Sony apologizes after new Peter Rabbit movie makes fun of food allergies

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Feb 12, 2018

One might think that a cinematic adaptation of Beatrix Potter's classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit would be free of any post-release controversy, but that is proving not to be the case. The producers and filmmakers behind the movie Peter Rabbit issued an apology yesterday, after anger erupted over a scene in which Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) uses blackberries to give Tom McGregor an allergy attack. 

As reported by The New York Times, the scene in question features the rascally Peter (and other animals) pelting McGregor (played by Star Wars alum Domhnall Gleeson) with fruits and vegetables, before loading blackberries into a slingshot and firing them into the farmer's mouth. McGregor is highly allergic to blackberries, and as such he falls to the ground, struggling to inject himself with an EpiPen.

Ms. Sam Rose, the mother of a young, allergy-prone Peter Rabbit fan, was quoted as saying, "I'm sure Beatrix Potter will be turning in her grave right about now ... allergies are often not taken seriously enough anyway. To have them trivialized on the big screen by such a popular character is immensely disappointing."

Ms. Rose said that the scene traumatized her son. And others objected via social media as well, protesting that such allergies are serious business, and are nothing to be taken lightly. In response, the following apology was offered by Sony Pictures (on the behalf of the filmmakers, director Rob Lieber and writer Will Gluck, as well): 

"Food allergies are a serious issue. Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit's archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way." 

The statement added that they "sincerely regret not being more aware" of the issues surrounding food allergies, and that they "truly apologize." 

It might seem a bit trivial at first, but Kenneth Mendez, the president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, doesn't think so. He noted to The Times that when the blackberry is shot into the farmer's mouth, "there's a close-up of his face, and it's him holding his neck like he's choking." After collapsing, the Rabbits all cheer, but Mendez makes it plain that treating the condition this way "encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously." 

Indeed, the use of an EpiPen (a needle that one jabs into one's leg when having an allergic episode), is not a pleasant act, and if a child has had to go through something like that, they'd likely not want to see it in the middle of Peter Rabbit. Some parents are still boycotting the movie because of this, but we'll see what response the apology merits. There is no talk at the moment of altering (or cutting) the scene in question. 

Has Peter Rabbit (both the movie and the character) gone too far, or is this much ado about nothing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

(via The New York Times)