Hollywood studio's response to Ted 2 complaint a "good start"

An academic who complained to a Hollywood studio over a controversial joke in Ted 2 has said the educational programmes the network aired in response were a "good start".

Professor Simon Dyson, a sociologist from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) spoke with executives at Universal Studios about a joke made in the hit comedy, which references sickle cell anaemia - an inherited condition which causes red blood cells to develop abnormally.


In the movie, directed by Seth Macfarlane, the titular teddy bear and his human friend (played by Mark Wahlberg) visit a sperm bank and, while there, accidentally knock down a shelving unit on which are dozens of donations from men who have genes associated with sickle cell.

The resulting dialogue led to widespread criticism and Prof Dyson, who is nationally recognised for his work looking at the social implications of the condition, was approached by the UK's Sickle Cell Society to advise them in making a complaint to Universal Pictures, which produced the film.

As a result of the letter, studio bosses held a conference call with Prof Dyson and members of the Sickle Cell Society. In response to the points the group made, Universal agreed to run a series of educational segments on US news programmes across its networks.

Those aired in in September, in cities like New York, Washington DC, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In an email to Prof Dyson, Craig Robinson, Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer for NBCUniversal, said: "Thank you for your time over the past few weeks and for the medical and contact information you provided.

"We distributed the information to the local stations, and we are pleased to provide the links below to stories and shows that aired in the month of September. 

"Again, our thanks for discussing your concerns with us and for your assistance in providing education to our viewers."

WNBC - New York
WRC - Washington DC
WTVJ - Miami

Prof Dyson said he was pleased by the studio's response.


He said: "Each of the different TV stations in different US states had a slightly different focus in their coverage.

"It is good that some key messages have been put across, including that sickle cell can affect any ethnic communities and is not a "black disease". The pieces also emphasised that with good social support, people with sickle cell disease can achieve great things and that, with proper social support and medical care, people with sickle cell disease can live into their eighties.

"The coverage also notes the challenges, such as the near daily pain that may be experienced and the difficulties that adults with sickle cell disease in the USA face in getting treatment because too few haematologists in the USA take on patients with sickle cell disease.

"It's a good start, and I would commend NBC for being open to these initiatives, but we really need people to get beyond the basic medical facts about sickle cell disease and see that there are social challenges too, like how to ensure young people with sickle cell get the best education and employment opportunities and are not discriminated against by employers, or by insurance companies in terms of mortgages and travel insurance."

Prof Dyson will be giving a free public talk on sickle cell anaemia to mark Black History Month 2015, on Saturday October 17, at Highfield Library, Leicester, from 1pm.

Posted on Thursday 15th October 2015

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