The movie "Peter Rabbit" depicts a scene some families managing food allergies might find alarming. Peter and the other rabbits intentionally attack Mr. McGregor with his known food allergen causing him to have a serious allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis (anna-fih-LACK-sis).
In the movie, the rabbits learn McGregor is allergic to blackberries. Peter mocks food allergies. Later in the movie, the rabbits attack McGregor by launching blackberries at him. One lands in his mouth and he chokes, turns red and falls on the ground. The rabbits cheer. McGregor injects an epinephrine auto-injector into his thigh. The reaction goes away and he continues to chase the rabbits.
Food Allergies Are No Laughing Matter
This is not the first time food allergies have been a comedic punchline of a movie or TV show. It’s often made to seem funny or showed inaccurately. Either way, a child who fears having a food allergy reaction may be disturbed by onscreen depictions of allergic reactions or food allergy bullying.
These scenes are dangerous because they make food allergies seem like they aren’t a big deal. Sadly, the scene from this movie is similar to food allergy bullying that happens in real life. A 13-year-old boy died when a classmate threw cheese in his mouth, similar to the movie. Many kids who do not have food allergies don’t understand this type of bullying can have serious consequences.
Talking With Your Child About "Peter Rabbit" and Food Allergy Bullying
When TV shows and movies show allergic reactions, young viewers may find them upsetting. Before you watch, consider a few things, such as the MPAA rating of the film. "Peter Rabbit" is rated PG specifically because of the violent actions and rude humor. If you plan to take your child to see a movie like "Peter Rabbit", it may help to talk to them before and after the film.
For "Peter Rabbit," here are some points to discuss with your child who has food allergies:
- To stay healthy, you need to avoid the food you are allergic to unless you are doing a special allergy test with your doctor
- What the rabbits did to attack McGregor with his food allergen is wrong (as is a lot of the violence in the movie)
- McGregor did a good job treating himself with his epinephrine auto-injector (use a term your child may be familiar with a term like EpiPen, "Epi" or AUVI-Q)
- Because McGregor gave himself the epinephrine, it made him feel all better
- But if a reaction happens in real life, the next step is to go to the hospital so doctors can take care of you for a few hours
- Being bullied is never OK, and you should tell an adult who can help you right way
If your child doesn’t have food allergies, use this as a chance to teach them about how serious food allergies are. Raising awareness is the best way to prevent food allergy bullying.
Only you can decide if this movie is OK for your child to watch. But with these details, you can decide what is best for your child and talk to them about it.
Talking to Students About Food Allergies
Many children without food allergies don't understand how serious food allergies can be. They may tease or bully children with food allergies because they see it as strange or because it makes a child with food allergies stand out. But what might seem like a prank can be life-threatening for a child with food allergies. It can also lead to serious discipline, even criminal charges, for the child doing the bullying or teasing. Educating students on the risks of food allergies protects both children with food allergies and without.
Teachers and parents can reduce the risk of food allergy bullying a few different ways:
- Switch to non-food treats for rewards or classroom celebrations
- Include food allergy awareness in lesson plans
- Send information to parents so they are also aware how serious food allergies are and ask them to talk to their children about keeping other classmates safe
- Adopt a zero tolerance policy for food allergy bullying throughout the school
Raising Food Allergy Awareness in a Positive Way
Sony Pictures has apologized for the movie, saying:
“Food allergies are a serious issue. Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s arch nemesis, 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.”
Kids With Food Allergies still feels this is a great chance to work with filmmakers like Sony Pictures to raise food allergy awareness in a positive way. We have written a letter to them with our request.