or pop star, actor, and budding chef Selena Gomez, her kidneys are no laughing matter. She made that abundantly clear Tuesday night, when she called out Paramount+’s The Good Fight for cracking wise about her 2017 kidney transplant in the fourth episode of its fifth season. Gomez underwent the kidney transplant due to her ongoing battle with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that she was diagnosed with in 2011.
“I am not sure how writing jokes about organ transplants for television shows has become a thing but sadly it has apparently,” Gomez’s tweet reads. “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.”
Gomez’s legion of fans took to social media to flame the show for the reference, tweeting “Respect Selena Gomez.” But per Variety, a source close to the show said that the joke is being taken out of context. “If you watch the episode in full, the reference to Selena 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 canceled for telling a bad joke,” the source said. “The reference is that Selena Gomez’s transplant is not something you can joke about.”
Indeed, the Good Fight joke that has Gomez up in arms is a meta-commentary on the star’s sensitivity around the transplant. On the show, a comedy television executive portrayed by Wayne Brady is brainstorming jokes with the team from law firm Reddick & Lockhart. The group then considers the effects of cancel culture, mulling over which jokes you can and can’t tell. Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) says nowadays, comedians “need a permission slip to tell a joke,” before the team rattles through subjects that are now off-limits in comedy. On that list? Necrophilia, autism, and “Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant.”
The Good Fight is not the first streaming show to face the ire of Selena Gomez and her fans for referencing her kidney transplant. Peacock’s Saved by the Bell similarly found itself in hot water last year when it included an extended bit in which two characters tried to determine the real identity of Gomez’s kidney donor. (Gomez had previously made a public statement that her donor was her friend, Grown-ish actor Francia Raísa). Peacock’s parent company NBC ultimately apologized for the joke, edited the scene out of the episode, and made a donation to the Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at USC.
Gomez is also not the only pop star to take a television show to task for jokes they deem unfair. This spring, Taylor Swift and her army of Swifties took on the comparatively small target of Netflix’s freshman series Ginny and Georgia for making a relatively innocuous joke about Swift’s checkered dating history. “Hey Ginny & Georgia,” the global pop star tweeted, “2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back.” Swift’s feelings may have been especially hurt as she had recently released a music doc, Miss Americana, on the same streaming platform.
While comedy is subjective, in the end it seems that the global pop icons always get the last laugh. Gomez thanked her fans on social media for coming to her defense against The Good Fight’s writers’ room. “My fans always have my back,” she tweeted. “LOVE YOU. If you are able to please sign up to be an organ donor.”