What are your favourite cartoon characters of all time? Mine are the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote. Even today I’ll always find 5 minutes to sit down and watch them in action if they are being screened on the TV. To see Coyote getting battered and bruised by falling off all those cliffs is absolutely hilarious. Or when he paints the entrance to a tunnel on the side of a mountain and suddenly an express train comes thundering out of it. Side-splitting.
When you think about all the fabulous cartoon characters of yesteryear: Tom and Jerry, Bugs, Popeye, Sylvester the cat….can you think of any that didn’t have some sort of bullying and violence associated with them? If it wasn’t Bluto holding Olive Oyl hostage in the Popeye cartoons, it was Spike the bulldog beating the living daylights out of Tom the cat. Was anyone ever offended? Did armies of child counsellors suddenly appear on the horizon to warn youngsters of the dangers of bullying or the use of violence? No! You watched the cartoon, you laughed, you got on with the day’s events when the credits rolled. Simple.
Compare the common sense of times gone by to the ridiculous, overblown reaction to a scene in the new Peter Rabbit film. In the story, the character of Mr McGregor has an allergy to blackberries. Peter and his chums pelt McGregor with the fruit, forcing him to use an EpiPen as an antidote. Cue the howls of outrage from the snowflakes, the perpetually offended, and those with too much idle time on their hands to do something other than complain.
First off, this is an animation. Peter and his mates DON’T REALLY EXIST. Secondly, children can be ignorant and cruel. I’m sure most of us demonstrated both traits when we were younger. I know I did. Shielding audiences from from some of life’s callousness, even when portrayed anthropomorphically, is hardly preparing people – especially kids – to face life in all its harsh realities. Good grief, how would today’s youngsters cope with watching ‘Watership Down’? They’d be stampeding straight towards the psychiatrist’s couch – unable to cope! This is the equivalent of safe spaces in universities: little bubbles where people with the emotional stamina of mushy peas can go and cocoon themselves from the big, bad world outside. Sorry, life doesn’t remotely work like that.
What is this scene in Peter Rabbit? Is it bullying? If so, how does that differ from cartoon situations by the thousand? Or is it highlighting the danger of allergies? If it is, shouldn’t people be thanking the producers for its inclusion? In the 1993 film ‘Mrs Doubtfire, the main character adds Cayenne Pepper to Pierce Brosnan’s character’s dinner, despite knowing he suffered from a pepper allergy. He almost choked from the consequences. I didn’t hear any complaining about that. Are we now so collectively brittle we can’t stand to think the world about us is anything other than a contemporary Avalon of unicorns and rainbows?