There’s a scene in Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit – a cinematic reimagining of the enchanting Beatrix Potter stories, that features the film’s primary antagonist Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) being pelted with blackberries, as he vies to finally rid himself of Peter Rabbit and his dear friends, who keep going into his garden and stealing his vegetables. A comedically inclined, seemingly harmless scene, that is just part of the unrelenting conflict between the rabbits and the hapless farmer, that follows a sequence just beforehand where the latter tries to blow up their home with explosives. It’s slapstick-like in its approach, with a Tom & Jerry-like humour that is sure to entertain both children and their parents alike. At least you would’ve thought that would be the case.
Instead, the aforementioned fruit-throwing sequence has caused a surprising backlash from cinema goers, for Mr. McGregor is allergic to blackberries, and he begins to choke, having to then inject himself with epinephrine in order to stay alive. This scene (yes, we aren’t joking) had led to parents boycotting the movie, even starting up the hashtag ‘#BoycottPeterRabbit. Even doctors have weighed in on the controversy, claiming the moment to be ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’. One user commented ‘This shouldn’t need to be said: ANAPHALAXSIS IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT”. You’re right, it really doesn’t need to be said. Because it’s downright absurd. But then it’s hardly surprising in this modern culture of over-sensitivity.
Peter Rabbit is quintessentially British, for starters, and as a nation we have always prided ourselves on our humour, where nobody is deemed safe from ridicule, with a playful, often self-deprecating brand of comedy that is generally appreciated around the world. Yet that doesn’t seem to fly in this instance, as it seems people will just complain about anything nowadays.
A friend of mine complained that The Death of Stalin didn’t have enough female leads. What? It’s a historical account of the Stalinist regime in Russia that was made up entirely of men. Should we rewrite history to appease these poor delicate viewers? Not to mention the fact that the protagonist’s masculinity in the Armando Iannucci film was to their detriment. Some people complained that Liam Neeson action thriller The Grey was ‘anti-wolf propaganda’. Just say that sentence out loud for a moment. It’s ridiculous. Or how about the campaign against Daniel Craig playing James Bond as he has blonde hair. People are idiots.
So what’s changed that has led to us being so touchy about everything, and so easily offended? Is it attention-seeking? Now with social media, and in particular with Twitter, anybody can say anything, and it can be picked up and read around the world. We’re no longer just shouting into the wind – people can actually hear us now, which is troubling. Maybe these apprehensions have always existed, perhaps the same reaction would’ve happened three decades ago – the difference is, we wouldn’t know about it, because without social media the offended wouldn’t have a platform to express their concerns. I mean, would anybody actually write a letter to complain?
It takes a lot more energy to go through that process than to merely open up an app on your phone and type without thinking for 30 seconds. Or maybe it’s because they have a platform that they feel so offended in the first place. Either way, people need to just relax and calm down. Enjoy entertainment, not everything needs to be analysed with such a fine-tooth comb. Some things are just presented to us in an uncynical way that doesn’t have any barbed, pointed undercurrents. Because if we keep on complaining, filmmakers may end up listening, and we don’t want the creative process to be compromised because John from Kent felt there are propaganda movies out there against wolves. Ignore them, studios, and keep throwing those berries.