Peter Rabbit is in hot water with parents because in the film, animated animals weaponize the villain’s blackberry allergy. Peter (voiced by James Corden) attempts to fell his enemy, Mr. McGregor (Domnhall Gleeson), by shooting a blackberry into his mouth so the furry creatures might pluck some vegetables from his garden. McGregor is allergic to blackberries, though, and he goes into anaphylaxis. While the film plays it off as a funny, innocuous prank, many parents are not amused. Some of them are calling out the filmmakers on social media, while the president and CEO of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has written an open letter, noting that jokes that use food allergies as a punchline can put people in real danger.
While this might sound another case of overzealous helicopter parents, (“Think of the children!”), it’s no laughing matter—and it’s not something that most parents would relish seeing in a movie that they paid $15 a head for to kill a Saturday afternoon. Lots of children are too young to understand the potential consequences of eating an allergen and too many kids are bullied for having allergies.
Sony Pictures and the filmmakers behind Peter Rabbit issued a statement to EW: “Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way. We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”
Peter Rabbit isn’t the first kids’ film to use a food allergy as a gag (looking at you, The Smurfs), but after the backlash, it might be among the last.