Heads Up, Ears Down

This blog accurately identifies depictions of violence and cruelty toward animals in films. The purpose is to provide viewers with a reliable guide so that such depictions do not come as unwelcome surprises. Films will be accurately notated, providing a time cue for each incident along with a concise description of the scene and perhaps relevant context surrounding the incident. In order to serve as a useful reference tool, films having no depictions of violence to animals will be included, with an indication that there are no such scenes. This is confirmation that the films have been watched with the stated purpose in mind.

Note that the word depictions figures prominently in the objective. It is a travesty that discussions about cruelty in film usually are derailed by the largely unrelated assertion that no animals really were hurt (true only in some films, dependent upon many factors), and that all this concern is just over a simulation. Not the point, whether true or false. We do not smugly dismiss depictions of five-year-olds being raped because those scenes are only simulations. No, we are appalled that such images are even staged, and we are appropriately horrified that the notion now has been planted into the minds of the weak and cruel.

Depictions of violence or harm to animals are assessed in keeping with our dominant culture, with physical abuse, harmful neglect, and similar mistreatment serving as a base line. This blog does not address extended issues of animal welfare, and as such does not identify scenes of people eating meat or mules pulling plows. The goal is to itemize images that might cause a disturbance in a compassionate household.

These notes provide a heads-up but do not necessarily discourage watching a film because of depicted cruelty. Consuming a piece of art does not make you a supporter of the ideas presented. Your ethical self is created by your public rhetoric and your private actions, not by your willingness to sit through a filmed act of violence.


Carnage. Roman Polanski, 2011.
Edition screened: Sony Blu-ray, released 2012. English language. Runtime approximately 80 minutes.

Summary: Recurring discussion of abandoning a hamster.

John C. Reilly’s character recounts several times how he released the pet hamster outside their apartment building. This action is generally condemned by the other characters. The final scene shows the hamster sitting in the grassy park, content and safe. 

I am fed up with this exact inexcusable thing, this overused, dull-witted contrivance in story-telling. The comedic plot of Carnage is not about the hamster, but about a conflict between two couples which escalates into uninhibited expression of juvenile behavior. The writer concludes the movie with a shot of the hamster safely sitting in the park, thus putting a happy ending on the debacle and relieving tension about the fate of the animal. This is a huge problem in both our news and entertainment media because the hamster will not be fine. It will be ripped apart by a dog, or hit by a car, or bludgeoned to death by morons.

Stop teaching the lie that domestic animals will be ok on their own. The bunny you got for Easter cannot survive on grass, and she either starved to death or was killed by a fox or dog. The puppy your father ditched somewhere was not taken in by some nice lady. It died alone and afraid, or worse.

Our sub-genre of the entertainment industry called The News Media wallows in similar detrimental irresponsibility. Time and again we hear the story of the dog that walked 1,500 miles to get back home; the cat that was locked in an abandoned apartment for a week until found by a real estate agent; a cruel or neglectful act that sent some mangled animal to the hospital, then the legless deformed creature returns ‘to his family.’ Always, the anchor ends the story with a sappy smile and we’re supposed to be happy. I am not happy that the 1% fluke survival rate gets 100% of the attention. I am not happy that a national population raised to intentionally betray and abuse animals who depend on us for their lives is rewarded with happy endings and big smiles that the little critters are ok in the end. Knock it off.