James Corden’s Peter Rabbit isn’t killing it so far with audiences — the new film version of the furry children’s book bunny has been decried as “violent” and a “narcissist.” This Peter is also allegedly a “food allergy bully”: The film came out this weekend, and groups are up in arms over its treatment of Domhnall Gleeson’s character, Tom McGregor, who suffers from a berry allergy. Allergy-awareness groups have condemned the way Peter Rabbit seems to ridicule his condition, prompting a hashtag you never thought you’d see: #BoycottPeterRabbit.
Early in the film, Peter mocks Tom’s allergy after learning about it. In a critical later scene — spoiler, probably — he and his bunny gang exploit Tom’s weakness to get into Tom’s garden, which is off-limits. They attack him with various fruits and vegetables, and Peter manages to fling a berry inside Tom’s mouth. He collapses in anaphylactic shock, and for all the viewer knows may be dead, eliciting cheers from the rabbits. (He survives thanks to an EpiPen.) The bunnies therefore win, but real-world allergy sufferers lose, supporters say.
The Kids With Food Allergies Foundation denounced the scene in a Facebook post that calls Peter Rabbit “harmful to our community,” while an Australian group, Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity, immediately began petitioning Sony Pictures to apologize, arguing that the movie “is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis,” and “encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously,” putting sufferers at greater danger.
Parents of kids with serious food allergies are also pretty enraged on social media:
For their part, the filmmakers admit that they could’ve been more thoughtful. “We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue,” director Will Gluck and the writers and producers said in a joint statement yesterday. “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.”