The new Peter Rabbit movie has parents of kids with food allergies furious over a scene they find insensitive and even potentially dangerous.
In the live-action/animated comedy, farmer Tom McGregor, played by Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, is allergic to blackberries. Knowing this, the rabbits he is trying to keep out of his garden pelt him with the fruit, and one lands in his mouth. McGregor injects himself with an EpiPen to prevent a potentially deadly allergic reaction, then falls to the ground as the rabbits cheer.
“This is a huge step backwards,” said Jean Kintisch of Wayne, who runs the Facebook group Food and Environmental Allergy Support Team (F.E.A.S.T.) Food allergies are so serious they are considered a disability under federal law, she said. To have a stand-up comedian crack a joke is one thing, but a movie for children that depicts using a person’s food allergy against him is irresponsible, she said.
She would like to see Sony Pictures edit the film to delete the scene or at least run a disclaimer warning parents about it.
Criticism lit up social media last weekend as parents reacted, urging a boycott of the movie, and specifically calling out James Corden, the comedian who is the voice of Peter Rabbit.
But some people defended the movie. “The Road Runner pushed the coyote off a lot of cliffs, and I knew not to do that,” wrote a woman who said she has a food allergy.
The uproar prompted filmmakers and Sony Pictures to issue an apology.
“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,” they stated in an email to the New York Times. “We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”
It isn’t the first time Sony Pictures Animation has raised the ire of parents with its portrayals of food allergies. The Smurfs and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs both had scenes making light of the problem.
“I think a lot of people don’t really understand how serious food allergies are,” said Christopher Chang, associate director of the Allergy and Immunology Fellowship at the University of California, Davis. Formerly at Thomas Jefferson University, Chang writes about children’s health for Philly.com. “For people to make light of that reflects the lack of understanding that allergies can be deadly.”
(Excerpt) Read More in: The Inquirer