Misspent Outrage about ‘Peter Rabbit’


Yes, Sony did put a scene in Peter Rabbit about severe food allergies. Yes, it is a serious subject. No, it probably wasn’t necessary for anyone to start calling for boycotts.

It’s been a long time since our society responded to situations like this in a more adult manner, so bear with me here. While I’m tempted to just relegate this to the “faux outrage” pile, I can’t, but that’s only because Sony chose to depict a potentially fatal allergy on the big screen.

But, instead of the extreme response we’ve seen from parents and groups on social media, perhaps the better route would have been to turn this into a teaching moment – for everyone. Saying that Sony was insensitive and calling for a boycott of the film forced the corporation to apologize publicly. Simply pointing out that the film showed a behavior that everyone needs to know is wrong would have left the door open for a deeper conversation about potentially deadly allergies in general.

Now, it’s not likely that many health teachers will think about pulling that scene from the film for class as an object lesson about what not to do. They will be rightfully concerned about reigniting the current outrage.

The fact remains that this film is pure fiction, and showing it as a dramatization of what not to do offers more than one lesson for kids. It also offers the opportunity to reinforce the ongoing lessons about the difference between fantasy and reality. No matter what, because of this outrage, Peter Rabbit has probably been lost as a teaching tool in general, and not just for learning about food allergies.

Maybe the outrage itself can be a teaching tool. When people are upset about something they see in media or entertainment, perhaps they need to think twice before crying for boycotts or other extreme actions. While many people might seem supportive of the outraged people, sharing that feeling doesn’t educate anyone on anything except the fine art of getting upset. Righteous indignation might feel good for a moment, but in the end it doesn’t promote discussion on what caused it in the first place. That discussion falls too far below the headlines, and isn’t tweetable. In the case of Peter Rabbit, even asking why Sony decided to put a poorly done Jackass stunt in the film would have brought more attention to real issue – food allergies. At least then, people might have asked why Sony got it so wrong.

Image: YouTube Capture