James Corden's "Peter Rabbit" is off to a rough start. Since its nationwide release on February 9, the film (which came in second place at the box office next to the campy cult movie "Fifty Shades Freed") has been said to do an injustice to Beatrix Potter's gentle bunny character. L.A. Times called the movie's rabbit a "narcissist," while Chicago Tribune took Peter's impishness as a "truly sadistic display of violence."
A few days after opening weekend, the movie has been getting backlash from advocacy groups denouncing Peter Rabbit as a "food allergy bully." Allergy awareness groups are boycotting the film for its treatment of the title character's nemesis, Tom McGregor (voiced by Domhnall Gleeson), who is allergic to blackberries.
In a critical standoff between Peter and his gang of rabbits and McGregor, the title character takes advantage of Tom's allergy by attacking him with fruits and vegetables, including a single blackberry that Peter manages to pummel into McGregor's mouth. He collapses to the ground in anaphylactic shock (but is saved by his EpiPen).
This scene prompted allergy advocacy groups, such as Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and Kids With Food Allergies Foundation, to demand an apology from Sony Pictures.
In a Facebook post, the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation said the scene "can cause some people to have a cavalier attitude about food allergies which can put kids with food allergies at risk."
Reactions on Twitter echoed these sentiments sparking many parents of children with food allergies to trend the hashtag "#BoycottPeterRabbit."
One Twitter user adamantly discouraged viewers to watch the film, saying "Finding 'humor' in bullying by Peter & friends to an allergy friend (who then needs an Epi) is sickening. Shame on @SonyPictures."
In response to the boycott and backlash, the filmmakers issued an apology for having made light of the issue. "We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue," said director Will Gluck in a joint statement on February 11. "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."