In the fourth episode of the Paramount+ show’s fifth season, a comedy television executive (Wayne Brady) asks Liz (Audra McDonald) to put together a sensitivity read for one of his comedians. The scene continues on with characters Marissa (Sarah Steele), Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) and Jim (Ifadansi Rashad), as the group contemplates the effects of cancel culture on comedy.
Jay asks what topics are off-limits, as the group supplies answers including necrophilia, autism and “Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant.”
Following backlash over the episode that included fans tweeting “Respect Selena Gomez,” Gomez took to social media herself to discuss the scene. “I am not sure how writing jokes about organ transplants for television shows has become a thing but sadly it has apparently,” Gomez wrote on Twitter and Instagram on Tuesday. “I hope in the next writer’s room when one of these tasteless jokes are presented it’s called out immediately and doesn’t make it on air.”
The Rare Beauty founder thanked her supporters for coming to her defense.
“My fans always have my back. LOVE YOU,” she added, along with dropping a link to sign up to be an organ donor.
I am not sure how writing jokes about organ transplants for television shows has become a thing but sadly it has apparently. I hope in the next writer’s room when one of these tasteless jokes are presented it’s called out immediately and doesn’t make it on air.
— Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) August 3, 2021
A source close to the show tells THR, “If you watch the episode in full, the reference to Gomez is part of a discussion the characters are having about topics that are not okay to make fun of and the idea of cancel culture and being cancelled for telling a bad joke. The reference is that her transplant is not something you can joke about.”
The controversy comes not long after Peacock’s Saved by the Bell reboot was criticized for the same offense late last year. In response, Peacock apologized for making light of Gomez’s health struggles, in addition to making a donation The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at USC.
In 2017, Gomez underwent a kidney transplant as a result of her ongoing battle with lupus, an autoimmune disorder that she was diagnosed with in 2011.