How the Beloved Have Fallen: A Eulogy for Peter Rabbit

We are gathered here today to remember fondly our good friend, Peter Rabbit, who sadly passed this year, along with the remainder of our childhoods. No, seriously, what the hell was that?

For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer (watch above at your peril), Peter Rabbit (James Corden) is the popular kid who knows everyone, wants to be friends with them all (even those who have literally tried to kill him), and will do anything to achieve peak notoriety – even breaking into someone else’s house and bringing everyone else with him.

If you wanted to make some ridiculous kids movie about a group of wild animals casually destroying an apparently innocent farmer’s house (not the scary rabbit murderer of our youth, and probably driven towards pest control by Peter’s rude and thoughtless actions), it could have been with any names. Rupert the Rabbit, perhaps, with mates Hettie the Hedgehog, Bertie the Badger, and Frankie the Fox. Not Peter Rabbit.

“I’m horrified to think how Beatrix Potter would be feeling about all of this.”

Here, the filmmakers have taken a beloved children’s series and decapitated it in the process of trying to make it ‘new’, ‘cool’, and ‘exciting’ for modern times. No. Emphatically No. The whole point of Peter Rabbit was that it was a soft series about fluffy animals which taught important lessons to children. The point was not wild animals having a house party in a random neighbouring human’s home.

I’m horrified to think how Beatrix Potter would be feeling about all of this. Those gentle illustrations, those cute stories, everything soft and light, even with the darker undertones. Here, all subtlety has been thrown out the window, along with everything those books stood for. Why bother caring about nature when it’s going to destroy your living room and scare the living daylights out of you?

“Together, we can survive this.”

I’m not angry about the film existing as another example of the strange ways in which the adults of today try to appeal to children. I’m angry that they had to drag the entire Peter Rabbit franchise down with them. What happened to those beautiful little-animated films I used to watch on VHS? What happened to the gentle music and hand-drawn wildlife of The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends? They still used both animation and live-action – just not in smashed-together CGI form.

I would like to end this eulogy on a note of hope. The books are still there; their stories can still take us back to a simpler time. A time when celebrities were not voicing beloved children’s characters as they marched to their deaths. Those VHS copies of The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends might be virtually unplayable now, but their treasured contents are still out there, waiting to be relived. Beatrix Potter’s creations still stand, still exist somewhere in ourselves, despite the wrecking ball that has been launched at them. Together, we can survive this. Together, we can remember Peter as he was, as his true self, in the years before he died.

Goodnight, Peter. You will be missed.

Isobel Sheene

Featured image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment via IMDB

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