Sony Apologizes for Making Fun of Food Allergies in ‘Peter Rabbit’
In the new animated children’s movie Peter Rabbit, a family of rabbits and a farmer living on their land engage in a battle of supremacy, as is traditional, each using whatever tools are at their disposal to try to get the other to scram. The “violence,” such as it is, is mostly cartoonish, with the humans and animals making use of garden tools and electric fences to try to drive the other side out. But there’s one scene that’s more Itchy & Scratchy than Tom & Jerry, and many parents are upset that the movie includes it.
Tom McGregor, the rabbits’ nemesis played by Domhnall Gleeson, is allergic to blackberries, and in one scene in the film his food allergy is used against him in a pretty graphic way. One of the rabbits uses a slingshot to shoot a blackberry straight into his mouth, after which McGregor struggles to inject himself with an EpiPen, claws at his throat like he’s choking, and then collapses in anaphylactic shock as the rabbits cheer. Parents of children with severe food allergies are, understandably, upset about the scene, and Sony issued a statement of apology on Sunday:
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.
Tons of kids have food allergies, and for some of them, even the smallest thing, can be life-threatening. It’s likely that some children watching Peter Rabbit have had to use an EpiPen on themselves before and know how scary it feels, and to see it played for comedy in a movie would be extremely upsetting. One woman whose son has severe allergies told The New York Times that there should have been some kind of trigger warning, at least, so that parents of children with allergies would have been prepared to talk to their kids about it, or not take them to see it at all.