Sony Pictures Entertainment has issued an apology over a controversial scene in its new film "Peter Rabbit," during which a character with an allergy to blackberries is attacked with the offending foodstuff.
“Food allergies are a serious issue," wrote representatives for Sony Pictures Entertainment, reports The New York Times. "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," the statement concluded.
The new film "Peter Rabbit," based on Beatrix Potter’s children’s book of the same name, was released on Feb. 9, but soon began receiving backlash on social media over its treatment of the allergy-afflicted character.
In the film, Mr. McGregor, Peter Rabbit’s enemy, passes away and his nephew Tom comes to oversee the vegetable patch and exterminate the “vermin.”
It is Tom McGregor, the villain of the film, whom the audience — and Peter Rabbit — learns has an allergy to blackberries. In one scene, the rabbits throw blackberries at Tom, aiming for his mouth. Tom goes into anaphylactic shock and turns red before stabbing himself with an EpiPen.
A charity organization called Allergy UK has since said the scene mocks allergy sufferers, and is an irresponsible move on the part of the filmmakers.
Carla Jones, the charity’s CEO, told the Telegraph: “Anaphylaxis can and does kill. To include a scene in a children’s film that includes a serious allergic reaction and not to do it responsibly is unacceptable, as is bullying.
“Mocking allergic disease shows a complete lack of understanding of the seriousness of food allergy and trivialises the challenges faced by those who live with this condition, particularly parents who live in fear of their child suffering a life threatening reaction.”
Jones also said they “will be communicating with the production company about the film’s withdrawal.”
Others who feel the film is “grossly offensive” have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit.
“Please update your Peter Rabbit listing to warn parents of kids with food allergies about the violent food allergy bullying scene. Pure and unnecessary violence. #BoycottPeterRabbit,” one wrote on Twitter.
“Food allergies are serious- we must educate children to be aware and respectful #FoodAllergies #Bullying,” another wrote.
A Change.org petition was started to ask for Sony Pictures to apologize, called the scene “allergy bullying.” The petition also says the film “mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis.” The petition had attracted a little over 10,000 signatures as of Monday morning, around 5,000 shy of its goal.
The Food Allergy Research & Education organization also warned families on their Facebook about the allergy scene:
“PLEASE BE ADVISED:
Reviews of the movie Peter Rabbit as well as personal accounts from members of our community indicate there is a scene in the new family film released this weekend in which a character experiences a life-threatening reaction after being purposely targeted with his allergen. Feedback from members of the food allergy community on this scene, including the depiction of the character being treated with epinephrine, is mixed. We want to make you aware that viewing this scene may be upsetting to some children, and are sharing the feedback we have received so that families are able to make an informed choice before seeing this movie.”
While many have come out in support of the boycott, there have been dissenters, however, who have called the concerned parents “snowflakes.”
“Peak snowflake,” one wrote about the controversy.
“I think that being PC goes a little too far these days #PeterRabbit Peter Rabbit film criticised for depicting 'allergy bullying,’” another wrote.
Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 13 children in America are reported to have a food allergy.