Following backlash from the ALS community over a Lou Gehrig’s disease joke in the new hit movie “Ted,” actor Mark Wahlberg said he “had no idea” it would offend anyone, according to Good Morning America.
Wahlberg stars in the flick, which banked $54 million last weekend at the box office, and told “The Tommy Show” on 94.7 Fresh FM radio that he “didn’t know anything about it.”
ALS patients and supporters were appalled by the joke: “From one man to another, I hope you get Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
Randy Pipkin, who has suffered from the incurable disease since 2005, said he didn’t expect to sit with an audience laughing at the expense of people with ALS. “I think the message this film sends out is a huge slap in the face to people dying from this horrific disease,” he said.
While Wahlberg eventually admitted that the film did offend people “across the board,” he maintained that it “obviously” wasn’t their intention. Either way, he was just following the script, which was written by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane.
“Seth wrote the material, so you’ve got to take it up with him,” Wahlberg said.
MacFarlane finally responded to the uproar, defending the controversial line. “ALS is a horrific tragedy for those who suffer from it, and by no means do I or anyone associated with this film have anything but compassion for the individuals afflicted,” he said in a statement. “However, the joke in the film is made at the expense of our villain, Rex, and not at the expense of those suffering from the disease.”
MacFarlane made a name for himself by pushing the envelope in his cartoon series, but one of his fans—now former—who has ALS even agreed the joke crossed the line. The fan, Jeff Lester, wrote a letter to MacFarlane and Wahlberg and made it public on Facebook.
“When you wrote or said, ‘I hope you get Lou Gehrig’s disease,’ were you thinking how funny it would be for my children to hear when they have friends or classmates repeat this line?” he wrote.
The ALS Therapy Alliance also had some things to say. “We just want to stop this alarming trend before it becomes too widespread,” Traci Bisson of the Boston-based advocacy group said in a statement. “We want to make it clear that ALS, or Loud Gehrig’s disease, is not a laughing matter for people and families suffering from this life-threatening illness.”
Yet MacFarlane urges viewers to lighten up. “I lost my mother to cancer, yet there is a joke in the film which contains the word cancer,” he said. “I urge analysis of context, lest the ‘outrage industry’ get the better of us.”
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