The Peter Rabbit Movie and “Food Allergy Bullying” Controversy: A Mom’s Review

My seven-year-old is REALLY into movies right now, and I enjoy writing movie review articles, so this weekend we went to see Sony’s new film, Peter Rabbit, a modern adaption of the beloved Beatrix Potter books. Going on, I was not really concerned about their being anything in appropriate for him, and honestly as we left the theater, I still wasn’t concerned. Peter’s pranks on Mr. MacGregor in the film reminded me very much of “Home Alone,” and my son and I both laughed A LOT. I also enjoyed that by the end of the film, Peter realized he was being selfish in both trying to get rid of Mr. MacG and in his treatment of his fellow bunnies. He did a lot of behavior changing and outright apologizing, confessing, and making amends, and there were some good lessons there.

Photo: Sony

So, I was surprised this morning to read of parental outrage about the film, in what critics are calling food allergy bullying. However, as soon as I read the headlines, it hit me: yep, I knew what scene they were talking about and I could see where they were coming from.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Food Allergy Bullying Controversy

Early on in the film, Bea (the rabbit’s champion and caretaker) tries to give her new neighbor (old MacGregor’s great-nephew, Thomas MacGregor) some water with blackberries, and he tells her he is allergic. Much later in the film, after Thomas has made many attempts to hurt or kill Peter Rabbit and his friends to keep them out of his garden, Peter and his pals pelt MacGregor with a variety of foods in an epic life-or-death battle — and one of those foods is blackberries. One of the rabbits slingshots a blackberry RIGHT into Thomas’ mouth, and he immediately goes into anaphylactic shock, taking out an EpiPen to save his own life.

Honestly, at the time, it was just one more scene in a kill-or-be-killed comic battle between the rabbits and the Englishman. Let me be clear, EVERYONE was trying to harm each other. Mr. MacGregor was not an innocent. HOWEVER, I think using a food allergy as a weapon in a children’s film was a very, very, VERY bad idea, and I can see why parents are riled. Imagine being with your allergic child in the movie theater and seeing it dawn on their face that someone could use their allergy as a weapon to hurt or kill them?

Yeah, that might scar a kid for life and lead to some serious new fears. And kids with life-threatening food allergies have ENOUGH to worry about. It’s a shame that Sony added food allergy bullying to the list.

Do I think Peter Rabbit was food allergy bullying Thomas MacGregor? No. I think he was fighting for his life, not bullying, and there is a difference. Do I think that scene should have been in this movie? Also no. It was a bad choice, but hindsight is 20/20. There were plenty of other creative ways to try and beat a MacGregor, and I am pretty surprised this one made the cut. Sony, for their part, has apologized, but many are demanding that they pull the film altogether. I think that’s extreme, and but I REALLY hope this will be a great example of how the movie industry can be much more careful about what they show our kids. I am sure no harm was intentionally done, but I think it was a big mistake nonetheless.

I am not going to suggest that you don’t take your kids to this movie, but definitely think twice if you have food allergy issues, and/or be prepared to talk to your kids about that scene BEFORE AND AFTER the movie. I will definitely be talking to my seven-year-old about it. He and I both have non-life-threatening food allergies ourselves, and so I want to make sure he knows that using a food to hurt someone or even being CARELESS with a food someone is allergic to is never ok.

Did you see the movie? What do you think of the food allergy bullying controversy?


Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.

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