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.


Pygmalion. Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, 1938.
Edition screened: Criterion ‘Essential Art House’ DVD released 2009. Runtime approximately 95 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

I was humbled and embarrassed watching this movie. Of course I knew (whatever that means) that My Fair Lady was adapted from Shaw’s Pygmalion, if for no other reason than I have seen MFL way too many times and this fact of adaptation is noted prominently in the credits. [In my defense I must stress that these waytoomany times were in my childhood and teen years.] But I was stunned to discover that in this case “adapted” means “copied almost line-for-line and modified slightly to make stupid”. 

All of the cute facial expressions and theatrical nuances we attribute to Audrey Hepburn are copied from Wendy Hiller’s earlier, superior, portrayal of Eliza Doolittle, Leslie Howard provides one of his best performances as a better Henry Higgins than Rex Harrison, and the character of Freddy Eynsford-Hill is bearable rather than un. 

Perhaps of most personal significance is the obvious absence of musical numbers in Pygmalion. Over the decades I came to understand that the songs in MFL were in fact stupid and questionably performed, not shimmeringly wonderful as children are taught to believe. But it was not until watching Pygmalion that I realized the music actually ruins the production, sucking all the humor and timing out of the witty script in favor of prancing and howling.