Why I went to see the Peter Rabbit movie
With all of the commotion that has taken place in the last few days over the Peter Rabbit movie by Sony Pictures, I decided I needed to see it and make a judgement for myself. Prior to seeing the movie, I only read headlines, not full articles. I went into the movie trying to remain open-minded.
What happened in the movie dealing with food allergies
In the movie, there is a scene where the rabbits learn of Thomas McGregor’s blackberry allergy. McGregor says to his neighbor, Bea, that he is allergic to blackberries as he is handed a glass of water with one in it. He continues to say that his throat will close. The rabbits are listening outside and Peter Rabbit exclaims something like, “Allergic to blackberries! Is that even a thing? Everyone is allergic to everything! Stop using it as a crutch!” Another rabbit reminds him that some people do have actual medical conditions. Peter responds sarcastically saying it’s a real struggle and his heart goes out to them.
A bit later on in the movie the rabbits try to get revenge on Thomas McGregor. Peter encourages the other rabbits to use blackberries to sling shot and aim into McGregor’s mouth. When one does, the rabbits jump on each other and cheer when they think they have killed him with a blackberry. Thomas immediately has an anaphylactic reaction, pulls his Epi-pen out of his back pocket and administers it. He then falls back against the ground. Two seconds later he sits right up and walks out the gate as if he has fully recovered in a matter of seconds from an anaphylactic reaction.
Why I think this was worth the commotion it caused
Food allergy bullying can potentially cause serious life-threatening or deadly outcomes. I have experienced bullying first hand with my food allergies (in college by a coach) as well as being witness to bullying in schools as an educator.
About 1 in 3 children with food allergies report being bullied. Children with food allergies are twice as likely to be bullied compared to children with no medical conditions.
What can we do?
I think there is the opportunity for education and discussion with kids. Since the movie is already out in theaters, it is important to focus on this as a conversation starter in families if they decide to see the movie.
Depending on the age of your child, some may not even be aware of the allergy aspect. It is a quick moving and busy movie and I can imagine that many younger children would not pay it much attention. For kids that are old enough to recognize what is happening, it is an opportunity to open up a discussion. It is our job to both educate and support children.
For kids with food allergies, it’s a good opportunity for parents to ask, discuss, and role play:
- What were their feelings about the scene?
- Do they ever feel like they are being teased about their food allergies?
- Reiterating that bullying is never okay and that if they ever feel like they are being targeted they need to tell an adult (teacher, parents, etc.)
- Role-play “what would you do?” situations
- Classmates joking about allergies (or other health conditions)
- If they accidentally ingested their allergen
For kids that do not have food allergies, it’s a good opportunity to ask, discuss, and role play:
- What were their feelings about the movie?
- What does bullying look like to them? Did they see it in the movie?
- If their classmate is being teased about something, how can they respond?
- Discuss who they would tell/talk to if someone is bullying them or a friend
- Role play “what would you do?” situations
- If their classmate is being targeted by other classmates (because of food allergies or anything else)
- What should they do if their friend is having an allergic reaction (tell an adult immediately)
Why does this continue to happen in the media?
I am concerned about where our society is at with both food allergy understanding as well as bullying and the implications and impact they both have. It seems like we have a lot of work to do! Everyone has something to deal with. Some of us have food allergies. I promise we didn’t choose it. I would give it up in a heartbeat. There is no cure though and instead we learn to live our own version of “normal” every day. Growing up, I felt movies were entertainment and clearly not “real.” The division between the behavior in TV, comics, and movies were not a challenge for the general public to choose or reject in their own behavior. Those lines seem to have become blurrier in recent years.
It’s time our super power is recognized in our culture
What our society may not realize is that those of us with food allergies are some of the most empathetic people you will meet. We know what it is like to stand out, to learn to be responsible before we are even supposed to understand what that word means and to have to ask for help. We get how to show empathy and we are good friends because we know how to be.
Often people like to joke about survival of the fittest with those of us with allergies. As much as I detest that, I also find it to be completely inaccurate. Those of us with food allergies are some of the strongest, most resilient kids and adults I know. Why? Because we get it. We understand the essence of respect, compassion, and advocacy, as well as the intricacies of human experience. Alongside these, we are familiar with adversity. While our immune systems may mistakenly identify certain foods as threats, we compensate for this flaw by developing invaluable life skills, attitudes, and insights, which make up for that one Achilles heel.
A few other main points:
- Food allergies are not a choice and are real and serious- without proper pre-cautions they can lead to death.
- Epinephrine is life-saving, however anaphylactic reactions are not always resolved. Emergency care is needed immediately following administration.
- Bullying is never okay.
- Movie endings are not real-life endings. In our current world, the boundaries between real and pretend are not as clear.
- If you are going to use epinephrine in a movie, administer it correctly.
- Food allergies can be lethal. They are a lethal form of targeting and bullying. There is no excuse to use this in a movie.
The main takeaway
The media and our society needs to stop using food allergies as a way to joke about weakness. They have it all wrong. We are strong, brave, and courageous. Give us some credit! It’s time a movie is done right. Make the protagonist a hero with food allergies. Use our courage and resilience as a strength. We already know we have it. It’s time our society recognizes that we have it too!