New ‘Peter Rabbit’ Film Sparks Backlash Over ‘Food Allergy Bullying’ Scene

There’s a new kids movie out called Peter Rabbit. If that title sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The film, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, and the voice of James Corden, is based on Beatrix Potter’s classic Peter Rabbit books, first published more than a century ago. Of course, the material had to be updated to make it appealing to today’s kids. Unlike, say, those delightful and gentle Paddington movies, this update/adaptation went the abrasive “this ain’t your grandma’s Peter Rabbit” route—the plot involves Peter Rabbit, a sarcastic, obnoxious bunny in the tradition of Bugs Bunny, waging all-out violent, Home Alone-style in-home war against a newer, younger Mr. McGregor (Gleeson).

One part of the modern climate the movie somehow ignored: bullying. Getting kids to stop being horrible monsters to each other at school and on the playground has become a major international movement over the past few years. It’s brought teasing in all its forms to the forefront, and there are a lot of different kinds. Sure, there’s racial and sexual orientation and appearance-based bullying, but kids will latch on to anything they can to about another kid and mock them for it. Apparently, “food allergy bullying” is a thing. As in children will actually make fun of and hurt other children because they could die by eating peanuts or whatever.

Peter Rabbit contains a scene of this unique type of bullying, and it’s played for laughs. Peter and another rabbit—ostensibly the heroes of the movie—thwack Mr. McGregor with blueberries, knowing full well that the character is deathly allergic to blueberries. Heck, they pelt him with blueberries because he’s allergic to them. He has to use an EpiPen and he’s fine, but still. That’s kind of messed up.

Peter’s actions pretty much fits the classic definition of bullying, and people are up in arms about how this movie for children seemingly advocates bullying.