Why This Peter Rabbit Bullying Scene Is So Controversial to Parents and Allergists
It's hard to imagine how anyone could object to the new Peter Rabbit movie. But parents and advocacy groups are voicing major disapproval of one scene in the film, which shows the antagonist, Mr. McGregor, going into anaphylactic shock after being belted with blackberries, a food he's allergic to.
Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening reaction to an allergy, and in the scene, Mr. McGregor has to use an EpiPen to counteract it.
“The new movie, Peter Rabbit, has a scene that may be disturbing to young viewers who have a food allergy,” The Kids With Food Allergies Foundation shared on its Facebook page on Friday. “A character is intentionally attacked with his allergen, leading to anaphylaxis and the use of epinephrine. Parents should be aware of this before your children see the movie so you can talk with your child(ren) about it.”
The outrage was partly fueled by the bullying behavior in the scene, which could give young viewers the impression that it's okay to tease someone about their allergy. But it also stems from the fact that having a food allergy is a serious health issue.
A person who lives with one really could have their health jeopardized if they come into contact with the allergen in any way, says Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist/immunologist with the nonprofit Allergy & Asthma Network.
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“Food allergies can cause hospitalization and death,” Parikh tells Health. “Allergy scenes should be used to raise awareness of the severity and make people understand how serious and dangerous they are. When they are used to downplay allergies or encourage bullying, it is irresponsible and dangerous for patients and families of those who suffer from allergies.”
Globalaai, an Australian nonprofit that raises awareness about life-threatening allergies and advocates for the safety of people who have them, was so outraged by the scene, the group created a petition that now has more than 10,000 signatures.
“This mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis,” the organization stated in the petition. “To spread a message that condones such victimizing and dangerous behavior among children is grossly offensive to worldwide viewers especially those who live with severe allergic disease.”
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On Sunday, Sony Pictures issued an apology. “Food allergies are a serious issue," the statement read. "Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way.”