Demi Lovato, a pop singer who took a leave of absence from her work with the Disney company in order to be treated for an eating disorder, is publicly criticizing her employer for making jokes in a television sitcom about eating disorders.
Lovato starred in a Disney series of movies called "Camp Rock," and played the title character on the Disney TV show "Sonny With A Chance." The show was about to be canceled when the writers came up with a new version of it called "So Random" without her character.
The joke that offended Lovato was on another Disney show called "Shake it Up." One character says, "I could just eat you up – if I ate." Lovato immediately tweeted all her Internet fans and anyone who would read it, "What are we promoting here? #notfunnyATALL."
A little later she wrote, "Dear Disney Channel, EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT SOMETHING TO JOKE ABOUT. I find it really funny how a company can lose one of their actress’ from the pressures of an EATING DISORDER and yet still make a joke about … that very disease … #nice."
Disney officials responded the same day with the message, "we hear you & are pulling both episodes as quickly as possible and re-evaluating them – It’s NEVER our intention to make light of eating disorders!" Apparently, Disney found another offensive line in a different episode and pulled both. Lovato thanked them for replying, but compounded the issue by noting "actresses are getting thinner and thinner" on Disney.
Lovato also wrote, "I have nothing against any specific actress/actor or tv show. Nor do I think there is anything wrong with girls who aren’t curvy. I was just stating a fact that there needs to be more variety in television for young girls growing up. Do not feel pressured to look one specific way. Tall, thin, curvy, short, whatever you are, you are beautiful :)."
Nineteen-year-old Lovato left for a rehabilitation center in November 2010 after she assaulted a dancer named Alex Welch. She has since made a financial settlement with Welch. She remained in treatment until January 2011, and told the editors of Seventeen Magazine that she has a lifelong disease.
"I don’t think there will be a day when I do not think about food or my body, but I am living with it, and I wish I could tell young girls to find their safe place and stay with it," she said.
Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, a professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, said that the controversy goes beyond Disney.
"The fact that they apologized to Demi Lovato for possibly making fun of eating disorders is proof that the media, parents, need to be very careful in the messages we give our girls and boys regarding body image. … by constantly portraying so-called perfect bodies in the media, it can promote unhealthy eating, diet, and food disorder practices that cause injury and sometimes death, not to mention the psychological damage that severely impacts self image and self-esteem."