Aardman's 'The Pirates!' Faces Criticism from Leprosy Mobs

January 24, 2012


Aardman Animation's The Pirates! Band of Misfits (known as The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists in the scientist-tolerant UK) didn't manage to pull off an animated feature nomination this morning, and now more bad news for the film: it's drawing heat from leper populations. Leprosy groups (note: leprosy still exists in the 21st century, so much so that there are leprosy groups; who knew?) Lepra Health In Action and The International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations have come forward to object to the depiction of leprosy in the film's latest trailer. In the scene in question, a ship crewman claims that he has no gold, what with him being aboard "a leper boat." And then his arm falls off, because of all the leprosy. Leprosy spokespeople fear such a depiction "could increase stigma and discrimination for disease sufferers"--which, honestly, maybe it could, because until a few minutes ago, all the childhood leper jokes I'd heard had led me to believe maybe their limbs really did fall off (they don't, it turns out, but I would caution against verifying this on Wikipedia).

Aardman has been quick and apologetic in their response, and has already issued a statement promising to remove the scene, saying:

"After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy. The last thing anyone intended was to offend anyone and it is clear to us that the right way to proceed is to honor the efforts made by organizations like ILEP to educate the public about this disease."

The lesson here? It's still not cool to make leprosy jokes. And yes, that includes relating a comment about Aardman being in "hot water" to the old joke about what you get when you put a leper in a hot bath. No one say that it's "stew."

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