The BBC has agreed to consult the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in future before making reference to diabetes, after a throwaway line on the soap opera EastEnders caused offence to many in the type 1 diabetes community.
The line, which was included in Tuesday’s episode (23 February), was a joke about sugary snacks and children’s parties: “If kids don’t give themselves diabetes it’s not a good party is it?”
Many were critical of the joke on social media, and the BBC has responded by agreeing to consult the JDRF and ensure that references to diabetes are sensitive and accurate. However, the BBC also pointed out that the character who spoke the line is not intended to be taken particularly seriously – “a factetious character” in the words of the spokesperson – and is certainly not presented as an authority on diabetes. The spokesperson also defended the dramatic necessity of presenting disagreeable viewpoints on the show.
Despite this, many felt that the line spreads misinformation, particularly about type 1 diabetes, which is in no way caused by over-consumption of sugar. It was widely felt that any popular form of media has a duty to provide an accurate representation of diabetes – including distinctions between the two very different types, type 1 and type 2 – or not mention diabetes at all.
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