and braying laugh. Or kids who are Trek fans, or play Dungeons & Dragons or any number of "uncool" proclivities. I don't remember going to school and hearing kids complain that they feel upset or angry at the show.

As a writer I would be more concerned about if the characters were one-note (so he's gluten-free? What makes him interesting?), or if the jokes were hackneyed and obvious ("but it worked on "Saved By The Bell" twenty years ago - it should work today and look - no thought involved! Yay!) Snore...

Political Correctness has run amok.


B.B. Callow said...

@Johnny Walker...
Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

Should've aborted.

Loosehead said...

They'd have to ban half the episodes of The Big Bang Theory, which makes fun of Leonards "weaponised" intestinal gas caused by his lactose intolerance.

Sam Docteur said...

Peanut is a funny word. Say it slowly.

Nora said...

As someone with celiac and on a gluten-free diet for a long time, I have no problem with jokes. In fact, I try to make light of the diet myself all the time, because it is very restrictive and puts me in difficult social situations regularly. What annoys me are people who don't have a medical reason to be on the diet, but act like some sort of "gluten-free" police.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Loosehead: I was going to note that a *lot* of Lorre comedies rely on jokes about physical characteristics of the actors/characters. On TBBT, as you say, Leonard's lactose intolerance. Also: Penny's big feet and hands, Howard's small size (which wardrobe deliberately accentuates). On 2 1/2 Men: Angus T. Jones's large head as a child. Etc. I guess the actors are willing to take it.

I will say that I'm glad most comedy has passed on from making fun of the kid with allergies, always either nerd with asthma (gee, that's so funny, he can't BREATHE!), frightened kid with overprotective mom, or terribly allergic kid who's dumped on by all the "normal", romping bruiser kids. It was a terrible batch of stereotypes (whether or not you have allergies).

wg

Roger Owen Green said...

I agree that there have been lines on JESSIE arguably more offensive or provocative than that joke - my daughter's nine.
But I'll be damned if I can understand the peanut allergy thread AT ALL. My daughter has a peanut allergy. Yes, one can be exposed anywhere, such as a movie theater mid-movie, but one can't walk off a plane mid-flight. Said daughter has a peanut allergy.

thomas tucker said...

Gluten-related disease has taken over as the new fad illness. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but too many people think they have it than actually have it.

JohnQ said...

Get some sensitivity training for those execs at Disney as well as the sitcom writers. They did it to the rodeo clown, they should do it to Disney.

Loosehead said...

Read the article, then worked my way through all the comments. I started of agreeing with Ken and his rant, then moved towards Mary and her peanut-allergic child on the plane, and started to totally disagree with Ken and his rant. In fact, I was starting to think there WAS no right answer to this, and then Johnny Walker and his wisdom saved the day. It IS only Jessie, after all. Who gives a tinkers cuss.

Stephen Robinson said...

I believe there is an assumption that all attempted censorship or "political correctness" comes from the left. I think that perception comes from the fact that most of the "new" concerns about "polite speech" comes from the left. However, most of us have grown up in an age of "standards and practices" that were greatly informed by right-wing sensibilities... to the point that we take it for granted.

Everything from the seven dirty words, comments about religion, depictions of sex, interracial relationships, and so on...

I think there's an episode of WKRP that focuses on this.

The common root is people taking offense for themselves or others and believing that media should be "polite" and not excessively violent and "rude." There is prudishness on both sides. Or rather the impulse is the same, it just gets filtered through the sensibilities of whoever is in a position to impose them on others.

Stephen Robinson said...

Of course, writers and directors who edit content have probably been accused of "censorship" by people who don't get the concept of "knowing your audience" or even more important -- the reality that no one is *owed* an audience. You have to earn it and maintain it.

I don't watch GIRLS. I can't imagine I ever would or would ever enjoy it. It thus would be incredibly annoying for me to read about something offensive to me on the show and then stage a boycott so that people who *do* like it can't watch it.

However, if you decide to make fun of school shootings the week after Sandy Hook, you might lose your audience and never get it back. Your job is *knowing* the right time to make a joke. And perhaps if it's really a good joke, you can get away with poor timing... but you are performing without a net so don't blame others for censorship if you plummet to the ground.

I worked with a guy who was the type who never grew out of being the class clown. His problem was that he could never read a room or determine the right joke to use when or the right timing. He basically was a terrible comedian who thought he was brilliant (and of course, when people stared agape at him it was because they weren't clever enough to "get" him).

Mike said...

Hey Mary -

I regularly travel on planes and bring my own nuts. And there's NOTHING you can do about it. So suck THAT up. And if your child is that sensitive, then I suggest you stay off planes. And stop being so self-centered.

Hank Gillette said...

I'm offended that they removed the episode because of possible offense to people who have gluten-sensitive and not because of possible offense to people who enjoy comedy.

Anonymous said...

My mom's Korean. She hated MASH and thought it did a lot of disservice to Koreans with cultural inaccuracies, gibberish names and language, etc. She wouldn't be insulted by the theme music. Beady-eyed Alan Alda was enough.