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Steven Spielberg’s New Movie The Fablemans Has Him In Hot Water With PETA

Monkey on chandelier in The Fabelmans
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

While the public may still be a couple months away from being able to see The Fabelmans following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, they’re not lacking in being able to see footage from Steven Spielberg’s 2022 movie. The first trailer for The Fabelmans dropped several days ago, providing a taste of what this semi-autobiographical look into Spielberg’s younger years holds in store. However, in the wake of this trailer’s arrival and The Fabelmans’ world premiere, the movie now finds itself in hot water with PETA.

Whether you were able to see The Fabelmans in its entirety at TIFF or have only viewed the trailer, you’re aware that there’s a scene in the movie where Michelle Williams’ Mitzi Fabelman, mother to Sammy Fabelman (played by Mateo Zoryna and Gabriel LaBelle at different ages) and wife to Paul Dano’s Burt Fabelman (i.e. Sammy’s father), purchases a monkey because she “needed a laugh.” Well, PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is not pleased that Steven Spielberg and his team on The Fabelmans used a real monkey, and is demanding that this scene be removed. You can read the official statement from PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler below:

Steven Spielberg was imaginative enough to create a lovable alien in 1982 and followed that up with herds of realistic computer-generated dinosaurs in the 1990s, so what’s his excuse for dragging a real monkey onto a film set in 2022? His mother might have ‘needed a laugh,’ but PETA’s not laughing—and neither should anyone else who cares about animals. This monkey scene is an endorsement of the cruel animal-training industry and an advertisement for the seedy wildlife ‘pet’ trade, and PETA is calling on Spielberg to live up to his legacy as an industry leader by leaving this scene on the cutting room floor.

PETA also noted that monkeys that are used as “pets” or for film and TV productions are typically separated from their mothers at a young age, and trainers often use violence behind the scenes to make the monkeys in the entertainment industry perform on cue. As such, PETA is displeased that Steven Spielberg opted to bring a real monkey onto The Fabelmans’ set rather than bring one to “life” through practical or digital means. Given that The Fabelmans has already held its first screening and there’s only two months to go until its wide release, not to mention that it looks to offer insight into the mental health into Michelle Williams’ character, it’s doubtful that Universal Pictures, the studio releasing the movie, will comply with PETA’s request to have the monkey scene removed. Having said that, we’ll obviously let you know if it ends up happening.

Set in post-World War II Arizona, The Fabelmans follows Sammy Fabelman from age seven to 18 as he discovers his love of film and discovering a shattering family secret. Mitzi Fabelman shares her son’s love for the arts, as she’s a skilled pianist and is heard telling her husband, who’s a computer engineer, that she wishes she was more encouraging about Sammy’s filmmaking endeavors, which he dismisses as “playful” and “imaginative.” The Fabelmans’ cast also includes Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, Jeannie Berlin, Julia Butters, Robin Bartlett and Keeley Karsten. 

The Fabelmans arrives in theaters on November 11, the same day that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the Hugh Jackman-led The Son, which also screened at TIFF, come out. Those of you who are already looking ahead to next year should peruse the lineup of 2023 movie releases.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.