The new film Peter Rabbit, based on Beatrix Potter’s children’s book of the same name, has been receiving backlash on social media over its treatment of a character with a food allergy.
In the film, Mr. McGregor, Peter Rabbit’s enemy, passes away and his nephew Tom comes to oversee the vegetable patch and exterminate the “vermin.”
It is Tom, the villain of the film, who the audience – and Peter Rabbit – learns has an allergy to blackberries. In one scene, the rabbits throw blackberries at Tom, including one into his mouth. Tom goes into anaphylactic shock and turns red before stabbing himself with an EpiPen.
Allergy UK says the scene mocks allergy sufferers and is irresponsible.
Carla Jones, the charity’s CEO, told the Telegraph: “Anaphylaxis can and does kill. To include a scene in a children’s film that includes a serious allergic reaction and not to do it responsibly is unacceptable, as is bullying.
“Mocking allergic disease shows a complete lack of understanding of the seriousness of food allergy and trivialises the challenges faced by those who live with this condition, particularly parents who live in fear of their child suffering a life threatening reaction.”
Jones also said they “will be communicating with the production company about the film’s withdrawal.”
Some who feel the film is “grossly offensive” have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit.
“Please update your Peter Rabbit listing to warn parents of kids with food allergies about the violent food allergy bullying scene. Pure and unnecessary violence. #BoycottPeterRabbit,” one wrote on Twitter.
“Food allergies are serious- we must educate children to be aware and respectful #FoodAllergies #Bullying,” another wrote.
A petition online asking for Sony Pictures to apologize called the scene “allergy bullying” and said that it “mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis.” The petition has attracted a little over 7,000 signatures, 500 shy of its goal.
The Food Allergy Research & Education organization warned families on their Facebook about the allergy scene:
“PLEASE BE ADVISED:
Reviews of the movie Peter Rabbit as well as personal accounts from members of our community indicate there is a scene in the new family film released this weekend in which a character experiences a life-threatening reaction after being purposely targeted with his allergen. Feedback from members of the food allergy community on this scene, including the depiction of the character being treated with epinephrine, is mixed. We want to make you aware that viewing this scene may be upsetting to some children, and are sharing the feedback we have received so that families are able to make an informed choice before seeing this movie.”
While many have come out in support of the boycott, there have been dissenters, however, who have called the concerned parents “snowflakes.”
“Peak snowflake,” one wrote about the controversy.
“I think that being PC goes a little too far these days #PeterRabbit Peter Rabbit film criticised for depicting ‘allergy bullying,’” another wrote.
Nearly 1 in 13 children in America have a food allergy.