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Hannah Montana Does Diabetes?

Old school TigerBeat.  Ahhh!  Luke Perry!Here I am again, stepping waaaay outside of my comfort zone and admitting that I've seen that ridiculous TV show "Hannah Montana."  My niece M (formerly "Chris's niece M," but now that he and I are married, she's my niece, too!) has made me watch Hannah Montana many times, and it makes her giggle, so I tolerate it.

Now we all know that Hanna Montana is played by Miley Cirus.  Miley Cirus used to date Nick Jonas.  (Gag - I can't believe I'm writing this, but there's a point.  Bear with me being all TigerBeat.)  Nick Jonas was diagnosed with diabetes in November 2005.  And in an episode airing on November 2nd, diabetes makes an appearance on Disney's Hannah Montana show.

I've come full circle.  Finally.  ;)

This upcoming Hannah Montana show was brought to my attention by one of the wonderful CWD parents (full disclosure:  I love the CWD parents.  They remind me of my own mom and dad, and they rock!), and she wanted to know if I could help get the word out about this upcoming episode.  I watched the bootlegged show on YouTube several times, and I can see why the parents are up in arms about this.

Parents are protectors.  That is their job, and the parents of kids with diabetes are the ultimate protectors, acting as external pancreases while maintaining a normal life for their child.  So when a show that kids are rabid for, like Hannah Montana, highlights diabetes, there's this sense of hope.   Like, "Hey, Disney is involved with Nick Jonas.  They are tuned into kids.  They won't screw this up."

But did they?

If you watch the episode, you'll see plenty of references to diabetes, some accurate and some completely eye-rolling.  Calling the character with diabetes "sugar boy"?  Pointless.  (I'm not the most PC person you'll ever meet, and if someone called me "sugar girl," I wouldn't care.  But if it were my kid receiving that moniker, I'd rip heads off.  Yet I've digressed.)

However, the thing that struck me as completely off-base was the constant theme that Oliver couldn't have any sugar.  He spends most of the episode drooling after sweets, fantasizing about cotton candy, and even diving into a trash can to retrieve a tossed out candy bar.   The other kids in the show kept talking about how they need to keep sugar away from Oliver, at all costs.  This is what made me think, "Uh oh."  I get that the show is trying to talk about diabetes in ways that kids can understand, but this theme was dangerous. 

So what if Oliver gets low at school?  And needs sugar?  Is the lesson here that diabetics can't ever have sugar?  Holy food police training video.  This message sets a dangerous precedent, one that could leave a low diabetic child being denied sugar, if all their peers have to base their knowledge on is Hannah Montana.  And yes, I know that education comes in more forms than Hannah Montana, but lots of kid watch this foolish show, and I don't want their impressionable heads filled with misinformation.

I'm not blowing the whistle on this episode, not entirely.  I'm glad that diabetes is making its way into mainstream media, and I'm also glad that the end of this show had Hannah Montana and her friends reassuring Oliver that he was still the same guy and still their friend.   That's pretty damn important.  I just want to see this positive message of acceptance accompanied by accuracy. 

Watch the video (there are three parts) and let me know what you think.  Do you feel like this episode presented factual diabetes information?  Were there parts you liked?  Didn't like?  Wanted changed?  Are you of the mindset that all exposure is good exposure?  That intentions were good with this episode?  Or do you expect more from Disney?  Are you inclined to write a letter?  Plain don't care?  Are you sick of my questions?  Who the hell is Hannah Montana, anyway? 

Phew!  I'm off to read the newest issue of TigerBeat.


Thank you Kerri. :)

I haven't watched it yet, but I'm really disappointed in it (from your summary).

I would have hoped that Disney did a better job of it, and shame on Nick for letting them cast diabetes in that light! He knows better (I think).

Haven't seen the show yet... but from your description, it sounds like the writers only know about geriatric Type 2 diabetes based on what their grandparents (didn't) tell them (didn't know, to tell them)... Oh... and their grandparents (like mine) are a decade or more in the grave...

Interesting. As an avid Hannah Montana watcher (not by choice - I have eight & six year old girls), Oliver is a main recurring character who is in every episode.

So, sounds like we need to educate Disney a bit about current type 1 diabetes management, so they can correct any future episodes.

My eight year old has type 1 and will be so shocked to see this new development on her most favorite show.

Thank you thank you thank you! From a CWD parent! When we first heard of this show, we were up in arms and many, many, many of us wrote ti Disney about our concerns - and now that it is going to air, we are are writing even more! If Disney can pull Suite Life episodes poking fun at dyslexia, why the heck are they still letting this air? I do not understand how a family based corporation can poke fun at a children with this disease?

Kerri - Thanks for the blog post about this.

I just watched the episode and I am mystified that there was an actual medical professional consulted about the medical content. If the Disney folks wanted to make a big deal out of avoiding sugar or eating healthier, then they should have made the episode be about that alone and they should have left diabetes out of the discussion. But unfortunately they (yet again) blurred the line and are continuing to perpetuate a stereotype that those living with type 1 already battle regularly.

Why bother making an episode that is so grossly inaccurate? They had the opportunity to educate their viewers about diabetes and they wasted that opportunity. I have never looked to the Disney Channel for truth in their portrayal of fictional characters, so I can't say I am overly shocked by this episode. However, it would seem that in this instance they not only failed to make an accurate representation of the situation, but they seemingly bent over backwards to portray this scenario in the most inaccurate way imaginable. Where was the glucose meter or an insulin pump? Thank goodness my daughter is old enough to explain to her peers why the folks at Disney are "total morons" (her words, not mine). But there are a lot of kids out there, young and impressionable, who don't know any better. Shame on Disney for wasting such an opportunity.

I havent seen it yet either but I'll check it out! Kacey loves Hannah Montana too and she'd be yelling at the TV if she saw it! If enough people write in then maybe they wont air it...or they will at least "correct" things before they air it. I do like the fact they are incorporating diabetes into the kids shows because it gives our kids someone to relate to...especially on a popular show like Hannah Montana....but I agree... if you're going to incorporate it then make sure the facts are right :)

BTW, I had a giggle at that Tiger Beat mag cover...it looks like the one from my generation (Jordan Knight, Luke Perry, Jason Priestly and those muscles are Marky Marks!!!... ahhhhhh a trip down Memory Lane! Hahaha!)

Wow. Miseducation at it's worst. I'm sorely disappointed.

OMG! Oliver has diabetes??? I am sooooo texting my daughter right now.

I suspect my kids will watch it, and be like, "wait a minute, that's not what diabetes is like at all.

Oh you betcha I care they got it wrong! Sugar boy?!!! Will this be the new name for kids and adults with diabetes? Do we realize how many kids are growing up with Hannah Montana? We should be outgraged and doing something about this. This episode will break some hearts and perpetuate misinformation no doubt about it.

I watched the episode and it made me burn inside. Thanks to Disney for perpetuating the stereotype that diabetics can't eat sugar. I fight this stereotype all the time with family and friends and it drives me crazy. And good point, Kerri, about if he has a low blood sugar and needs sugar, but nobody will give it to him because they think he can't have sugar!

Kerri -
I heard rumblings about this episode over the summer (when my niece Livy made me GOOGLE HM over & over again)& hadn't been able to find it on YouTube. Thanks for the link & the post.
Diabetes miss education,especially on such a popular show, will only continue to perpetuate all the Diabetes myths & miss conceptions that we have tried so hard to dispel- & deal with daily.
Livy will still try & make me watch it w/her, but maybe I can get her to switch to dLife!

I can't believe I'm watching a bootleg copy of this show. Ugh. Necessary, I guess, if I'm going to comment.

Just based on your assessment, however, it sounds like in an attempt to make diabetes understandable, they have over-simplified things to the point of being dangerous. Your point about needing sugar should not be taken lightly--children can be very literal.

Nick Jonas has no control over what Disney puts over the air. He may be diabetic and famous, but does not arrange for "diabetic" characters in the script.

Disney does this for publicity.

Nick Jonas has plenty of things to do like, have a successful career. This means he must improve as a musician, write songs, rehearse tours, and also be a student-since he is a minor.

These responsibilities constitute an extraordinary full-time job. He does not have time to "moderate" what disney does.

No one said that Nick Jonas had to moderate what Disney does. Disney sucks, and this show is further proof that they're nothing more than uneducated fools.

Go get 'em, CWD parents!!!

It's a shame they couldn't have got this right. It wouldn't have been hard.

I left a comment on the Disney.com website

jeez. When I read stories like this it makes me wonder what diseases and concerns are out there that I'M completely misinformed on from their portrayal on TV and the media.

I love how in the movies and TV diabetes in peril always need insulin immediately. People (truthfully) think diabetes=insulin, but forget the other, or "lower" side. - which is much more of a concern in the immediate.

One movie that actually DID get it right was Panic Room, where Jodie Foster's daughter had hypoglycemia and needed sugar.

Of course I am comparing a Jodie Foster movie with Disney...

I think they really dropped the ball.

And the whole "sugar boy" comments were not needed.

though I guess it is part of growing up as a kid - if you are different you'll likely get teased for that difference.

anyway, I think Disney could've put together a way more accurate and informative depiction of a young boy with diabetes.

They do mention that he can eat sugar with insulin and in moderation, which is the truth. Despite that, the emphasis is more on his NOT being able to eat sugar. I'm really interested to see how they handle it from this episode on since Oliver is a major character in the show. As time goes on, maybe they'll address more of how he can eat and lows and such. I hope so, at least! It'd be awesome to have a consistent diabetic character in the media!

my niece is going to be pretty upset. she knows how diabetes works. at that part where he says, "i've been dancing for an hour and i haven't eaten a thing" i can just see her little head turning and saying, "he's grumpy, he needs a snack, they need to let him have a snack."

it was good that they showed the importance of a support system and good friends, but there was WAY too much misinformation.

WOW. that is a huge messy risk Disney just took. Mostly because almost all the info was wrong. People with diabetes can have sugar, infact like you said what if he goes low...which he probably would have from dancing for a hour with no food...this makes it seeem like he can't have any sugar at all which is SOOO untrue....really disappointing. I appreciate the efforts of trying to get ppl educated about the disease, but try sending the correct info out before it goes on national tv.
way to be ignorant disney channel, way to go.

Well I'm going to go against the grain here.
Yeah the episode over-simplified the matter to the point of being stereotypical; however Oliver is a recurring character and I can't imagine they will just drop this story line after one episode.
I'm holding out critical judgment until it airs. I think there needs to be more characters on TV showing that you are still the same after diagnosis. You just have to work a little harder and think more about things.

My daughters are huge Jonas fans and have said that the whole Nick Jonas/Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) thing was a farce. My daughter (age 12) was very upset about comments in a teenie bopper magazine (J14, I think) that Miley supposedly said about Nick and how much sugar he eats.

Anyway, I've not taken time to watch the entire episode - I can barely stomach that silly show - it's on a lot at my house, though. I will ask J. what she thinks about that episode, as someone with Type I Diabetes.

Clearly Disney is ignorant and/or insensitive on the subject. I really believe that Hollywood stuff moves sooooo fast, to make $, that research is passed over and the ramifications of topics are not fully thought out.
I am bummed because YouTube pulled the videos you were referring to, but I saw a few little snippets of it anyway and from other comments I can somewhat figure out it doesn't come close to the truth about type 1. Hey...do you think they really DID want to bring awareness to it for November and just missed the mark?
Anyway...this is from a CWD mom...and you're right on the money..."they" can make fun of me all they want...but bring my daughter into it, and that's another story! Obviously, "they" can't wrap their heads around what it's really like for a family to receive and live with this diagnosis.

Thanks for being such a strong voice for all of us, Kerri...

Hi Kerri, unfortunately You Tube has taken that clip off their website. Shame - I didn't get to see it.

IMO, they missed the mark. I know Hannah Montana isn't Emmy Award-winning material here, and it should be taken with a grain of salt, but Disney should have done their homework.
Thumbs down.

Well, I didn't have time to watch the clip yesterday and now it's been taken down, so I can't comment specifically on that episode. What I can say, however, I that I believe misinformation is worse than no information. Unless they (including the media in general) can portray diabetes in an accurate manner, I'd rather they didn't address it.

Hi Kerri,

I was watching this show last night with my 12 year old daughter. She loves it and I tolerate new episodes and cringe every time they are repeated. Well, now I've digressed. There was a preview for this new "Oliver episode" which showed him sneaking into the nurse's office, then a cut to Hannah and friend trying to get the nurse to tell them why Oliver was a new regular in the nurse's office. I immediately thought of diabetes and wondered just how well or poorly Disney would deal with the reality of it. Thanks for the link. I'll watch it a few times and let you know what I think.

This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by The Walt Disney Company.

Makes me laugh. ;-)
Glad so many were able to see it tho and many CWD parents are and will take action.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention Kerri.

Hi. I saw this episode a few months ago. From what I understand, it was shot almost a year ago and Disney has not run it because of the way it rolls out new HM episodes and because there was some amount of controversy attached to it.

I thought the "Sugar Boy" comment was really just the same cynical/sitcom-esq. humor that usually exists in this show but it is possible (though unlikely) that the "final" version will be altered slightly.

In the meantime, Bailey is going to be HM tomorrow night -- nothing like a 6 year old acting like she's 16.


I saw a preview for this show just last night, as mentioned by a previous poster, of him sneaking into the nurse's office. I turned to my daughter who was sitting there and said "Cool, i bet he has type 1 diabetes." I guess I just assumed they would portray diabetes in its true form and it would be a great opportunity to squash stereo-typing Type 1 as the same as Type 2, help the whole awareness problem we are all so familar with. I am SO disappointed after reading these posts. It will probably only compound our problems of public perception instead. If just one kid calls my daughter 'sugar girl' at school, I'm going to come unglued! Way to let these kids down disney.

Thanks to Bernard who left the url for Disney's comment page (http://home.disney.go.com/guestservices/contact). I just left them a comment and encourage others to do the same. Here is what I said:

Dear Disney,

I am writing in regards to your upcoming Hannah Montana show, which includes a character with diabetes. This could have been an excellent time to educate the public about a very debilitating disease, but instead it will only spread misinformation. If anything, please consider cutting the "sugar boy" comment, which, as someone who has type 1 diabetes, is inaccurate if not offensive. It's not that diabetics cannot have sugar, it's that whenever we have any form of carbohydrates (including sugar), we need to give ourselves a corresponding dose of insulin. Moreover, when a diabetic has a hypoglycemic episode--which if not treated can lead to unconsciousness and seizures--it is imperative that they give some form of carbohydrate/sugar IMMEDIATELY. By perpetuating the myth that diabetics can't have sugar, a diabetic may be denied sugar by those who learned about diabetes from your show, and consequently, you may be endangering someone's life.

Please consult with an endocrinologist and Certified Diabetes Educator to correct the misinformation in the upcoming show.

Well, thanks to everyone, Disney is pulling this Episode and it won't air on Sunday. Here's the email I received:
(from one Patti McTeague - she's my new hero)

Thank you for taking the time to call and write us regarding the previewed episode of "Hannah Montana." We value Disney Channel's reputation as a trusted destination for kids and parents and we are diligent about fulfilling that responsibility.

During the script writing stage of the 'Hannah Montana' episode in question, the matter of depicting a character with diabetes was reviewed by our Standards and Practices executives who consulted with medical experts to inform the story and ensure that it was told responsibly.

Notwithstanding the care we took, and based on early feedback from parents, we have removed the episode from this Sunday's schedule and will re-evaluate it. We apologize if you or anyone in your family were offended.

We applaud you for taking an active role in your children's viewing habits and we appreciate your correspondence.


Patti McTeague

Senior Vice President


Disney Channels Worldwide


If you (and your kids) stopped watching the dreck on TV, the problem would be lessened. Enjoy the world outside the living room or read a decent book, instead of paying money to have someone rot your brain cells.


CWD parents rock!! Disney pulled the episode!!!

The wonderful parents at CWD and this site were effective in their emails and calls. Disney has taken the Sugar sugar episode down and is running PSA instead!

Okay, so I just got a response from Disney! They are removing the show from the schedule this Sunday and will "re-evaluate" it. Here's exactly what they said:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding the previewed episode of Hannah Montana." We value Disney Channel's reputation as a trusted destination for kids and parents and we are diligent about fulfilling that responsibility.

During the script writing stage of the 'Hannah Montana' episode in question, the matter of depicting a character with diabetes was reviewed by our Standards and Practices executives who consulted with medical experts to inform the story and ensure that it was told responsibly.

Notwithstanding the care we took, and based on early feedback from parents, we have removed the episode from this Sunday's schedule and will re-evaluate it. In addition, we plan to premiere a PSA in conjunction with National Diabetes Month.

We apologize if you (or anyone in your family) were offended.

We applaud you for taking an active role in your children's viewing habits and we appreciate your correspondence.

Patti McTeague
Senior Vice President
Disney Channels Worldwide

AS a CWD Parent who has written endless times for 9 months about this episode - I am amazed that it was pulled!

Thank you Disney - thank you Carey, thank you Bernard and thanks to everyone who worked so hard!

Hannah Montana are you pregnat if you are im not your fan anymore and i beat up your boyfriend write back.

As of now, Disney has only pulled the episode so that they can "reconsider" how it can be salvaged so they can air it. "Sugar Boy" huh? The whole CONCEPT of the show (not allowing diabetic boy to eat sugar at ANY cost, even after an HOUR OF DANCING -- HELLO!!!) is not only misleading but DANGEROUS. Disney is trivializing a very serious, chronic disease and the precarious daily roller coaster these children are forced to ride daily. Disney (via Hannah) is encouraging laughter at these kids' expense. Because these kids must take insulin to survive, they WILL suffer insulin reactions, a few times a week, perhaps more often. If people do not allow a diabetic child suffering an insulin reaction to eat sugar, that child will fall into unconsciousness, seize, coma and, if not treated, death. If a child suffers because another will not allow him/her to eat sugar when they need it to survive, and if it turns out that the Disney episode is the reason the child is denied sugar, Disney can be held legally liable. I would like Disney to completely pull the episode and never put it on the air. The insensitivy of these writers and executives (yes, even the star of the series who, according to the teen mags, suffers from "life threatening" hypoglycemia) is mind boggling. THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT TYPE 1 DIABETES! Since this is a children's show, and it is the children who will be most effected, I have used the term "child" when referring to those with Type 1, but unfortunately, these kids will never outgrow Type 1 and will be living with it the rest of their lives.

Hi i was going to watch the episode about oliver getting diabetes. but instead they give an episode about lilly crushing on jackson!!! I was waiting for this episode, and hey dont even show it!!!

My 8 year old daughter was excited to see this episode since my wife and I (which I happen to be an RN) explained to her what diabetes is. Lo and behold, we sat down tonight (11/2) to watch it as a family and the episode was about Lily liking Jackson and Miley was jealous. I never saw anything but the preview and was bothered by it. The school nurse would not under any cirumstances reveal personal information about any of the students even if the friend was Hannah Montana.

okay my dad and sister are type 1 diabetics and I'm upset this got pulled. I'm sorry, but I think they did the best they could under the circumstances. they had to make it so that kids as young as four could understand. they weren't misinformed. They consulted a doctor, this episode was inspired by Nick Jonas, heck Miley Cyrus herself has hypogylcemia, so yeah they're well aware a person needs sugar if they go low. they did the best they could and I hope they eventually air it.

Yeah reading your discription I'm highly disapointed in disney not only do they have nick working for them but this isn't the first time that Disney has adressed this Issue I'm only 22 and I'm still old enough to remember Dawn from disney's baby setters club who delt with diabetes.
so it's not like they didn't have a frame of refrence in one episode of the baby setters club you see Dawn struggleing it's around christmas and it's not that she "Can't have sweets" but she needs to watch how many she has Dawn in the episode ends up in the emergency room after injesting a whole plate of cookies which was way more then she should have had. it did not say in that episode that she couldn't have suger at all though. I'm sad that i don't work for disney and i remember this. they should have had someone pull the episode of baby setters club from the vault and have the writers screen it for refrance and possabily do something i've seen disney do many times. disney is known for plot recycling taking an old plot changing it to fit and using it i think they might want to do that here. its not like any of the kids watching Hannah will have ever seen the baby setters club. though I admit that at 22 we and my sister who is 21 watch the show because we enjoy it my son is 16 month old its not like he cares.

its a good clean fun show.

i was really looking forward to this episode i'm really disappointed i hope they do re-shoots and fix it I'll be disappointed if they don't do an episode on this topic at all.

My daughter has diabetes and she can have as much sugar/carbs as she wants as long as she takes insulin for it through her pump. Even in the above article, you talk about limiting her sugar and only needing it when she is low. This is false information. I get that all the time when people see her eating candy, bagels etc. It is not just sugar, it is carbs. That is where they are getting it wrong too. Now that the pump is used, Diabetics do not have to limit their carbs.

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I actually followed this story all day, instead of doing my homework shhh. Your opinion on this is great and is backed up well. I agree, and I'm shocked about Disney Channel not portraying this correctly. Thank goodness they didn't spread this.

Hey, you know, this actually just inspired my newspaper opinion article (Diabetic Stereotypes) for school (frosh in HS.) Thanks again. (>:

Wow, I haven't seen this episode but I am shocked.

I grew up with type one diabetes and had to deal with the exact stereotypes that Disney is perpetuating in this episode. I have had low spells and had people suggest that I take more insulin or tell me not to eat the sugary snack that I needed to bring my blood sugar back up.

I hope they reshoot the episode and leave the "Sugar Boy" comments and inaccuracies out of it.


So, I just watched this episode on disney. His friends were trying to keep him from eating sugar at a party. They had found out secretly that he had diabetes and they were worried that the only food at the party were sweets. At the end, when they finally tell him they know...he explains to them that he is able to eat sweets. That he'll be fine as long as he eats a good diet. They don't go on saying that you can never eat sweets. They try to help kids understand that they can live their lives in a normal matter, as long as they eat a good diet.

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