This weekend my wife and I decided that we had hibernated enough this winter and it was time to get the kids (3 and 5 years old) out of the house and do something fun!
Saturday we kicked off our weekend with helmet-less tobogganing over snow jumps, and yesterday we took in the Peter Rabbit movie. I never would have guessed the danger I would be placing my kids in! Well, maybe the tobogganing thing was a little obvious in retrospect, but the controversy surrounding the Peter Rabbit movie certainly wasn’t!
The scene in question has pitted Peter and has gang going up against their newest neighbour, Mr McGregor’s nephew Thomas (I think that’s the relation). You see, and SPOILER ALERT, the longtime character of Mr. McGregor passed away earlier in the film suffering a heart attack while chasing Peter through his garden for the billionth time. His nephew inherited the place and was planning to tidy it up, sell it, and make a fortune which he would then use to destroy his enemies, or at least make them feel really bad. However, a relationship began with the attractive young female neighbour Bea, played by Rose Byrne. A woman that Peter Rabbit also fancies himself, and hence you have the adversaries.
Well, Peter learns through eavesdropping on a particular conversation that Thomas is allergic to blackberries. So during one of their many altercations in the film he proceeds to fire blackberries into Thomas’s mouth forcing him to use an Epi-Pen to avoid certain death.
To put this into context, there were MANY incidents of violence depicted throughout this film. Thomas was powerfully electrocuted several times, once causing him to fall off a roof. Peter and Thomas kicked and punched and choked each other as often as they could while Bea wasn’t watching. And explosive devices were hurled at the rabbits as the scattered throughout the garden.
Isolating the blackberry incident as boycott worthy seems peculiar to me, because it seemed in line with the tone of the entire film. As well, for your information Peter Rabbit was rated PG and not G, in Ontario at least. This blackberry scene may be the perfect opportunity for parents to provide some guidance if they feel like it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
To be fair, I’ve read some of the comments on Twitter from parents of children with potentially lethal food allergies and I do feel their pain. The fear that at any moment your child’s life could be in fatal danger must be overwhelming. And you can sense that from the intensity of their responses.
But I am still not of the opinion that every movie must be a perfect reflection of an idealized society. When these incidents in movies rear their heads, we deal with them as parents if we think they need to be dealt with. We shouldn’t always take the approach to control the entire environment through some sort of boycott.
And speaking of a boycott, why does it always have to go right to the nth degree? I understand the message that they are trying to get out. I understand the importance of allergies being respected in real life. I think our schools do a great job of educating our students, and the parents, of what is going on in the classroom and what type of food is and isn’t allowed. So yes, go ahead and use the movie to get the message out but there’s no need to cast the film as a villain. It is a story about imperfect characters facing challenging situations.
When thinking of the controversy that has arisen from this movie I was reminded of another kids flick “Smurfs: The Lost Village” where Brainy, Hefty, and Smurfette were being pursued by Gargamel on some sort of magical floating river. Luckily the evil warlock, along with his cat, were knocked off their raft and into the water. However, immediately afterwards he was flailing about in the current claiming that he couldn’t swim. The Smurfs, who were right on the verge of escaping his wrath, decided that they had to go back and save him because that’s the ‘smurfy’ thing to do. So they did, and then they were captured by him…. sigh.
Surely, that scene could have unfolded differently with Gargamel finding his way to shore by grabbing a branch or something. But maybe the producers were ‘smart’ and knew they would be the target of some water safety based boycott unless they saved him.
“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.”
Perhaps in the end, awareness about allergy dangers will be at an all-time high, much more so than if the blackberry incident was cut from the movie to begin with.
Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.com/effective stock photos