Magazine article The Spectator

No Sacred Cows: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

No Sacred Cows: Toby Young

Article excerpt

I'm often surprised by what people are offended by. Like the makers of Peter Rabbit, the new animated feature from Sony Pictures, I could not have predicted that a scene in which Peter and his friends pelt another character with blackberries in the hope of triggering an allergic reaction would provoke a storm of protest. Yet that is what has happened. A petition demanding an apology has attracted thousands of signatures, a charity called Kids with Food Allergies has condemned the film as 'harmful to our community' and #boycottpeterrabbit started trending on Twitter shortly after the film was released in America.

I wonder how many people objecting to this scene have actually seen the film? Do they realise that the character being subjected to the blackberry barrage is Tom McGregor, nephew of Mr McGregor? As anyone familiar with Beatrix Potter will know, Peter and his friends were terrorised by Mr McGregor, who tried to catch them so he could bake them in a pie, the fate that befell Peter's father. Surely, if you're trapped in a walled garden with the nephew of a notorious serial killer - a young man who is trying to kill you and, for all you know, eat you - it's morally acceptable to exploit his weakness in order to escape? I would have thought that inducing anaphylaxis is well within the rules of engagement in such a situation. After all, it won't actually kill you provided you have an EpiPen to hand, which, as it happens, Tom McGregor does in this version of the story.

What's truly mystifying is that the scene has been condemned for endorsing bullying, with a chorus of the easily offended claiming it will send children a message that picking on other children with food allergies is acceptable. But Tom McGregor is a mean and nasty grown-up. If anyone is a bully in this story, it's him. I would have thought the message of the scene is that kids should band together to stand up to bullies, not team up to bully other children. Any child who comes away from Peter Rabbit believing it is OK to throw food at another child in the hope of provoking an anaphylactic reaction is probably going to be a bit twisted to begin with.

The surprising thing about a Beatrix Potter adaptation being targeted by the Twitchfork Mob is that her books are quite closely aligned with contemporary left-wing thinking. …

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