|National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert: January 13, 2006
ABC-TV's new comedy show, Crumbs premiered Thursday, January 12, 2006. Urgent action is needed before the next episode on January 19. The first part of this alert describes the stigmatizing aspects of the show. The second part lists the names of companies that had commercial advertisements run during the show's time slot. Please send them messages before January 19 to protest their support of stigma.
Crumbs Is Crummy
First the good news.
Critics gave the premiere of ABC-TV's new comedy show Crumbs on Thursday January 12 crummy reviews. The writing and acting was so bad that some predict that the show won't last more than two or three episodes.
The bad news is that from a stigma perspective, the show was worse than NAMI anticipated. If the show remains on the air without major changes, the impact will be severe.
In the premiere, Mother Crumb (Jane Curtin) comes home from a psychiatric hospital, following a "nervous breakdown" in which she tried to run her husband down with her car, followed by a suicide attempt, after a divorce that followed the death of one of their three sons. Apparently based on the true story of the producer's family, the show is saturated with stereotypes, offensive language, and trivialization of serious issues.
- Mother Crumb is portrayed with a propensity for violence that is used as a vehicle for canned laughter.
- In addition to references of the attempt to kill her ex-husband (William Devane), she erupts in a supermarket, knocking down stacks of cans with sweeps of her arms.
- She holds Devane at gunpoint (it turns out to be cigarette lighter), while he observes, "Alright, you're obviously feeling some anger."
- Coming home, she decides to cook a chicken for her son, saying "I haven't been around knives in awhile."
- In the opening scene, Mother Crumb says about her discharge: "I could go home on Thursday, but the schizophrenics are performing Grease. There's only two of them, but they do all the parts. I couldn't miss it."
- Treatment issues become vehicles for humor in the kind of ways that ultimately discourage people from seeking help, because of stereotyped devaluation.
- One brother has an affair with his therapist. The mother has a love affair with a hospital attendant -- never mind that much of the violence against consumers occurs in hospitals through sexual assault. On Crumbs, it's shown as all in good fun.
- One brother (Fred Savage) asks the mother: "Did you go to therapy at that hospital or did you just go to Casino Night?"
- The show mocks the role medication plays in recovery, while also distorting it.
- "There's not enough lithium on the Eastern seaboard to get her through this," one brother warns.
- During an earlier moment of stress, one brother asks Mother Crumb if she wants to take one her pills -- even though she had taken them two hours before. "She's doing fine," Savage says. "That's because of the pills," she cackles.
In the closing scene, Mother Crumb, who is on medication, is shown drinking a glass of wine. It is a small detail, but one that symbolizes the confused, mixed, insensitive messages of the show -- even when one tries to give the producer every benefit of the doubt, based on his personal family experience.
- Wine with medication? Had Mrs. Crumb reached a point of self-management that one glass of wine might not be a problem in managing her condition? Was it an unconscious slip? Self-medication? What message does it send?
- Even though Crumbs may claim to be funny and sensitive at the same time, the impact -- conscious or unconscious -- is hurtful.
Send Messages Now!
NAMI already has contacted ABC-TV with its concerns about the show. Please reinforce them by sending your own messages:
Anne M. Sweeney
Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks
President, Disney-ABC Television Group
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
President, ABC Primetime Entertainment
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Audience Relations Department: email@example.com
NAMI will continue to monitor the show. Meanwhile, please immediately contact companies that ran commercials during the broadcast. Make the following points:
- On Thursday, January 12, your company ran a commercial during ABC-TV's premiere of Crumbs (9:30 PM ET), a show that stereotypes, trivializes, and makes fun of mental illness in its impact.
- Please consider withdrawing as a sponsor of the show. What are the guidelines for the kinds of shows on which you place ads?
- Does Crumbs reflect your company's perspective on mental illness? Does it reflect your policies toward people with disabilities? Do you support public education about mental illness?
Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., Chairman & CEO
Mr. Yoroku Adachi
President & CEO, Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Canon U.S.A., Inc.
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
Rod Gillum, VP, Corporate Responsibility & Diversity
P.O. Box 33170
Detroit, MI 48232-5170
Dove Consumer Services
920 Sylvan Avenue
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
Phone: 1-800/761-DOVE (3683)
John Compton, President
The Golden Grain Company (Rice A Roni)
P.O. Box 049003
Chicago IL 60604-9003
Tod J. MacKenzie, Senior VP, Corporate Communications
Pepsico (owners of Aquifina)
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
Chairman of the Board, President & CEO
Procter & Gamble (Crest Vivid White Toothpaste)
One Procter & Gamble Plaza
Cincinnati OH 45202
Clarence Otis, Jr., Chairman & CEO
Darden Restaurants, Inc. (Red Lobster)
5900 Lake Ellenor Drive
Orlando FL 32809
Phone: 407/245-4000 or 1-800/LOBSTER (562-7837)
Timothy J. Barberich
Chairman of the Board & CEO
Sepracor (Lunesta sleep medication)
84 Waterford Drive
Marlborough MA 01725
Phone: 1-800/LUNESTA (586-3782)
Toshiaki Taguchi, President & CEO, Toyota Motor North America
Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc.
19001 South Western Avenue
Torrance CA 90501
Stella March, National Coordinator
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