Peter Rabbit has certainly moved on a long way since I was a kid, when my mum used to read me those little white books that came in a beautifully designed white box. Watching the CBeebies program in the morning before my kids go to school, I already feel that the writers have lost the true spirit of the cheeky bunny who everyone (well at least everyone in Cumbria) loves so much.
However, many think that Peter Rabbit has gone too far this time, with reports that the new film features a scene where Peter and his friends throw blackberries at Mr McGregor, knowing full well he is allergic to them. The poor McGregor is then forced to use his EpiPen.
Now, I for one can completely understand why people are very concerned by this. The thought that kids are going to mimic their new hero, which could result in someone being very seriously injured or killed is obviously a terrifying prospect. So much so, it’s led some people to state they are going to boycott the film. Although, if you are boycotting the film, the fact that Peter is voiced by the Sean Spicer kissing, Patrick Stuart feuding, James Cordon, could be enough of a reason without the inclusion of a horrific scene.
I have made the decision that my kids and I shall not be joining in this boycott. Simply because, although I’d have preferred this scene was not included in the film, I feel that it will provide a very good opportunity to further my children’s allergy education. My children know that I have allergies, and luckily they seem to have largely escaped any themselves, but other than saying, ‘Daddy can’t eat lots of food,’ I sometimes wonder if they truly realise the consequences. This I see as a perfect opportunity to bring up the discussion and further their understanding. Also, I will extend the conversation to how they felt Peter behaved in that situation and turn the perspective round by asking them how they would feel if they were Mr McGregor.
I appreciate that it’s not the most ideal medium to start this conversation, but the fact is the film exists and so too does the scene. By boycotting the film, you won’t necessarily stop your children from watching it. In fact, should my childhood be any evidence of this – it means it will make them more likely to watch it. But even if you’re vigilant at home, a parent that is completely unaware of this situation may put it on for your kids at a sleepover in the future. If you’ve missed the opportunity to have a conversation with your children about the film, they in turn, miss the opportunity to educate their peers when watching it as a group.
Please don’t think I’m preaching here as parenting decisions like these are very personal in nature, so if you do choose to boycott the film then I applaud your right to do so. But speaking as someone who has a severe nut allergy and been pelted with peanuts by friends before (different story for a different blog), I understand that incidents like that can often just be due to a lack of understanding, not through any malice. I would therefore prefer my kids to watch it and then use it as an opportunity to educate them of the dangers of allergies.
Another advantage of the film is the national debate it has caused, which has been covered by the BBC, the Guardian and The Telegraph. This kind of debate makes readers stop and think about why there is such an uproar, it shines a spotlight on allergies in a way that stakeholder organisations (such as us) can only dream of doing.