'Peter Rabbit' allergy shaming prompts a boycott — and an apology

Gwynne Watkins
·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

In the new film Peter Rabbit, a food allergy is used as a punchline — and some parents aren’t laughing. The family comedy features a scene in which Peter (voiced by James Corden) and his fellow computer-animated bunnies shoot blackberries into the mouth of rabbit-hating human Tom McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson). McGregor, who is allergic to blackberries, goes into anaphylactic shock and must use an EpiPen to treat his reaction. For families dealing with food allergies (which affect approximately 4.2 million children in the U.S.), the blackberry scene struck a sour note. The hashtag #BoycottPeterRabbit has been trending since the film opened this past weekend, prompting an apology from Sony Pictures.

Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, in a scene from <em>Peter Rabbit</em>. (Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP, File)
Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, in a scene from Peter Rabbit. (Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP, File)

Food allergies are a serious issue,” the studio acknowledged in a statement. “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.”

Inevitably, there’s been some backlash on social media, with Peter Rabbit objectors accused of getting riled up about a silly bunny movie.

However, the hashtag includes many more heartbreaking posts from people who have struggled to have their children’s life-threatening allergies taken seriously, and worry about the message that Peter Rabbit is sending.

In a Facebook post that has been shared more than 12,000 times, the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation urged parents to talk to their children about the scene in the film. “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,” the organization wrote. “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.”

The group, a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, has offered to sit down with the studio and filmmakers in an effort to “promote positive attitudes and safe environments for those with disabilities such as food allergies.”

Peter Rabbit opened to $25 million this weekend at the U.S. box office, behind No. 1 movie Fifty Shades Freed.

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