Before we start, just to be clear, I’ve never actually killed a dog. But dogs are the topic of today’s blog, or rather, animals in general. Have you ever been to a movie in which an animal is killed? People get mad. What’s funny is, nobody seems to care when, in the very same scene, a human being is killed.
Of course, I should first clarify what I’m talking about. I’m sure that many people were moved when Jenny died in Forest Gump or when Dumbledore died in Harry Potter. But these were characters that we had connected with over the course of the film. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about action films in which people are being blown away in every other shot. Most of the time, viewers don’t even blink.
Take the same movie, but now replace that nameless extra with a dog. Suddenly you have a mutiny in the theater. Chairs get destroyed, popcorn begins to fly, chaos reigns supreme…
Of course, I’m exaggerating. By not by much. I kid you not, I’ve been to movies where people have left the theater after seeing a cat get killed. I’m not trying to say that this isn’t upsetting, but at least ten humans were killed earlier in the film, and no one flinched.
So what does this say about us? Why do we find dying animals so upsetting?
Personally, I think it might be about cuteness. Yes, cuteness. Show someone a video of a guy stepping on an ant. Very few people will get upset. But replace that ant with a kitten, and you’re in for it. And what’s the difference between an ant and a kitten? You guessed it. Cuteness.
I’m sure there are thousands of other explanations for this phenomenon, but honestly, I don’t care to spend five-thousand plus words exploring them. I think the reason probably varies from person to person.
At any rate, I’ll leave you with this parting question: why do we always assume that animals are all innocent and cuddly?
Hasn’t anyone ever read Cujo?