When the much-anticipated movie Peter Rabbit was released in cinemas it provoked controversy about its use of violence for comic effect. Some, for example, objected to the rabbits pelting their adversary Mr McGregor with blackberries in order to create an anaphylactic allergic reaction. Others responded that there is a long (and, they would say, harmless) history of the humorous use of aggression in children’s stories – think about Tom and Jerry, for example.
Wherever you stand on this issue, there is perhaps a deeper question to contemplate. Why do the rabbits and Mr McGregor want to fight each other anyway, and what might this help us to consider about our own lives in the real world?
When the old Mr McGregor dies, the rabbits take over his house and garden. Their leader, Peter Rabbit, is clearly driven by more than just a need to provide for his family. He immediately installs, above the fireplace, a picture of his parents; and he hopes that they would be impressed by him. When the new young Mr McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives, he wants to woo the attractive next door neighbour (Rose Byrne), and sees the rabbits as an obstacle in the way of impressing her with his affections.
There are many causes of conflict and violence in this world. On a personal level, the desire to impress others is a significant one. Indeed, this is part of our animalistic tendencies, reflecting the rutting behaviour of many other mammals.
As we watch this entertaining family film, it is worth considering the extent to which, in our own lives, a desire to impress leads to aggression in our thoughts, words and actions. Might the world be a more peaceful and harmonious place for all of us if we let go of our desire to impress, and followed the example of the one who laid down his life for others?