Having a little one with a food allergy can be extremely challenging and stressful. So, it's no wonder that parents were upset when they felt the new Sony Pictures' Peter Rabbit movie struck the wrong tone on the subject.
The film, which was released last week and features live actors and computer-generated animals, features a human character named Tom McGregor who is allergic to blackberries. At one point, to keep him out of his garden, rabbits hit him with fruits and vegetables and ultimately slingshot a blackberry into his mouth. The New York Times reports that in the scene, Tom "struggles to inject himself with an EpiPen and then has anaphylaxis and collapses."
Understandably, the food allergy community has met this eyebrow-raising scene with distress, calling for a boycott of the film with the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit.
The Kids with Food Allergies Foundation took to Facebook to warn parents about the scene. The post reads, "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.... 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 oculd put an allergic person in danger."
The backlash and calls for an apology prompted the filmmakers and Sony Pictures to release the following statement yesterday, Sunday, February 11: "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. ... We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”
Nonetheless, parents and children with food allergies who want to enjoy the film will need to contend with this potentially triggering scene. As the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation points out, moms and dads would do well to talk with their children ahead of seeing the potentially disturbing scene. And with hope, this controversy will encourage food allergy awareness and an ongoing conversation around the depiction of allergic conditions. We can clearly do better.