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Sony Apologizes for Weaponizing a Food Allergy in Peter Rabbit, Because We Live in Stupid Times

Is a slingshotted blackberry really worse than constant attempted murder?

C'mon, man. ||| GlobalAAIGlobalAAIWell, that was fast.

On Friday, the live-action/CGI animal comedy Peter Rabbit hit the theaters, finishing second at the weekend box office with a better-than-expected $25 million. By Saturday, the movie was besieged with letterheaded outrage and a #boycottpeterrabbit tweets over a scene in which title character and his siblings, in the midst of a protracted struggle against their new neighbor Mr. McGregor, successfully slingshot a blackberry into the man's mouth, knowing that he has a severe allergy to the fruit. By Sunday, the filmmakers and Sony Pictures had issued a mea culpa: "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. We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize."

Before everyone moves on to the next hashtag nontroversy, it's worth taking a step back and observing just how bonkers this (successful!) complaint was, and what it says about the growing consumer demand to be shielded from artistic expression that carries even the faintest whiff of danger for an identifiable outgroup.

According to a Change.org petition from the Australian allergy-awareness group GlobalAAI, the movie is guilty of depicting "blatant food allergy bullying putting an innocent allergic individual at risk." I don't know if I'd call McGregor precisely innocent, but: "To spread a message that condones such victimising and dangerous behaviour amongst children is grossly offensive to worldwide viewers especially those who live with severe allergic disease." OK.

For starters—SPOILER ALERT, though about half of the movie had already been revealed in literally every movie trailer I've seen in theaters over the past 12 months—Peter Rabbit and McGregor spend the better part of the movie actively trying to murder one another. This involves tit-for-tat attacks with heavy iron traps, low-level explosives, and electrical shocks so severe they blast bodies backwards by more than 10 feet (the most reliable gag in the film). Peter brags hyperbolically about murdering McGregor's uncle (in fact, the man has a fatal heart attack while trying to kill the rabbit, just like he killed—and ate—Peter's father); laughs heartily at his compadres hurtling his injured foe in a wheelbarrow down a staircase, and expresses satisfaction when one attack leaves McGregor lifeless and presumably dead. This is all in addition to the constant and mostly unprovoked trespassing, theft, and pillage.

Be very afraid ||| SonySonyEven if you believe that the allergen-deployment is the most likely tactic in this movie-long war to be aped by gullible children (moreso than, you know, constantly breaking into and stealing from a cranky man's garden, which is kind of the entire point of the source material, and a go-to activity in kiddie lit from Tom Sawyer to The Fellowship of the Ring)...or you at least worry that the potential harm from even rare acts of mimicry is greater than, say, what would happen if kids tried to distract a driver by launching a surprise attack from the back of his moving pickup (as also happened in the film), here are a few reasons to swallow your panic.

1) Slingshotting forbidden fruit into a non-cooperative mouth is an awfully ineffective poison-delivery method. As my eldest daughter noted when I asked her about the scene (on which more below), the chances for success seemed unrealistically far-fetched. 2) Severe allergic reactions to blackberries are almost vanishingly rare. I found one awful story of a 9-year-old girl dying on first contact last year, but that thankfully was just about it. 3) For the less literal minded, the general notion of using allergies to induce anaphylactic seizures among disfavored classmates does not come off as an attractive option in the movie. Why?

Because Peter was clearly going way too far. (Not long after, he destroys his own home with dynamite, inadvertently wrecking the property of the woman he was ostensibly fighting for.) The last act of the movie is all about Peter realizing that he had Gone Too Far, and so now it was time to Make Things Right. Watching McGregor's seizure and desperate jabbing of the EpiPen antidote comes off much more as cautionary tale than mischievous aspiration. The moral of the story isn't murder-thy-neighbor, it's check yourself before you wreck yourself (and others).

I can hear some of you saying: But Matt, if only you knew what it's like to have a kid with a frightful allergy! Ah, but I do—my aforementioned daughter has seen way too many emergency rooms and urgent clinics based on taking just one or two wayward bites. It sucks, the eternal vigilance can be a drag…and we both liked the movie just fine. I'm not worried in the slightest that even the most malevolent boy at her school will slip her an unsound ravioli, and in any case she knows not to put unvetted food items in her mouth.

Peter Rabbit is far from a great movie, but the best thing about it is arguably the fairly open streak of malevolence, a la the super-violence of old Tom and Jerry or Road Runner cartoons, only with more jokes and references aimed at the parents. It could well be that, as in the re-make of The Bad News Bears, even a winking rendition of such underlying nastiness no longer plays the same, in part because we've all gotten a bit nicer over the years.

That's the positive interpretation. The negative one is that fretful parents have helped midwife what Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have coined as the "fragile generation," who start by receiving elaborate over-protection from potential physical harm and end up becoming pre-emptive enforcers against speech they might find personally upsetting.

It's just a movie, yes, and a popular one at that, and this minor private-sector spat might be that rare win-win where nobody really suffers and the broader community of humans becomes marginally more conscious about the ingredients they put in their kids' birthday brownies. But I'd prefer not to live in a world where the majority of culture products have been scrubbed clean of Problematics and the remaining sliver consists mostly of transgressive reaction against the prevailing if ever-changing rules about what can be said about whom. Keep art weird, man.

Photo Credit: Sony

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  • eyeroller||

    I guess you admit it yourself -- there's no problem here.

    Sure it's silly. News flash, 98% of the things people do are silly.

    When they start asking the government to get involved, then there's a problem.

  • spec24||

    Your missing it, pal. The government IS involved. That's the reason these shitheads have the power to make Sony apologize. It is the constant fear of lawsuits that keep these companies walking on eggshells and catering to these know-nothing busy-bodies. Heaven forbid some kid in the pool of millions that will see this movie has some run-in with food allergies! Next thing you know the parents are blaming the movie, a lawyer gets involved, the worthless legal system we have decides to hear the case, and Sony is out millions. That is the very reason we have most of the stupid shit we have and WHY 98% of the things people do is silly. When you outsource common sense you wind up with a population that acts silly 98% of the time.

  • Galane||

    In a world where there are judges and juries stupid enough to side with the World Wildlife Fund over the World Wrestling Federation over the rights to use the letters WWF because the "confusion" somehow "forced" the World Wildlife Fund to have to use their organization's full name and panda bear logo.

    No, it's trademark law that makes them have to use their full name and their logo. Any judge, anywhere, should have instantly thrown the case out. But the WWF won and the WWF had to change their name to World Wrestling Entertainment aka WWE.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Which McMahon was actually happy about, because it opened the door to him promoting "sports entertainment" instead of wrestling and ushered in the product as we know it today (for better or worse).

  • wuracituj||

    I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

    This is what I do... www.onlinecareer10.com

  • spec24||

    Your missing it, pal. The government IS involved. That's the reason these shitheads have the power to make Sony apologize. It is the constant fear of lawsuits that keep these companies walking on eggshells and catering to these know-nothing busy-bodies. Heaven forbid some kid in the pool of millions that will see this movie has some run-in with food allergies! Next thing you know the parents are blaming the movie, a lawyer gets involved, the worthless legal system we have decides to hear the case, and Sony is out millions. That is the very reason we have most of the stupid shit we have and WHY 98% of the things people do is silly. When you outsource common sense you wind up with a population that acts silly 98% of the time.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Meh. Come on, Matt. What did you expect Sony to say. This shuts the whiners up and does not alienate any customers. Case closed.

  • Mickey Rat||

    How did we get from a culture that loved "KILL DA WABBIT!" to...this flaccidity.

  • NaiveLubertarian||

    Skinny jeans. It all started with skinny jeans.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Because the situations were funny and Elmer Fudd's shotgun always ended up looking like a badly-tied Xmas present. Face it: the real problem is that this is a cartoon, yet apparently has no real sense of humor, and still yet expects everyone to react to the content as though there's actually a laugh hiding in there struggling to get out.

  • Cy||

    I can just picture Paul Revere riding by yelling "The Snowflakes are coming! THE SNOWFLAKES ARE COMING!"

  • ||

    Three if by ethernet.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Need a little Beastie Boys.

  • Jerryskids||

    The negative one is that fretful parents have helped midwife what Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have coined as the "fragile generation," who start by receiving elaborate over-protection from potential physical harm and end up becoming pre-emptive enforcers against speech they might find personally upsetting.

    Nobody finds this kind of speech personally upsetting, they're just spoiled brats throwing a temper tantrum because they've learned that throwing a temper tantrum works to get them what they want. What they really need is a smack upside the head and a sharp "No!".

  • Alcibiades||

    We gotta see this movie.

    Those classic MGM cartoons of more sensible days gone by, Loony Tunes, YES "LOONY TUNES" pc fascists, are pure genius, superb animation, great visual gags, brilliant scores (thanks Carl Stalling! got the CD), voices by the one and only Mel Blanc and that awesome graphic cartoon violence are required viewing here; You'll watch those Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons and like it!" Luckily they do and ask for more...

  • Rhywun||

    What's Merrie Melodies, chopped liver?

  • Alcibiades||

  • Red Tony||

    Early Merrie Melodies SUCK. They only got good when Avery arrived and started making them funny; prior to that they were ripping off Disney poorly. If you don't believe me, watch something like "Smile, Darn Ya Smile." Basically everything Warner did pre-1935 is boring and flat.

  • Longtobefree||

    Sony should have replied
    "It' a movie! Not real life. Violence sells. Teach your own kids any damn thing you like, but leave our customers alone!
    Start you boycott; see how it plays out. We do not apologize for making entertaining films that you can go see, or not, as you please. Just let everyone else have the same freedom. May the ghost of Wylie Coyote haunt you forever."
    It is time for corporations to grow a pair and tell busybodies that they are busybodies, and point the finger of guilt at them long and loud.
    (Disclosure; I have not had my meds yet, so I may be dreaming)

  • Rhywun||

    Seriously. The bowing and scraping is so unseemly.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    It's Wile E Coyote, Super Genius.

  • Longtobefree||

    We are close friends, I do not use his full name - - - - - - -

  • EscherEnigma||

    And if they thought they would make more money pandering to you by yelling at concerned parents, then by pandering to concerned parents, they would.

    Free market, dude. Until your "don't pander to concerned parents" group is large enough, and willing to boycott, they won't pander to *you*.

  • spec24||

    They shouldn't have replied at all.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Sony needn't apologize for making entertaining films. Problem is, they don't make many entertaining films. This certainly doesn't seem to be one. Admittedly, though, "Big Fish" remains one of my favorites. Something about monkeys and typewriters I guess.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Thank you for the spoiler warning, Matthew.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I'd rent it from Netflix if I knew Sony wouldn't edit out the offending scene. But if they think it necessary to apologize for it in spite of a boffo opening weekend, I have no faith in it remaining.

    But maybe I'll make a t-shirt with "Han shot first!" on the front and "Peter weaponized allergies!" on the back.

  • MikeyParks||

    I think it was ingenious and funny. Such an abstract way to attack one's enemy! I'm sure the snowflakes would have a ball "redacting" all cartoons prior to 1970.

  • Sevo||

    Acme Anvils would be bankrupt!

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    They will be redacted to the point of not making sense. Think about the Family Channel version of Blazing Saddles

  • plusafdotcom||

    Yep, that would be a short movie... opening scene followed by The End and end titles... could even leave off the lists of stars, gaffers, drivers and whatevers, since none of them would, at that point, be relevant.

  • Tionico||

    Shoulda had two shots... the first one misses his open piehole, but does splat real big on his schnozz. Then, as he opens his maw real wide in surprise, the second one scores.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Sony should be apologizing for making trash in general ("keep art weird"? You call this art with a straight face?)

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Slip her an unsound ravioli. Was that a Bill Cosby move?

  • Muzzled Woodchipper||

    Sony movies are a cesspool of PC nonsense.

    Their crusade to bend over backwards for leftist ideology about ruined Spiderman: Homecoming.

  • Naje||

    Oh, come on! It's a freaking movie! And not even a documentary! I guess it won't be the meek who inherit the Earth, it'll be the thin glass fragile wusses!

    Please bring back Common Sense, Please!

  • Tony||

    I don't think the problem is so much overprotection but parents one-upping each other on their children's maladies and making sure we all pay appropriate attention to them. When I ask a coworker if her daughter (now son) will ever grow out of her/his peanut allergy, she is almost offended by the suggestion. What would she have to boast about then? As if the trans thing isn't enough.

  • losmazeman||

    I think you're onto something.

  • Tionico||

    I was thinking of a different allergy with a name that sounds almost exactly the same, except it ends with the letter "s". Watching her go apopleptic after digesting that might have been noteworthy.
    Sorry for that one, but I'm fresh out of blackberries....... nothing else to sling.

  • Paper Wasp||

    This is how people get attention nowadays instead of through achievement. It's the point of modern public schooling, to have people learn to identify themselves not through what they can do or bring, but by whatever it is that makes them a victim. It's designed to create dependency on government, and perpetual demands of others to have their own needs met.

  • MarkLastname||

    Vicarious Munchausen's syndrome is big these days.

  • Robert_Huggins||

    I hate PC sensitivity as much as everyone else, mainly because I think it inhibits discourse. I don't see how this falls into that category though. I can see where ppl are coming from here. Kids watching this think it's fun or cool to exploit another person's allergy. next thing you know, kid throws peanuts at another kid in class with allergy (for those of you who think that wouldn't happen, I encourage you to spend more time with young children). Violence is in kids movies all the time, but there is also a general knowledge that violence is bad; whereas the exploitation of allergies is never discussed with children (at least in my experience).

    We have to use our heads. Complaining about everything the snowflakes complain about eventually makes you a snowflake yourself. Just because something is criticized by a group of people doesn't mean it's automatically ridiculous

  • Tony||

    They can teach their children not to murder people with peanuts at the same time they're teaching them not to murder them with guns.

  • Ron||

    better not let your kids watch the three stooges far more violently suggestive than any cartoon. also don't watch the power rangers or just don't turn the TV on, but then don't replace it with any of the original writings of fairy tails or even the bible, heck just lock your kids in room with no view and never let them out

  • Paper Wasp||

    In 1993, a 13-year-old snowflake with Tourette's, Joshua Smith, sued Fox/The Simpson's over the episode "Marge Gets a Job," in which Bart's been faking Tourette's to get out of taking a test. He demanded that they "not repeat the episode and have Bart Simpson befriend somebody with Tourette's on the show," and make Bart apologize.

    Today, Joshua Smith would be 37-38 years old. He's out there in the workforce someplace, whining to HR every time someone so much as smirks at him, claiming he's been "triggered" by a coworker denying him something in an email. He's either out there making a bunch of working people miserable, or he's a professional parasite, collecting disability and sitting on his lard-marbled ass playing video games all day in his roach-motel of a Section 8 studio apartment. Regardless of where he is today, he's a useless column of shit with legs.

    I wish parents would fucking get this through their skulls. You're not raising pets. You're raising people who are supposed to join the workforce and be independent, productive, contributing, active members of society. Nobody has to give a crap about your allergies, your feelings, your inability to cope with normal stimuli, your refusal to develop a thicker skin and a sense of humor. The sooner you teach kids that nobody but their immediate loved ones care, and nobody else is required to care, the more hardy, resilient, and successful kids can become.

  • Mark22||

    In the midst of a protracted struggle against their new neighbor Mr. McGregor, successfully slingshot a blackberry into the man's mouth, knowing that he has a severe allergy to the fruit.

    Yeah, modern children's tales are so violent, nothing like the good old days of the Brothers Grimm and their fellow writers. In thsoe tales, kids would burn old women in ovens and stuff their teacher's pipe with gunpowder; and as punishment, the kids would get ground up and fed to the chicken. Ah, those were kinder, gentler times.

  • MikeP2||

    hmm. In a free market, consumers complain about products and producers of those products respond to better meet the needs of their intended market. Isn't that how we should want it to work.
    So really, you're just whining because you think the complaints is silly.

    Next time you write a silly complaint about something, let's note the hypocrisy.

  • MarkLastname||

    Um... no one writes a complaint that they think is silly.

    By your logic, no one should ever criticize stupidiot, because some day they'll probably say something stupid. That's not hypocrisy, unless they're being stupid in a way reminiscent of the stupidity they criticized.

  • Empress Trudy||

    The rabbits are obviously all white, straight and not trans, illegal or Muslim.

  • Tionico||

    I wonder: HOW have these princess snowflakes not previously gotten really really REALLY hoppin' mad-gonna-tear-yer-haid-off angry over Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote and their onscreen antics?

    Is it even a vanishingly small possibility that one of those two has a particularly strong allergy to dynamite? The stuff is not too damaging as it comes, but when that fuze is lit and it goes off inside...... kablooey all over the walls.

  • Eidde||

    "kiddie lit from Tom Sawyer to The Fellowship of the Ring"

    Oh, no, you di'nt!

    The Fellowship of the Ring, like the Lord of the Rings series of which it is a part, is not kiddie lit. Of course plenty of intelligent kids enjoy it, just as there are intelligent kids who enjoy other good adult literature. But it's not aimed at kids the way The Hobbit was.

    Time to turn in your nerd license.

  • vek||

    I'm pretty sure all these insane people are just going to have to die before we can ever have a sane world again... Or maybe we can convince them all to move to Canada or something? Fuck I hate being alive now, why couldn't I have been born 50 years earlier? *Sigh*

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    From the trailers I've seen it looks like a pretty stupid, almost mindless treatment of the source material. The blackberries are, as Matt points out, far from the worst of it. As far as I recall Beatrix Potter did not portray rabbits as homicidal maniacs, apparently with Special Ops training. I don't intend to see it and won't mind if it sinks like a stone.

  • BlueStarDragon||

    I wonder if werewolves and silver counts as using allergies as weapons? I've been using allergies as weapons since the AD&D days my self.

  • Hank Phillips||

    But... what about latinoberries?

  • commentguy||

    Two aspects here: 1) clickbait makes money. If nobody read the article about some whiny housewife with too much time on her hands then it wouldn't have become a "major controversy". 2) The number of people who will boycott Sony for having gutless executives is small, and they have more important things to do than to start Change.org petitions.

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