The new James Corden and Rose Byrne kids film, Peter Rabbit has come under criticism for a scene that appears to make light of food allergies
Parents are up in arms after new film Peter Rabbit, based on the Beatrix Potter books, has featured an allergic character being pelted with his allergy. The film portrays Peter as a troublemaker who takes delight in winding up highly-strung farmer Tom McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson. Domhnall's character is anally retentive and slowly loses his grip on reality as the gang of farm animals play tricks on him, and in one scene the animals take things a step too far for some parents. McGregor is allergic to blackberries, which Peter knows, and Peter forces him to eat one causing the farmer to go into anaphylactic shock. The character is seen struggling for breath and grabbing his EpiPen before administering the life saving shot.
Concerned parents have taken to the internet to share their worries about the type of example the film might set for children. Some children have allergies that are so extreme, being in the same room as the allergen can cause death. These children often struggle to be taken seriously in school by teachers and their classmates, and parents are worried that seeing a severe allergy being used as a joke could make this situation even worse. The Kids With Food Allergies Foundation posted to Facebook to let their supporters know about the issue, and included a link to a letter they had written to Sony, explaining:
"FA 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"
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
Thousands of parents shared the message and posted their own similar feelings on Twitter but many thought the public reaction was dramatic, and pointed out that their own children with allergies were not concerned by the film's portrayal. Regardless, Sony have issued an apology for not taking allergies seriously. In a statement on Sunday night, Sony Pictures said: "Food allergies are a serious issue. Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit's arch nemesis, 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 apologise."