At first glance, the most objectionable thing about the new “Peter Rabbit” movie is either James Corden voicing the mischievous bunny or Rose Byrne wasting her considerable talents on this film at all.
But some viewers are upset for another reason: The live-action/CGI adaptation of the beloved children’s stories makes light of food allergies.
In one scene from the movie, which opened nationwide last week, a gang of rabbits pelts Peter’s foe, Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), with blackberries, knowing he is allergic to them. When one lands in Mr. McGregor’s mouth, the character starts choking and collapses before injecting himself with an EpiPen.
In response to the film, concerned parents and some allergy awareness groups have expressed their disappointment, calling for a boycott on Twitter and launching a Change.org petition demanding an apology from Sony Pictures. As of Monday afternoon, the petition had already accumulated more than 11,000 signatures.
“Someone I love has a food allergy. it’s not fun, it’s terrifying especially when they are children,” one social media user wrote. “@SonyPictures makes a kids movie and a character is attacked with food he is allergic to and causes anaphylaxis.”
Kenneth Mendez, the president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, also penned an open letter to the filmmakers about the very serious consequences of mocking food allergies.
“Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger,” the letter read.
The Sony Pictures filmmakers and writers associated with the project have since issued an apology.
“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,” the joint statement read.
The statement added: “We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”
Watch a trailer for “Peter Rabbit” below: