Outrage over allergy bullying scene in new Peter Rabbit movie

Outrage over allergy bullying scene in new Peter Rabbit movie
Photo: Igorovsyannykov, Pixabay

An allergy awareness group in Australia has called for an apology from Sony Pictures for a scene in its new Peter Rabbit film that involves bullying of a character for their food allergies. The scene was described as “blatant food allergy bullying” by the group.

Peter Rabbit was recently released to theatres in the US and includes a scene where the main characters use the antagonist’s allergy to blackberries against them. In the scene, a berry makes contact with Sam Neill’s character, Mr McGregor, who then attempts to use an EpiPen before falling to the ground in anaphylaxis.

The Australian Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity group has created a petition demanding that Sony Pictures officially apologise for a scene they believe is socially irresponsible. The petition states that the scene trivialises the plight of those suffering with food allergies, many of who have died from the type of anaphylactic shock depicted in the film.

The petition asserts that the inclusion of the scene in the movie “condones such victimising and dangerous behaviour” in the eyes of children seeing the movie. It goes on to say that the scene is “grossly offensive” and a hashtag #boycottpeterrabit has sprung up on social media channels.

The awareness group has encouraged parents to discuss the controversial scene with children who see the movie. The group’s founder, Dr Pooja Newman, stated that they believed the scene was “disturbing” to both allergen sufferers and parents in general.

Dr Newman went on to say that it was a “serious problem in our community” that there was a “lack of understanding” that allergies can be “instantaneously life threatening”.  They went on to say that Peter Rabbit was implying that food allergies do not need to be taken very seriously and that exploiting them is an acceptable prank.

In the face of the backlash both in the US and abroad, Sony Pictures along with the filmmakers have issues an apology. It says that the scene dealt with a “serious issue” and that the film shouldn’t have “made light” of anaphylactic reactions.

The apology stated that the scene, even when depicted in a “cartoonish” manner, was not appropriate. It goes on to say that Sony Pictures regrets “not being more aware and sensitive to this issue”.

As with most issues like this one, there has been fierce debate by online commentators. While many have supported the petition, other shave expressed they feel it is an overreaction.

It has yet to be seen if the threats to boycott the film will hurt it’s box office performance.