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This may or may not be coherent, but I'm deeply troubled.

I hate to see harm come to animals, especially dogs. Even fake harm -- I'm sorry, makers of Atanarjuat, Amores Perros, My Dog Skip and other filmed entertainments, but I will not see your movies because I've read that dog characters die in them. It's just too easy for me to empathize with the canine tragedy, with the kid whose beloved pet passes on. It's too easy to imagine my own dog being hurt. I can't watch.

So I have been knotted up in anguish for two days now over this dog-shooting incident in Tennessee. How did this happen? How did that situation get so out of control so quickly? But it's not just the senseless killing of poor Patton the friendly mutt. Everything about this story just sounds insane. How did a vacationing family end up handcuffed at gunpoint by the side of the road, surrounded by half a dozen police cruisers, because a wallet fell out of their car? What is going on here?

I also hate the standard movie/sitcom plot where a simple misunderstanding causes a chain of comic and/or disastrous events, where everyone is operating under the wrong assumptions and innocent people are presumed to have done awful things because no one takes the time to clear the air, to compare notes, to just fucking ask what really happened. It's why I could never watch the show "Ellen" -- every week she managed to get herself into some humiliating yet utterly avoidable mishap. It just made me tense. I wanted to shout at the characters and make them straighten everything out before someone got hurt.

An appeals court ruled this week that the government can declare you -- even if you're a citizen -- an enemy combatant and put you in jail, and you will never get the chance to explain. After all, we know our law enforcement agencies would never put innocent people in prison, right? Just listen for minute. Itís all a mistake. Thereís been a misunderstanding. Please just listen. But the government is afraid and the people are afraid and fear makes people do terrible things.

Tomorrow there's another anti-war demonstration in the Loop at noon. Next weekend, there are peace marches in DC and San Francisco and cities all around the country. Maybe protesting this administration and its fucked-up policies and its war is like shouting at the TV. And maybe soon Ashcroft will decide that people who protest the war are "enemy combatants" and we'll all be rounded up. But I have to believe someone will listen to us eventually. Even when voices of dissent are corralled into "First Amendment zones" and threatened with tear gas and rubber bullets and militarized police in Robocop riot gear. There's already so much fear in this country now. I don't want to say I didnít speak up against it because I too was afraid.

Replies: 2 Confessions

Same deal with My Cousin Vinny. Couldn't get through it for that very reason.

Daniel-san @ 01/11/2003 10:12 AM CST

Well, yeah, dogs, but I think this is the tried-and-true melodrama formula, in which a work fails if the viewer/reader is not reduced to helpless tears. Raised to a high art by the Victorians (viz. "The Little Match Girl,"), it remains an entertainment staple. Notable practitioner in the US is Walt Disney (recall the entirely gratuitous death of Trusty in "Lady and the Tramp"). Except for opera, I loath melodrama and avoid it in all its forms, but I agree that the absolute lowest, most despicable form of melodramatic manipulation is gratuitous animal death. Personally, I don't care if it's a dog, a cat, a horse, a ferret, or a goldfish - it's all just a cheap, quick and dirty way to make the audience think the work offers genuine emotional depth, and I think you are right to repudiate it.

elavil @ 01/11/2003 10:37 AM CST

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