News Articles

Protest against Disney’s ‘Bubble Boy’ waged by parents of ailing children

HOLLYWOOD (BP)–“Bubble Boy” has touched a nerve.

The movie from The Walt Disney Company’s Touchstone Productions is being called “a travesty” by the mother of the true-to-life “boy in the bubble” who died in 1984 at the age of 12.

Carol Ann Demaret, the mother of the heroic youth, David Vetter, who waged a lifelong battle against Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), said in a news release issued by the Immune Deficiency Foundation:

“The notion of making a comedy about a life-threatening disease is, in and of itself, a travesty. It makes a mockery of humanity. It dishonors the memory of my son, David, and is an insult to every primary immune deficient patient. … There is nothing funny about living with a potentially life-threatening genetic disease, and it is irresponsible and reprehensible of Disney to have proceeded with the making of this film.”

The Immune Deficiency Foundation, a nationwide patient advocacy group, has urged Disney CEO Michael Eisner to cancel Bubble Boy’s distribution, but to no avail. The film “pops into theaters” Aug. 24, a Disney promotional website continues to declare. Disney’s corporate “newsroom” website carries no reaction from Disney officials to the criticisms of Bubble Boy.

Demaret, a member of the Immune Deficiency Foundation’s board of trustees, also stated: “Diseases and disabilities are no laughing matter. Families have come to expect quality productions from Disney Studios, movies which reflect decency, moral values and are an inspiration to our youth. Parents should think twice, however, before taking or sending kids to see this movie: not only is the content objectionable, but it has received a PG-13 rating [for] containing bad language and crude sexual humor.”

Demaret noted, “Patients and families with primary immune deficiency diseases face serious difficulties in getting accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Altogether, there are approximately 50,000 individuals diagnosed in the United States. These brave patients and their families face a number of other problems, including blood product shortages interrupting treatments with intravenous immune globulin (IGIV), a constant threat of infections, and a myriad of insurance issues surrounding costly medical therapies.”

Clark Osborn of Cottage Grove, Wis., the father of a boy with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, said in an e-mail received by Baptist Press that such diseases no longer require such rigors as David Vetter faced and “are COMPLETELY CURABLE now if caught in time, but so few parents and pediatricians know about them that children are still dying like the original ‘Bubble Boy,’ only now completely unnecessarily. Can you imagine losing a child, not because of a lack of a cure, but simply because a lack of knowledge by your doctor?”

Barbara Ballard, another parent of a child with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency who maintains a website focused on SCID concerns, also addressed the current state of medical care for children with SCID in a letter to Eisner, explaining:

“Even with the modern techniques of bone marrow transplantation, many of these children still die. Many still die because they go undiagnosed by their local pediatrician. A simple blood test, which costs less than $40 at most labs, could rule out SCID for every child. So, why is this blood test not frequently done? Because when doctors see a child with what is termed ‘failure to thrive,’ a child who has unexplained infections, they tend to blame the parents. Numerous families have been blamed, for improper care of their infants or for creating illnesses, when the doctors did not understand the real reason for those symptoms.”

Then, directly to Eisner, Ballard stated: “The fact that your ‘happy ending’ to the ‘Bubble Boy’ movie involves blaming the boy’s mother for faking his illness only propagates the belief that parents are causing their children’s illnesses.”

Osborn, meanwhile, challenged: “Being a ‘Bubble Boy’ is no more funny than having AIDS, but because nobody knows about the 50,000+ Americans affected by this and other INHERITED immune deficiencies, it’s OK for Disney to make light of it?”

Evangelical film critic Ted Baehr, meanwhile, described Disney’s Bubble Boy as “beyond offense” from a number of standpoints. The movie “is a satanic, anti-Christian, politically correct, hedonistic satire about a sick boy trapped in a plastic bubble who escapes his Christian fundamentalist, patriotic, Republican mother to hook up with his true love. Filled with obscene behavior and blatant sexual suggestiveness, Bubble Boy laughs at all things righteous and extols all things perverse,” Baehr wrote.

Disney has been the focus of a boycott begun in 1995 by the American Family Association and joined in 1997 by the Southern Baptist Convention and such groups as the Assemblies of God, Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America in protest of a decline in morality across the Disney empire, including Disney’s support for numerous pro-homosexual initiatives. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also began a Disney boycott in 1995 over its concerns about anti-Catholicism in various movies by Disney subsidiaries. The boycotts have not received extensive publicity in recent years, but have not been ended by any of the groups.

The Immune Deficiency Foundation, in a news release targeting the Bubble Boy movie, noted that Disney “mocks a life-threatening disease, inviting its target audience of teenagers to join in a feature-length joke about individuals without immunities. And, despite the disclaimer stating that any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental, there has been only one boy who ever really lived in a bubble: David Vetter, the most heroic of people with primary immune deficiency diseases (PIDS). … Living in a germ-free protected environment his entire life until his untimely death at age 12 in 1984 from complications following a promising experimental treatment, valiant young David Vetter was a far cry from the cartoonish figure Disney presents.”

Comments about the Bubble Boy movie can be addressed to Michael Eisner, Chairman/CEO, The Walt Disney Company, 500 South Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521; telephone, (818) 560-1000; fax, 818-560-1930; e-mail, http://studio.go.com/cgi-bin/gmail/generic_mail.cgi?template=contactus/contact.tpl.

Additional information about Severe Combined Immune Deficiency and other immunodeficiencies can be obtained at http://www.scid.net and http://www.primaryimmune.org. The Immune Deficiency Foundation’s toll-free number is 1-800-296-4433.