February 12, 2018

"Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way."

Apology of the day, from "Sony Apologizes After ‘Peter Rabbit’ Movie Exploits a Food Allergy, Upsetting Parents" (NYT). The rabbits attack a man by slingshooting a blackberry into a man's mouth.
When the rabbits fire a blackberry into Mr. McGregor’s mouth, [said Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America], “there’s a close-up of his face, and it’s him holding his neck like he’s choking.” When Mr. McGregor collapses and appears to be dead for a moment, the rabbits cheer.... “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.” 
Maybe it's time to take all the violence in cartoon/cartoony shows seriously.



But some people think there's something special about violence that makes use of a pre-existing health condition. The TNT in Looney Tunes could blow up anybody, but a blackberry is only dangerous to those who are already struggling with a disability. It's hard to think of other examples of children's stories like that. I thought of Captain Hook, so cruelly tormented by Peter Pan, who took advantage of the disabled man's fear of the crocodile, and yet we're all susceptible to the depredations of the crocodile.

76 comments:

h said...

Porky Pig's speech impediment?

BDNYC said...

Violence can be very funny.

Paddy O said...

One, that Peter Rabbit movie looks horrible, from the first time I saw a preview of it. Let's take character names and make it a post-apocalyptic battleground.

Second, as the parent of young kids I really am shocked by how much violence there is in cartoons from my youth (70s-80s). Not just the typical Looney Tunes, but Charlie Brown is basically insult and abuse from beginning to end.

I'm far from a prude, but I don't find that particularly entertaining especially as kids shows have a lot more depth and variety nowadays. I don't want boring learning shows, but also don't want my parenting to be constantly countered by what they're watching.

Don't even talk to me about the time I bought the set of Little Rascals and realized that KTLA only showed me the least racist examples. I put that box set away for a long while.

Bay Area Guy said...

Sigh. The Left is like a blind bulldozer, wrecking most things in its path.

I grew up with the Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Bugs Bunny, dodgeball, touch football in the street and tackle football at the park.

Childhood was swell.

Farmer said...

But some people think there's something special about violence that makes use of a pre-existing health condition.

In this case I think it's more that, fairly or not, people think of children when they think of food allergies, so this sort of thing seems particularly tone-deaf.

whswhs said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I remember the story, which was basically a morality play with a semi-naturalistic treatment of its anthropomorphic animal. It sounds as if it's been turned into Warner Brothers cartoon violence. Now, I love the classic Warner Brothers cartoons (especially the road runner/coyote ones), but they're an entirely different genre, and I don't think Beatrix Potter's story fits that genre or benefits from translation into it.

Of course, a lot of classic stories have been mutilated by being turned into cartoons; see for example the Disney versions of Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book. And live action movies such as The Wizard of Oz have travestied their sources too.

But still, I think that "idiots, explosives, and falling anvils" should be appreciated for their own sake.

MadisonMan said...

but Charlie Brown is basically insult and abuse from beginning to end.

Childhood can be like that.

Triangle Man said...

Food allergy is a great example of heterogeneity in risk. A terrific teaching tool to demonstrate how an exposure can be completely benign for one group and deadly for another.

At least the bunnies weren't shown using laundry detergent pods inappropriately.

Jeff Roth said...

it is literally impossible to distinguish between The Onion and the NYT these days.

Bay Area Guy said...

"but Charlie Brown is basically insult and abuse from beginning to end."

And Lucy is practicing psychiatry without a license and minimizing the real needs of the mentally challenged.

And Lucy is deliberately trying to injure Charlie Brown by repeatedly fraudulently promising to hold the football, and then, with malice aforethought, abruptly removing the football from the path of Mr. Brown's lower extremity.

These Stalinists, if they ever get enough power, would re-write most of American cultural history since it is racist, sexist, classist, ableist and homophobic.

That's how the Left rolls.

Triangle Man said...

Childhood can be like that.

Without adult supervision and guidance. Letting the asshole kids run roughshod over the others doesn't have much of an upside.

Paddy O said...

"Childhood can be like that."

Yeah, but I don't find that part entertaining.

I never was a Charlie Brown fan, though. I did like all the rest, but in looking at what kids have now, there's a lot better writing and variety. Nostalgia just doesn't have that strong of a pull for me.

Yancey Ward said...

Sheesh, some people deserve the dropped Acme Anvil on the head.

Paddy O said...

That said, the one cartoon I absolutely don't allow on in our house is Daniel Tiger. That's a show about indulging sociopathic whims, all about making sure Daniel Tiger doesn't get bad feels and so everyone has to revolve around his excruciatingly delicate feelings.

Fortunately, my kids have better taste.

My 3 year old is totally into Beat Bugs, which is a cartoon framed entirely around Beatles songs.

Henry said...

Peter Rabbit vs. Russell Crowe? Who wins?

WK said...

I think I recall Snoopy kissing Lucy without obtaining affirmative consent.

n.n said...

The violence is not explicit. It is hidden behind a veil, a wall of privacy. Furthermore, no virtual "persons" are selected, recycled, etc. Although, Planning could be inferred from visual and audio effects, and may cause some people discomfort.

mockturtle said...

WARNING: Daily consumption of the New York Times can cause the brain to become mushy and dysfunctional.

AJ Lynch said...

#weareallpussiesnow

gspencer said...

Acme Products stock bombs in mid-day trading,

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/GVQAAOSweW5U-1X2/s-l300.jpg

Jim at said...

The left destroys everything it touches.
Recognize this and adjust your life accordingly.

Quaestor said...

Maybe it's time to take all the violence in cartoon/cartoony shows seriously.

Maybe it's time to toss a few firstborn into the Maw of Moloch.

JohnAnnArbor said...

which is a cartoon framed entirely around Beatles songs.

That sounds awful.

Michael said...

Oh, for the love of God. Tell the blackberry allergy sufferers to go and fuck themselves.

TWW said...

I am trying to imagine movies and television content , say, ten years hence. I keep coming up with test patterns.

Fernandistein said...

The guy deserves to die for being genetically inferior.

h said...
Porky Pig's speech impediment?


W-w-w-what sp-sp-speech impe-pe-pedi-me-me-ment?

whswhs said...

I'm remembering a story by the science fiction writer Connie Willis, from back in the nineties, I think, where a high school teacher starts to teach Hamlet. Then she gets a series of forms from various people and groups who decide that one or another bit of Shakespeare is offensive. She ends up teaching her class, I think, four lines that have survived.

Quaestor said...

Millennials passed their childhood without the kind of cartoon violence visited upon the likes of Daffy Duck and Wiley Coyote. It is far from evident that their sanitized upbringing has made them more tolerant and less prone to harming others. Quite the contrary, witness the doings of "Antifa" and whoever tried to murder DJT, Jr. this afternoon.

In yet another mysterious case of Althouse Synchronicity, I happened to look up Chick Jones's "9 Rules for Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons" just this morning:

1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "meep, meep."

2. No outside force can harm the Coyote -- only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exceptions from time to time.

3. The Coyote could stop anytime -- if he were not a fanatic.

4. No dialogue ever, except "meep, meep" and yowling in pain.

5. The Road Runner must stay on the road -- for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.

6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters -- the southwest American desert.

7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.

8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.

9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

10. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

Many current feminists would do well to pay heed to Rule 3.

rhhardin said...

It's a planted story to get the movie's name in the news, according to Armstrong and Getty.

Unknown said...

Oh boy, I'm having trouble keeping up with all this stuff. No more edgy movies, no more comedy (cuz' nothin's funny, really), and now no more cartoons. Have these folks seen the Three Stooges? Laurel and Hardy? Lucille Ball (at least she's female, though I suppose it may not be great she was born that way)?

-sw

donald said...

Wylie Coyote is my role model.

Fernandistein said...

Wile E. Coyote was allergic to Acme TNT.

Matthew Sablan said...

Funnily enough, I'm working on a D&D adventure where to foil a Detect Poison spell, the assassin poisons their target using something the person is allergic too instead of a poison.

I didn't realize how grossly insensitive this was and will rewrite the villain's plot to be more inclusive.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Not just the typical Looney Tunes, but Charlie Brown is basically insult and abuse from beginning to end."

-- I'm of the Fieval (was it Don Bluth? opinion) of violence/horror in children's story: You can do almost anything, *so long as in the end good triumphs over evil.* Look at faerie tales, for example.

Matthew Sablan said...

"I thought of Captain Hook, so cruelly tormented by Peter Pan, who took advantage of the disabled man's fear of the crocodile, and yet we're all susceptible to the depredations of the crocodile."

-- It isn't even the fear of the crocodile; it is the PTSD caused by the ticking of the clock that Pan targets.

Matthew Sablan said...

But, part of Peter Pan being an eternal youth is he has the good AND bad parts of young kids. The imagination; the unbounded optimism -- and the dickishness because he doesn't realize he's hurting his friends and enemies.

richlb said...

Wasn't that a huge plot point towards the end of Mrs. Doubtfire when Robin Williams puts cayenne (or something) into Pierce Brosnan's food?

n.n said...

Oh, and the Wisconsin wildings, Berkeley blockades, Knockout games, friendship with "benefits", and Antifa violence, those are real and spectacular.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Childhood can be like that."

-- Not only that, but the point of subjecting him to that is to see him rise above it, or his friends help him rise above it. Schroeder ripping into the other kids for forgetting him on Valentine's Day; Linus getting them to give his tree a chance, etc.

Darrell said...

Vanessa Trump, wife of Don, Jr., was taken to the hospital after she opened a letter addressed to her husband containing a suspicious white powder. It's just a precaution at this point.

Henry said...

A friend pointed out that Superman is allergic to kryptonite.

The Wicked Witch of the West is excessively hydrophilic.

n.n said...

As for abortion by blackberry, the argument is that it's not an actual blackberry, but rather a coherent assembly of pixels a la clump of cells.

Anyway, it's a choice... to watch the pixels. It's over, right? This is the new old normal. Progress.

I wonder if blackberry deficient babies will join other unworthy babies behind the veil, behind the wall.

readering said...

Garlic dangerous for some . . . .

Paul Mac said...

I think there is something to introducing a particular element like that where it didn't exist before in a well-known children's tale that didn't require it that you do at your own risk, not the outrage of the century, but I'm not shedding any tears over the guy who brought us Easy A and Annie (but now she is black!) sticking his foot in this.

MadisonMan said...

I never was a Charlie Brown fan, though. I did like all the rest, but in looking at what kids have now, there's a lot better writing and variety. Nostalgia just doesn't have that strong of a pull for me.

The sermon in Church yesterday was about Lepers, and unclean was mentioned a lot for of course I was flashing back to the classic "Touched the Dog" Peanuts comic strip from the late 60s. (Goes to google).

Link

Robert said...

One Day Alice, Right to the Moon

Quaestor said...

BTW, the exploding xylophone gag has a long pedigree in the annals of Warner Bros. animation. The first victim may have been Private Snafu in 1943."

Char Char Binks said...

Was "The Little Rascals" racist? It showed black kids playing and getting along with white kids, with no racial discrimination or strife at all. Maybe THAT is what's racist about it; everybody knows Blacks have always been vilified, crucified, and even criticized by whites. Sure, Buckwheat and Farina were ridiculous characters with ridiculous names, but so were Tubby and Froggy. Stymie was shown as at least as dignified as Spanky, and who was more ridiculous than Alfalfa?

If you have an example or explanation of how the series was racist, I'm not interested.

Peanuts was not funny, and Charlie Brown never rose above the abuse. He was downtrodden and morose from beginning to end in each movie and strip, with only the occasional sucker's respite before the next humiliation. His "friends" were only "nice" to him by way of getting him to accept without struggle his status as a loser, from Schroeder's condescending gesture about Valentine's, to Linus' virtue-signaling, snotty sermonizing.

Matthew Sablan said...

The point is Charlie Brown always tries again. He even wins now and again (most notably at marbles). The acceptance of failure and the continual striving are important.

MadisonMan said...

@CharChar, of course Charlie Brown rose above the abuse. He even made a friend -- Roy -- at Camp once. ("What an Accomplishment!") He had excellent conversations with Peppermint Patty. ("Security is riding in the back of a car...").

And as noted: He never gave up trying. That's an important viewpoint to convey to a kid.

Roughcoat said...

For a curative to this errant nonsense read Bruno Bettelheim's "The Uses of Enchantment."

The author argues that the violence in fairy is both necessary and beneficial to the emotional and psychological growth of a child.

Bettelheim was a problematic figure and in some senses a fraud, but he was, I believe, right about this.

That said, I think ACME products should be banned from Internet sale ... or at the very least licensed and regulated and heavily taxed.

pacwest said...

"Maybe it's time to take all the violence in cartoon/cartoony shows seriously."

Cartoon violence is awful? Anybody played Grand Theft Auto? But I've been assured violence in video gaming has no harmful effects.

Jessica said...

In the original Peter Rabbit, Peter’s mom warns him to stay out of the garden by casually reminding him it’s how his dad was killed and eaten in a pie. So, violence was baked into the story. (Sorry not sorry for the pun.)

Paddy O said...

"Was "The Little Rascals" racist? It showed black kids playing and getting along with white kids, with no racial discrimination or strife at all"

That's what I thought! Do not buy the complete set.

"That sounds awful."

It's surprisingly not. It's very much a kids show, but they really weave the songs in nicely. I've never been a Beatles fan, but it's funny to have my 3 year old singing "All you need is love" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" while at the store. It could be I'm just thrilled to have songs that are better than the usual cartoon songs. My Little Pony music is pretty exhausting.

Beat Bugs is immensely better than Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band, which we all watched this past week, since my kids knew a lot of the songs.

mockturtle said...

Teaching kids about evil trolls is not a bad thing.

Mike Sylwester said...

In my blog about growing up in Seward, Nebraska, where my Dad taught at a Lutheran college, I posted a series of three articles about the book The Gospel According to Peanuts.

Charles Schulz, the author of the Peanuts comic strip, was a fundamentalist Christian during much of his young adulthood. A major theme of Peanuts, especially in the strip's early years, was the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.

Schulz tried to depict in his comic strip that even small children are selfish, sinful and wicked. At the beginning of the strip, the character Charlie Brown was only about four years old.

Years later, Schulz rejected those Christian beliefs, but the Christian religion remained an essential element of the comic strip.

The character Snoopy eventually became a metaphor for Jesus Christ.

http://seward-concordia-neighborhood.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-gospel-according-to-peanuts-1.html

Peter said...

My two-year old granddaughter likes to pull down the towers of blocks I made her and squeal with delight at my distress. I blame cartoon violence and worry she may end up a serial killer.

tcrosse said...

Struwwelpeter, or Slovenly Peter, is a classic of childrens literature that is not for the squeamish:
The English Struwwelpeter, or, Pretty stories and funny pictures

Mike Sylwester said...

As the Peanuts comic strip developed, Snoopy gradually became a metaphor for a devout Christian -- faithful and joyful in his religion. The book The Gospel According to Peanuts summarized this metaphorical role of Snoopy as follows:

[quote]

Snoopy we would hesitate to call "Christ". He comes closer, rather, to being "a little Christ" -- that is, a Christian. .... He is, in other words, a fairly drawn caricature for what is probably the typical Christian.

The dog, because of his wonderful qualities of love, loyalty, watchfulness and courage (Charlie Brown's description) often has been used as a symbol for faith in literature and art; it is even used in this way in the Bible. But the dog also is a good symbol for faith as there is a real sense in which a man must become "as a dog" before he can become a Christian. He must take on the dog's lowliness of complete obedience and humility at the feet of his master and in service to others. ....

Snoopy, as a little Christ, quite obviously takes on Christ's ambivalent work of humbling the exalted ....

[end quote]

Later, Snoopy developed some supernatural powers and eventually became Schulz's metaphor for Jesus Christ himself.

At one point, Linus is sitting in his pumpkin patch and waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear, and Linus sees a silhouette who seems to be the Great Pumpkin, but the silhouette turns out to be Snoopy.

I wrote more about Snoopy representing Jesus Christ in my third article of that series.

http://seward-concordia-neighborhood.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-gospel-according-to-peanuts-3.html

Earnest Prole said...

It appears the cartoon has already inspired an attack on Donald Trump Jr's wife.

Mike Sylwester said...

Linus symbolized an earnest young pastor who has just graduated from a divinity school and has begun to preach at his first church. Linus's security blanket symbolized the Christian doctrine that he had learned at divinity school.

One of the recurring jokes in the strip's early years was that Snoopy would grab Linus's security blanket and try to run away with it. Linus would hold on to his security blanket desperately as Snoopy dragged him around and away.

http://seward-concordia-neighborhood.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-gospel-according-to-peanuts-3.html

richlb said...

9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

I'd say this rule wasn't followed at all. Nearly every failure caused coyote to be physically harmed in catastrophic ways. Rarely was he "humiliated".

James Pawlak said...

SNOWFLAKES!!!

Billy Oblivion said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLPalGBxzSc

Prophecy mate. Prophecy.

JPS said...

richlb:

"Nearly every failure caused coyote to be physically harmed in catastrophic ways."

But he always came back looking fine. "Catastrophic," to me, is what would have happened from the start if Chuck Jones' world obeyed the normal laws of physics - and then there would have been no more coyote.

Incidentally I am a big believer in the Wile E Coyote principle as a metaphor, that sometimes you can run right off a cliff and not fall until you look down and realize you're no longer on solid ground.

I Callahan said...

Pacwest- I’ve been playing GTA for years. I haven’t been violent with a single person.

rcocean said...

Am I the only one who liked Daffy more than Bugs?

The Godfather said...

The cartoon and cartoonish violence I grew up with wasn't "real", it was clearly and obviously fantasy. Blowing yourself up with a box marked "dynamite", or falling off a cliff, or having an anvil dropped on your head, and then showing up in the next scene or even the next movie looking through the Acme catalogue isn't real to any child old enough to go to the movies. So the child viewer was neither frightened nor desensitized to violence by the experience. I haven't seen the new Peter Rabbit movie, but the scene described with the blackberry allergy, where Farmer MacGregor seems to die, could be perceived by a child as "real" and therefore either scary or desensitizing. But if Farmer MacGregor's head exploded when he ate the blackberry, we'd be back in Wile E. Cayote territory, no harm no foul.

tcrosse said...

Am I the only one who liked Daffy more than Bugs?

No, you're not

pacwest said...

"I’ve been playing GTA for years. I haven’t been violent with a single person."

And there have been several studies stating that violent games don't contribute to individual violence. That conclusion is counterintuitive imo. And I'm not saying that every person who plays GTA or watches Tom and Jerry is likely to be more violent because of it. I do think that there is a difference between cartoon violence and the much more realistic video games. I just don't see how GTA doesn't lead to a coarser culture overall. Not that everyone who plays GTA is a likely to have bad behavior.

Ann Althouse said...

I like Daffy more than Bugs. And more than Donald, the other duck.

Ann Althouse said...

“A friend pointed out that Superman is allergic to kryptonite.”

I was thinking of that but am so out of the loop about Superman that I wasn’t sure whether kryptonitw merely reduced him to the level of a human being.

Quaestor said...

...I wasn’t sure whether kryptonitw merely reduced him to the level of a human being.

A neighborhood kid explained kryptonite to me when I was 9, a lecture I remembered better than anything I learned about Milton.

Green kryptonite (the original kind) inflicted pain and weakness on Superman and all Kryptonians (As the sole survivor of the destruction of Planet Krypton, Superman encountered many other Kryptonians in his career.) Prolonged exposure could be fatal, it is presumed.

Red kryptonite caused Superman to mutate in unpredictable ways. Once isolated from its insidious rays Superman un-mutated back to his normal super lantern-jawed self.

Gold kryptonite the rarest and most dreaded kind, radiated a very unusual nanoparticle. One quantum of gold kryptonite radiation could nullify Superman's super-powers instantly and forever.

My absolute favorite Daffy Duck oeuvre is Rocket Squad. Pure genius. Chuck Jones accomplished more bullseye parody in six and a half minutes than Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks managed in nearly two hours.

Quaestor said...

A close second to "Rocket Squad" is Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century which uses a few of the same sci-fi tropes as "Rocket Squad". (Hey, Jack Warner said, "Economize!" so economize they did.) Notice that Dodgers uses Acme products which always fail miserably (How does such an incompetent industrial concern endure for 450 years? Crony capitalism, nay doot.) while the Martian is a steady customer of the always reliable A-1 Corporation.

whswhs said...

Quaestor: You're leaving out blue kryptonite, which is lethal to Bizarros (the original Bizarro was a flawed duplicate of Superman, and blue kryptonite was a flawed duplicate of green kryptonite), and white kryptonite, which I believe was lethal to all forms of vegetation.

James Smith said...

My generation grew up on Three Stooges. If the BS was even half truth, we would all be blind.