You probably remember Peter Rabbit as the lovable, impish star of wholesome childhood stories, but is he now a bully?
That’s what some parents are arguing after seeing the new Peter Rabbit film starring James Corden and directed by Will Gluck. The film, released on Friday in the U.S., grossed an estimated $25 million in its first weekend, out-earning every other film except the decidedly more grown-up Fifty Shades Darker, the final installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.
The latest update to the classic children’s story features Peter Rabbit engaged in battle with the nephew of his traditional nemesis, the farmer Mr. McGregor. This nephew, as it turns out, has a blackberry allergy, a weakness Peter and his accomplices exploit in one battle scene. The rabbits pelt the younger Mr. McGregor with the berries and one goes into his mouth, causing him to go into anaphylactic shock and administer an EpiPen to himself.
Parents and advocacy groups have taken exception to this portrayal, calling it “allergy bullying” and saying it mocks allergy sufferers. The CEO of Allergy UK told The Telegraph the scene is irresponsible as it doesn’t portray the life-threatening danger of allergies and anaphylactic shock. On Saturday, the U.S.-based Food Allergy Research & Education organization warned on its Facebook page that the scene “might be upsetting” for viewers who have allergies.
Calls to boycott the film soon took off on Twitter, with people using #BoycottPeterRabbit to air their disappointment.
But others soon began using the hashtag to criticise those encouraging a boycott for being too sensitive.
Sony Pictures and the filmmakers have issued an apology for the scene, saying they “should not have made light” of the issue.