I love movies. In a world where there’s all too much to be stressed out about, and too much work to be done at any given time, movies offer a wonderful escape. Besides, I just plain enjoy watching a great film. However! If there’s a dog in the movie—it doesn’t need to be in bad shape, or stray, or sick, mind you, just a happy, friendly family dog—I spend the entire film worrying about whether something is going to happen to the dog. If it’s a suspense film, that goes double.
My husband and I are a Netflix-loving couple. This past Saturday night, we settled in to watch our latest choice, Wind River. The trailers we’d seen showed a gritty drama with good acting and an intriguing story. We were both looking forward to it. After a brief, dreamy opening montage featuring a young woman running across a lake as credits rolled, a stark opening scene appeared: three beautiful coyotes stood at a distance from a herd of cattle. A man with a rifle crouched in the bushes. Before I could say, “Oh, crap,” the man had shot one of the coyotes. There was then an immediate closeup looking down upon the bloody carcass. I can’t tell you whether the coyote was dead or still breathing, because after the first split second of seeing it, I couldn’t watch. I also can’t tell you the rest of what happens in the film, because we turned it off.
Movies have ratings for a reason. Parents don’t want their kids exposed to sexual or violent content. While PG-13 cautions parents in a general way that some material may not be suitable for children, we are also now seeing more specific warnings regarding things like brief nudity, foul language, mild violence, and so on. So why not have a warning about violence to animals? Surely animal lovers make up a large enough segment of the population to warrant it, and yet there seems to be no concern whatsoever about violence toward animals in films. It’s a sad reflection on our society.
As an animal lover, a warning would be appreciated and would have saved me from seeing many things I can never un-see. There was the film Fear, where teenagers invade a home and torture the family. Hmm. Whatever happened to the dog, who went missing early on? Wait! He’s coming back in through the dog door! Oh, sorry, that was just his head. Yes, his head. WTF? Sorry, I understand the concept of shock value, but what would happen if that level of graphic violence were applied to a kid? Would a scene featuring a headless child have ever make the final cut? Then there are the times nothing bad has happened yet but you just know it’s bound to, like in the film Signs—the one about crop circles and unseen, possibly alien monsters. I was all but yelling at the screen as the family left their German Shepherd tied out in the field as they took cover indoors. And you just knew in Secret Window, where Johnny Depp was a writer living alone in a remote cabin, that nothing good was going to happen to his dog—and you were right. Did I spoil some of the suspense for you? You’re welcome. Now you can avoid those films entirely.
Look, I understand the need for dramatic tension in films. It’s usually a good thing. I even understand the need for bad things to happen to good dogs in a storyline—if it’s really called for in the overall plot and serves a purpose. And I realize that not everyone is as sensitive about violence towards animals as I am, and as many others are. Still, it would hurt no one and would help many of us to have some sort of rating to warn us, so that we could at least make an informed choice before deciding where to spend our movie dollars.
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Nicole, if I know an animal is going to be in a movie, I always go to https://www.doesthedogdie.com/. I, like you, have trouble with animal violence. It usually will help steer me from movies that might cause a lot more emotional impact than I’d like.
Thanks, Jennifer! It’s so funny, when I was venting to my husband about all of this, I said there ought to be a website where you can check on things like that before seeing a movie. I’m so glad to know there is one!
It’s edited by the public, so it’s hit or miss. And the GUI is not as user friendly as it used to be, though the comments are helpful. I’ve found it to be accurate when I do attend movies.
Love this. To this day I cannot watch Dances with Wolves. There are a list of others. I am so glad that a person that left a reply sited a web site I had never heard of but will check it out. On a broader note you are correct on the animal violence. Over the years I have dealt with this up close and personal and who cannot say a movie showing animal cruelty will not spur others. Thanks again.
I find it horrible too.
I couldn’t agree more. I have stopped watching anything that could remotely be twisted into violence against animals.
Yep – I try to check doesthedogdie too. Often the violence is just gratuitous.
Brilliant post. Why do you think police are on high alert whenever someone does something crazy & violent, and the world finds out about it? Because it gives other unstable people the same idea to go out and do it. The media can be real poison. People and animals end up suffering.
Thanks, puppylover and yes, that’s the other thing. It normalizes violence toward animals, just as violence toward people in films, etc. normalizes violence toward people.
Totally agree!!! Same thing applies to Facebook posts. Stop with the graphic pictures. Like you I can’t “unsee” these images and they haunt me. I hope the movie industry takes notice.
Interesting happening, I hide all posts with animal violence. The other day a post showed up on my feed. It was labeled in a way you knew the picture wasn’t good. But instead of seeing the picture, it was a grey box with a printed warning of graphic image blocked due to my preferences set on Facebook. There was an option to open it, which of course I did not. I was pleased to see Facebook listened.
Kathy, I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been able to make this progress with Facebook! I completely agree about the graphic images. Just going through my FB feed some days is enough to depress me. I’m going to be more adamant about hiding all of the graphic posts and see what happens. Thanks.
Yes! I DO set and worry about the dog through the whole show! And if I think something is going to happen to the dog I will get up and leave! I think nothing in this world disturbs me more than a dog getting hurt in any situation!! Real or not! I can’t even stand those humane society commercials!! I have to mute the tv and look away!! Dogs are my passion in life! They are so precious to me! They love so deeply and unconditionally. They deserve more love than most people I know! Yes I think we deserve a warning!! Or better yet, stop making shows with scenes like that!!! I’m glad to know you feel the same way I do!!
Yes yes yes. And even when it’s not violence, the dog sometimes just disappears and no one mentions it. There is a dog and the characters go through their arc and at the end there is no dog. There is NO satisfying resolution if we don’t know what happened to the dog. Did they think we’d just forget? It really spoils everything.
And then there was this film where Nick Nolte was an evil father who winds up living alone on his farm looking after a barn full of animals. The grown son shows up, they have it out and the son kills the father and drives away feeling free. The end. Hey, wait…aren’t you forgetting something? So glad to know about doesthedogdie.com. Thanks.
So true, Anna! I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said to a movie or tv screen things like, “Wait, but now who’s going to feed the dog?” or, “What about the cat they left in the apartment?” You’re so right.
Have you written to the people who are responsible for rating movies? Things will not be changed until someone speaks up.
I’m with you. I cannot watch any film in which an animal – especially a dog or a horse – dies. Even a wolf or a coyote. Cannot do it. It’s very upsetting. (Dances with Wolves was ruined for me.) And like you, I can’t unsee it. I haven’t been able to watch a movie with an animal since Old Yeller. The ushers had my mother remove me from the theater. Couldn’t watch that other film either – about the two lost dogs and the cat.
I too worry about the dog and all the animals as they are the ones that if the story is more about them not humans, then they are OK BUT in other movies they get killed etc and I HATE these story lines. Too much tension and thus I rarely see these shows. Also wonder why most TV shows where it is about animals they allways show them killing other animals, get eaten or do the eating. Always so clinical about killing. We humans are no different and more so than the animals who do it to survive whereas we do it to waste. Thanks
I soo agree. Some time back I was invited to watch Eight Below with family and was quite traumatized by the fact that the guy left he dogs behind. I walked out soon after and don’t even know how the movie ended. Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn.