Sony Pictures has just released a new Peter Rabbit animated movie based on the classic book by Beatrix Potter. But the new film is already facing calls for a boycott by parents over a scene in which Peter and his friends hurl blackberries at a character despite knowing he is allergic to them.
The Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) charity posted a warning to parents on Facebook, which has since received thousands of shares and comments.
The group writes:
"The new movie, Peter Rabbit, has a scene that may be disturbing to young viewers who have a food allergy. A character is intentionally attacked with his allergen, leading to anaphylaxis and the use of epinephrine. Parents should be aware of this before your children see the movie so you can talk with your child(ren) about it."
"KFA believes that food allergy 'jokes' are harmful to our community. During a reaction, patients require the life-saving drug epinephrine and must go to the nearest hospital for follow-up treatment. The very real fear and anxiety that people experience during an allergic reaction (often referred to as an impending sense of doom) is a serious matter."
"Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger."
KFA also wrote a lengthy open letter to the makers of the film. "We would welcome the opportunity to educate your company and the cast of the movie about the realities of food allergy," the group said.
Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, also urged filmmakers to "examine your portrayal of bullying in your films geared toward a young audience."
The outrage seems to have prompted a response. In a statement, the studio and filmmakers said that they "sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologise".
"Food allergies are a serious issue," they continuted. "Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way. We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize"
Reactions on social media to the controversy were mixed.
I will be posting more about this tomorrow. I’m enraged. I thought the new peter rabbit movie looked stupid from the previews. Had no idea they were going to mock #foodallergies. We have to move, folks. We have to make our voices heard on this. https://t.co/P71zQb252b— Food Allergy Arsenal (@allergyarsenal) February 10, 2018
Oh good grief. Its a movie. About imaginary talking rabbits. Really?— Kate Campbell (@elektra6618) February 12, 2018
**Warning** For those who have children that live with food allergies (like mine), do NOT go see the new Peter Rabbit movie. Finding “humor” in bullying by Peter & friends to an allergy friend (who then needs an Epi) is sickening. Shame on @SonyPictures #BoycottPeterRabbit— Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) February 10, 2018
On Peter Rabbit gate: anaphylaxis kills. Kids copy what they see. Foods people are most often allergic to are easily available.l (and easily thrown!) I don’t think this is just a massive sense of humour failure but not was there any malintent on the part of the film makers.— Dr Christian Jessen (@DoctorChristian) February 12, 2018
I almost died from food allergy induced anaphylactic shock and I think the people freaking out about this are out of their minds. I’d honestly rather die of anaphylaxis than live in the hypersensitive, watered down feelings-before-fact world they want to create.— Albert (@spaycemunkey) February 12, 2018
Some even went as far as to call for a boycott.
So you think bullying a person with food allergies is OK?!? My daughter nearly died from one of her food allergies. We are proud to #boycottpeterrabbit due to the insensitivity portrayed. 1 out of every 13 kids in the US live with life threatening food allergies @SonyPictures— Quakes-JD (@JDMcCall1) February 12, 2018
I think everyone needs to let @SonyPictures know that bullying someone with a food they are deathly allergic to is not funny in any way. Real families deal with the fear of this happening to a family member every day. #shame #boycottpeterrabbit #foodallergiesarenotfunny— Quakes-JD (@JDMcCall1) February 12, 2018
Which again, received a mixed response.
#boycottpeterrabbit is the most ridiculous thing I've seen today and it's 07:17am. I understand where they're coming from but— Sophie Dolan (@TechieDolan) February 12, 2018
1) it's a film
2) the entire film is literally a man setting up inhumane traps to harm rabbits forcing them out of home
3) cartoons have done far worse
As a father I will be boycotting the Peter Rabbit film so that my children are not encouraged to bully people with allergies, or to be anthropomorphic rabbits.— Ben Pobjie (@benpobjie) February 12, 2018
What do you think of this outrage?