While A Christmas Story Live! had a lot of wins — like including a diverse cast and pulling the racist Christmas dinner scene at the end of the film — the musical rendition of the popular holiday movie wasn’t exactly flawless. If you watched, you may have noted that there was a subtle eating disorder joke in A Christmas Story Live! that was narrated by Matthew Broderick. Eating disorders are life-threatening conditions, which is why many were offended by its inclusion in the production.
The scene in question is when the family sits down for a meatloaf dinner, and Ralphie’s brother Randy makes a mess of his food. In the film version, Randy’s mom tries to encourage him to eat by having him impersonate a pig. Pressing his face into the plate, he’s dubbed “mommy’s little piggy,” which only causes him to laugh and snort even more.
It played out a little differently in A Christmas Story Live!, however. Broderick introduced the scene by talking about how it’s sometimes difficult to get kids to eat.
According to Dance Psychology for Artistic and Performance Excellence by Jim Taylor and Elena Estanol, disordered eating is a common risk amongst dancers — especially women, and especially in ballet. “The perceived need to sculpt a certain type of body drives many dancers to eat in unhealthy ways,” they write. “For a significant number of those dancers, this change in eating behavior results in clinically diagnosable eating disorders with dangerous implications for their physical, psychological, and emotional health.”
Those watching A Christmas Story Live! on Twitter were quick to point out the “joke,” and they weren’t happy.
Not only are eating disorders fairly common, but many people fail to seek treatment. Teen Vogue reported on a study conducted by Contemporary Pediatrics, which found that only one in five teenagers sought help for their eating disorder. Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers reported that anorexia is the third most common chronic illness that adolescents suffer from.
We hope that in the future, productions like A Christmas Story Live! are more careful about how they portray eating disorders. They’re not funny — and lines like Broderick’s can be triggering.