love, pets, and the uncivilized

October 10, 2010 § 3 Comments

Sometimes I think that my dog loves my mother. When she gets home from work, my dog Lallie canters to the door and throws her paws onto my mothers tired heels the whole walk down the hall into the kitchen. The entire time that they are in the room together, Lallie appears to be exited, following my mother around, or at peace, resting on the floor. But when my mom leaves the room, all hell breaks loose. Lallie apparently needs and misses my mother immediately.

As a class we have been trying to sort out some sort of a hierarchy in which we view the animal world as humans. In Bambi, we saw that all the animals could speak except for the birds. In TLK, lions were depicted as monarchy with ruling power over all other animals. But in CotW, something much more closer to us is the idea of domestication and how we view our pets. I touched on this in my previous post, but when I wrote that post I had yet to read about Buck’s interaction with John. London writes that Buck, the dog, has the capacity to love the man that took him in and saved his life. This made me wonder: why do we think that our pets can love us but don’t imagine other animals having the capacity to love?

As the saying goes, “dog is man’s best friend.” We tend to take animals in because we want companionship. It is only logical that we would project human emotions onto their actions. Our pets want food, so they follow us around, and therefore we think they love us. Petplace feels otherwise, as they outline on their website. It does make sense though that we would think that our pets love us back. We don’t think about other animals loving, and that is because we usually associate such emotion with humans and humans only; it is too complex for the savage and instinct-oriented.

London’s assertion that Buck would have the capacity to love perpetuates the idea that domesticated animals are somehow different than others. Taking this into the context of our class discussion, pets are high in animal world hierarchy. Although they may be eaten alive in the wild, humans see them as golden, and maybe even a little bit like themselves.

Audiences and Purposes: Bambi

September 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Audience often affects the percieved purpose of a work. The original Bambi, written in Europe in 1923 by Felix Salten, probably was not intended for the same audience that Disney’s adaptation was with his film version in 1942. The film, created as entertainment for American children in the 1940’s, may lack many of the motives driving Felix Salten’s writing, and simultaneously include some of Disney’s own, separate motives. Before I realized this, I treated the book and the film as one and the same in my mind. So, when I came across an essay published in Midstream regarding Bambi the 1923 book, I initially judged its contents based on my knowledge from watching the 1942 American Film. 

In the article, Richard Glaser argues that Bambi was written as an allegory for the conditions of Jewish struggle in Europe. Felix Salten, whose true name was Sigmund Salzmann, was a Jew living in Vienna.

Glaser asserts that Bambi’s forest environment represents the Jewish environment surrounded by the greater non-Jewish environment. Within  the Jewish community, there is safety, but outside there is danger. In Bambi, “Man” represents the non-Jewish persecuting majority. The meadow that Bambi and his mother traverse for food is middle ground between the safe, Jewish forest and the dangerous, outside world.

I could not see the connection between a children’s movie and Jewish repression. I have yet to read the original book, so I could not accurately form an opinion on Salten’s motives. Disney, an American with a non-Jewish bias, probably did not produce the film with the intention of a Jewish allegory. If anything, the film more was more literal: humans are destructive to animals and nature. The book may have likely carried more literary symbolism that is not so present in the film. Disney’s audience– young children– usually cannot accurately read past the literal.

What I learned from this experience was this: acknowledge the audience before you read too far into the motives of the composer.

Man’s Bad Rap

September 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

The forest depicted in Bambi is filled with talkative, furry animals who share baby-like features and innocent attitudes. The creatures, while of many different species, all seem to get along and interact as a community rather than a divided, competitive ecosystem. Likewise, there are no predators–  just friends. When “Man” enters the sacred, haven of a forest to hunt, he is the lone representative of evil selfishness and predatory danger. Disney depicts the presence of Man as an invasion to the natural state of the forest. In this way, all of the animals belong in nature, but Man does not. This not only suggests that Man does wrong by defining himself as superior to other animals and hunting them ruthlessly, but also implies that Man is not part of nature to begin with.

Man is only referenced, never explicitely shown. Effects– gunfire, dogs, campgrounds, and eventually a forest fire– are the only substances proving that Man is even present in the film. By not choosing to put a face on Man, Disney can attack the entire human race as a whole, not just a specific stereotype. “Man” being referenced by the animals could be European, Native American, African, Asian– anything. All that matters is that humans are not the same as animals, and that the practice of humans is drastically different than that of animals. The forest dwellers appear more “human” than Man does. They speak english and they are empathetic to one another. Man, on the other hand, is cold and distant from other animals and has no respect for the life of others. By purposefully excluding animal-to-animal interactions that are realistic like predator and prey relationships and competition for food, Man is the only group acting selfishly and therefore stands out. For this reason, Bambi is an unrealistic representation of reality and should not be shown to young children who tend to base their perceptions of the world off of such films.

What’s the Difference?

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?”

–Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau is touching on a distinction that we often make between ourselves and the rest of nature. Because we are self-centered, we tend to believe ourselves to be different, and often superior, to the rest of the world—mammals, plants, critters and clouds. But Thoreau reminds us of something: are we any different? While we may have reasoning skills, advanced civilizations and even the ability to go against the instincts engrained in our biological makeup, when it comes down to it we are made up of the same building blocks as the rest of nature. We are just molecules—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and a few others—bound together, resulting in functioning organisms.

So what is the secret ingredient that makes us more special than all of the other organisms on earth? When we look at the world from that frame of mind, the notion that there really is a difference between us and nature seems to fade. In order to remain humble, we need to remind ourselves constantly of this fact: we are insignificant. We are just parts of an overwhelmingly amazing whole. It is Nature that should be revered. All of Nature. This includes ourselves—just not exclusively.

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