There's nothing funny about anaphylactic shock, even when it's caused by a cute little bunny, according to a group of concerned parents and allergy activists.
In “Peter Rabbit,” the new Sony Pictures movie based on the children’s book, a family of bunnies fight for access to the infamous Tom McGregor’s backyard. In one scene, Peter Rabbit attacks McGregor where he’s weakest — his allergy to blackberries.
After Peter flings a blackberry into McGregor’s mouth, McGregor suffers from anaphylaxis and is forced to use an adrenaline injector.
That scene from the surprisingly contentious movie released on Friday has now prompted some parents and allergy awareness organizations to boycott the children’s film and petition for an apology from Sony Pictures. Globalaai, an Australian not-for-profit charity for allergy awareness, calls it a “socially irresponsible depiction in a movie aimed at children.”
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The classic children’s book “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” on which the movie is based does not include this scene.
Immediately after the movie’s release, the group Kids With Food Allergies, a subdivision of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, heard complaints about the scene from parents who condemned the use of allergies as a punchline.
The group took to Facebook to warn parents of a scene they say makes fun of the life-threatening condition, and AAFA president and CEO Kenneth Mendez sent an open letter on Saturday to Sony Pictures Entertainment and Animal Logic, the independent digital studio that partnered on the film.
“We encourage you to examine your portrayal of bullying in your films geared toward a young audience,” Mendez writes. “We strongly urge you to refrain from the type of programming that mocks food allergies in the future.”
He continued, "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."
Sony Pictures and the “Peter Rabbit” filmmakers apologized in a joint statement 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,” the statement reads. “We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”
But Mendez noted that this wasn’t the first time Sony Pictures Animation had used food allergies as a punchline in the plot of a kids’ movie.
"Sony has misrepresented food allergies in 'The Smurfs' and 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' as well," he said.