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Cheap Seats 2018

Celery-iously? - 02/14


By Rich Trzupek
  Political correctness, that mortal enemy of what we used to call “common sense,” dealt another body blow to the latter as a yet another humorless special-grievance group found something in a kid’s movie deeply offensive. It shouldn’t surprise me any time we sink deeper into the PC quagmire, but somehow it always does. How can rational human beings behave so unrationally?
  I’m sad to say that this latest instance of boorish hypersensitivity comes from a nation that once proudly thumbed its nose at its enemies and the enemies of civilization for centuries: the United Kingdom
  An organization called Allergy UK chastised Sony Pictures Entertainment’s new release: “Peter Rabbit.” Before we discuss Allergy UK’s complaint, let’s set the stage a bit.
  Whenever making a movie about animals, the production company has two choices: 1) depict the animals as they truly behave in their natural habitat, or 2) humanize them. Not surprisingly filmmakers almost invariably choose number two when making movies aimed at families and kids.
  We all understand why they make this choice. If, for example, the “Lion King” were to be true to lion behavior, Simba would spend most of the movie lying around while his harem killed various animals and brought their carcasses back to the king for his enjoyment. Aside from an occasional romp in the hay with a lioness of his choice, that would pretty much be Simba’s day, every day.
  Should our “actual” Simba somehow find himself detached from his food and love providing harem for a considerable length of time, when Simba stumbles across Timon and Pumbaa, they are not going to last more than about thirty seconds before becoming Simba’s lunch.
  As much as I might enjoy a cartoon about lions that features the above aspects of lion behavior, I understand that it might be a leetle too early to introduce these particular facts of life to a pre-adolescent youngster.
  Which brings us back to “Peter Rabbit” and how it offended Allergy UK. Keep in mind we’re talking about fictional, sentient animals defending themselves against a fictional human antagonist who has pledged to exterminate them.
  The antagonist is Tom McGregor, nephew of the recently deceased Mr. McGregor, a determined but lest blood thirsty opponent. In the “Peter Rabbit” universe, Tom McGregor either realizes the animals in the vegetable patch have achieved sentience or he hasn’t.
  Since the animals have taken to wearing clothes, it’s reasonable to assume that Tom should have known the animals had achieved sentience, in which case his vow to exterminate them make him a genocidal mass murderer. Alternately, if Tom somehow didn’t notice the animals had basically turned into mini-humans, then the man is an idiot and should not be in a position where he gets to decide the fate of others in his charge.
  Whether Tom is a genocidal monster or the UK’s equivalent of Lennie from Of Mice and Men, it really doesn’t matter to Peter and his crew. This is a fight for life and death. The animals don’t have a lot with which to defend themselves, other than their wits.
  However, they stumble across a weapon that could be a game changer: Tom McGregor is allergic to blackberries. Accordingly, the animals attack Tom with blackberries, aiming for his mouth and eventually putting the bastard into anaphylactic shock. Allergy UK had a problem with this.
  Seriously?
  To recap, we’re talking about a cartoon, where the cartoon animals are defending themselves against the cartoon equivalent of Hitler. Didn’t matter to Carla Jones, CEO of Allergy UK.
  “Anaphylaxis can and does kill,” she said. “To include a scene in a children’s film that includes a serious allergic reaction and not to do it responsibly is unacceptable, as is bullying.
  Mocking allergic disease shows a complete lack of understanding of the seriousness of food allergy and trivializes the challenges faced by those who live with this condition, particularly parents who live in fear of their child suffering a life threatening reaction.”
  First of all, this was not bullying. It was the opposite of that. It was responding to bullying. “Trivializes, the challenges etc…?” Give me a break. Should my kid have had food allergies growing up, I would urge her to see this flick. I suspect seeing someone almost die from anaphylaxis, even in a fantasy universe, would be a pretty strong motivation to carry an Epi-pen with her.
  But, most of all, I would – and did – emphasize to my daughter that the movies are by and large a fantasy-land that only rarely have anything to do with the real world. And I put it to you dear readers that any parent who teaches anything else, or holds up a movie – especially a frigging cartoon! – as something that might affect their kid’s life is not doing his or her job as a parent.
  rich@examinerpublications.com

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