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‘Shrek’ and ‘Aladdin’ Writer Uses Racism to Promote Anti-Vaxxer Message

This is bizarre. Here's what happened.


The man who wrote the screenplays for beloved Disney movies like Aladdin, Shrekand all five of the Pirates of the Caribbean films is spreading the spurious claim that vaccines routinely harm children. But, more urgently, that man —Terry Rossio — thinks to call anyone “anti-vax” is on par with a racial epithet. So, if your children were to ask you about the man who wrote Aladdin’s personal views on vaccinations, things would get tricky really fast. Here’s what happened.

Like all embarrassing controversies of contemporary times, this all happened on Twitter. One screenwriter, Julie Benson, innocuously tweeted about her support for UNICEF charities that help Polio vaccines. Unprompted, Rossio responded that “My heart goes out to all the parents of vaccine damaged children, who have to not only endure the sadness of their loss, but also the vitriol of ill-informed and insensitive people (such as those here). Anti-Vax is equivalent to calling someone a n****r and makes as little sense.” On Twitter, the epithet was spelled out in its entirety.

The debate seems to be both about the scientific understanding of vaccines and the relative definitions of words. On the second subject, weighed-in on Twitter saying: “The n-word is so profoundly offensive that a euphemism has developed for those occasions when the word itself must be discussed. The same cannot be said for the term ‘anti-vax.'”

As far as the research goes, data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention point out that millions of children were dying of measles each year before the vaccine was introduced. This is the crucial detail that gets lost in the debate: measles (just one affliction prevented by vaccines) is not a minor health concern for children, it is a major one. Also, Rossio’s main sticking point — that there is a link between vaccinations and autism — has never been proven by any legitimate scientific study. In short, there is no provable link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and  the consensus of the scientific community is that vaccines are safe and effective

We may admire the imagination of Terry Rossio, but in the real world using an ugly racial slur is not the same as calling someone an anti-vaxxer, and the self-serving magic wishes of Aladdin are no match for good science on your side.

The screenplay for the 2019 live-action retelling of Disney’s Aladdin will be co-written by Guy Richie and John August, though it will re-use elements from the 1992 screenplay co-written by Rossio. It’s unclear if Aladdin will wish for clear and unbiased scientific reporting in this reboot, but if he did, he’d still have two wishes left to ask for gold or flying carpets.

As of this writing, Terry Rossio has apologized for using the “n-word,” and removed his initial Tweet.