I’m somewhat peeved that Fifty Shades Freed was top at the box office this weekend. I have zero investment in hating that franchise except for the couple of hours I spent trying to read and mentally edit the first book. I’ve seen none of the movies, but I’ve only heard bad things about them and it kind of confirms this idea that male-dominated mediocrity is the theme of 2018. (I know a woman wrote the books, but I’m sure you can see my point.) Anyway Peter Rabbit was second despite being a family-friendly film. That fared slightly better with critics and got a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes vs. FSF’s 11%. Some people understandably hated Peter Rabbit though, like parents who aren’t yet immune to the garbage that passes as children’s entertainment along with some parents of kids with allergies. Some took offense at a scene where rabbits used Mr. McGregor’s blackberry allergy against him, necessitating the use of an epi pen. Some people even called for a boycott, saying that the scene encouraged bullying of kids with allergies.
“Peter Rabbit” powers-that-be hopped into mea culpa mode after a scene in the movie involving a serious food allergy sparked criticism and an online boycott.
In a joint statement with filmmakers, Sony Pictures said that they “sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize,” AP reported.
In the big-screen adaptation of the Beatrix Potter classic, released Friday, Peter Rabbit’s neighbor Mr. McGregor is allergic to blackberries. No matter, the rabbits hurl the forbidden fruit at the man, who’s forced to use an EpiPen. The movie, praised for its animation, has been criticized for turning bunnies into bullies.
Kids with Food Allergies, a children’s organization, posted a “heads-up alert” on Facebook for parents so they could have an “opportunity to discuss food allergy bullying and ‘jokes’ with their child before seeing the movie,” they noted. They added that the post “immediately went viral.” Twitter users started using the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit.
In addition, Kenneth Mendez, the president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, wrote an open letter stating that “it is extremely important that people with a food allergy avoid the food to which they are allergic, as contact with their allergen can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. People with a severe food allergy face challenges every day…”
“Food allergies and are a serious issue” and the film “should not have made light” of them “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way,” the movie’s creators said.
I can anticipate the comments already so let me summarize them: “lighten up,” “people get outraged about anything lately,” “it’s just a joke.” Imagine that you or your child had a life-threatening allergy and that this film aimed at kids not only mocked that, but showed it as a weakness. Imagine seeing that same kid almost die from the allergy, or imagine that you’re experiencing that feeling like you’re about to die. It’s different, right? It would be upsetting to see that in a children’s film as a kid or a parent dealing with that issue. These conversations are important and we don’t always see the other side. That said, the Peter Rabbit filmmakers learned from it and it was a teachable moment. As long as they responded well, which they did by apologizing, I don’t see the need for a boycott, just a discussion.