Sony Pictures apologizes over the insensitive food allergy joke in Peter Rabbit, which is the subject of criticism in an online petition to boycott the film.
In a joint statement, Sony Pictures and the filmmakers addressed the controversy surrounding the animated movie, which came out on Feb. 9. They expressed their regret and admitted that they should not have made light of a character's food allergy.
The character, a farmer named Mr. Thomas McGregor (voiced by Domhnall Gleeson), is allergic to berries. In the controversial scene, Peter (voiced by James Corden) and his friends are in a fiery feud with the farmer. They attack McGregor with the fruit. They even managed to land one in his mouth and McGregor had to use an EpiPen to treat his allergic reaction. The commotion was all to get the attention of Bea (voiced by Rose Byrne), an animal-loving woman who lives next door.
The filmmakers apologized for including the segment "even in a cartoonish, slapstick way." They expressed their sincere regret for "not being more aware and sensitive" to the issue.
Sony Pictures' apology came after the organization Kids With Food Allergies Foundation had slammed Peter Rabbit for the offensive scene. The organization said the scene was unnecessary. The group also pointed out the responsibility of the filmmakers not just to entertain but also educate people on the seriousness of food allergy.
"Portraying anaphylaxis as a joke can cause some people to have a cavalier attitude about food allergies which can put kids with food allergies at risk. We are asking filmmakers to work with us to raise awareness about the seriousness of food allergies, and help us promote positive attitudes and safe environments for kids with food allergies," reads the organization's post.
Kenneth Mendez, president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, also slammed Peter Rabbit for the food allergy scene. In an open letter sent to Sony Pictures, Mendez mentioned how the filmmakers made light of the seriousness of food allergies, which was "made up for attention" in the movie.
An online petition calling for people to boycott Peter Rabbit has also been making the rounds on social media. A quick search on Twitter using the hashtag "#boycottPeterRabbit shows over 40 people have joined the petition.
- The scene will make you want to vomit, @FoodAllergyBuzz. Sickened @SonyPictures thought that promoting food allergy bullying by Peter and friends would be okay in any movie, no less a children’s movie. Certainly no “humor” in the situation. #BoycottPeterRabbit — Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) February 10, 2018
@SonyPictures What a disgrace - teaching children it's okay to bully and harass others with food allergies. You obviously have no staff with children who could DIE from food allergies. #attemptedmurder #foodallergies #boycottpeterrabbit — Allison Wells (@OrangeAlli) February 10, 2018
@CommonSense 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 — Karen Costa (@karenraycosta) February 10, 2018