We are a nation of animal lovers, it is estimated that 13 million (46% of) households have pets. (Stats from http://www.pfma.org.uk) I myself have two dogs. So, with that in mind is it any surprise that one thing that can really polarise an audience is animal abuse? For me, It’s one of a few things that can really put me off a film.
Now, that’s not to say I won’t watch said film, it is only a film after all, not genuine abuse which is a good distinction to make as there are some films with real animal abuse in them, Cannibal Holocaust for example, which despite being a big horror fan I’ve never actually seen it because I can’t bring myself to sit through real animal abuse.
This is when someone shouts but what about Apocalypse Now?! It’s a masterpiece! And they’re right, it is, but I cry for that bull every damn time. Hypocrite? Maybe I am, it makes me so angry that a bull had to die just for that scene to be filmed.
I don’t endorse the killing/torture of animals for entertainments sake and Apocalypse Now and Cannibal Holocaust are sadly not the only examples. A quick Google search will provide you with some horrifying facts about animals in films, thankfully times have changed and thanks to organisations like American Humane someone is on set to make sure animals are not harmed or distressed during shooting.
I recently spotted a tweet from an American film critic Scott Weinberg that said:
“If you get upset by animals being hurt in fiction, AWWWWW, you beautiful widdle flower!”
followed quickly by
“People at this festival see movies full of carnage, but show one dog being killed and everyone turns outraged and pious. Grow up”
My initial reaction was, pretty pissed off, but actually he makes a good point. As a horror fan I can stomach a lot of things but animal abuse is just so upsetting to watch that it crosses a line for many people. I’m one of those people that will change the channel when an animal charity advert pops up on the TV, when it comes to animals I’m a wuss. But why is it that we can sit through abuse/murder/rape but when it comes to our four legged friends it crosses a line?
For the record rape is the only other thing that can put me off a film but that’s a whole other discussion.
For me I think it’s the notion that animals can’t cry out for help, they can’t tell anyone they’re being abused so there is no one to help and filmmakers like to exploit that feeling of helplessness.
I was recently engaged in a Twitter conversation covering the same ground and I think it’s interesting that some people have no problem whatsoever with seeing abuse on screen, do they repeat “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie” or are they jaded like my Twitter conversation partner suggested? I don’t think its jaded but I do think you’re dead inside. No, honestly I think it’s just a case of different people finding different subjects objectionable.
I think its perfectly OK for a film critic/reviewer to have moral objections to certain films and therefore chooses not to watch them but I think there are people who would disagree and possibly think you cannot call yourself a film critic if there are films you’re not open minded enough to watch.
Let me tell you, there are plenty of films I won’t watch, some I have objections to others just don’t interest me. It takes all sorts as they say.
So, how do you feel about seeing animal abuse in films? The simulated stuff that is, I don’t need to know that you don’t care if an animal is genuinely killed or tortured in a film. THAT makes you a douche.