As a nation in the grip of Quaid Fever, you're no doubt aware of A Dog's Purpose -- an upcoming film about a lovable canine quantum-leaping into various dog bodies. And since dogs can only reincarnate as other dogs, the apparent "purpose" is an inescapable torment cycle of servitude for their human masters ... a batshit philosophy seemingly practiced by the filmmakers themselves.
For those unaware, the hard-to-watch production footage shows a scared German Shepherd unwilling to dive into rushing water in order to shoot a "heroic" river rescue scene, only to be shoved in and ultimately pulled under the current. Accepting that the dog survived, and that the footage is out of context and edited, it's still more than safe to say that this dog "appreciation" movie won the People's Choice for Most Ironic Dick Opus.
As expected, the backlash was swift, and this story about an immortal dog voiced by Josh Gad won't be a box office powder keg after all ... thanks to the moral outrage of a public seemingly unaware that this shit happens all the goddamn time.
That's right, conscientious moviegoers, The Hobbit killed more animals than a pubescent Jeffrey Dahmer -- including two horses, six goats, six sheep, a dozen chickens, and one presumably adorable miniature pony named (I shit you not) "Rainbow." Because while everyone knows about the industry's soiled animal history (Edison famously couldn't achieve orgasm without electrocuting an elephant), we super-forgot that the American Humane Association's mandatory involvement in the 1980s barely made a dent in the problem.
So while I'm not trying to diminish the raw dickery of A Dog's Purpose, I can't help but chortle cynically at how sporadically our "give a shit" meter hits the red.
Remember HBO's Luck? Of course you don't -- the show was cancelled back in 2012, on account of it being a house of equine horrors resulting in a body count of at least three. When the AHA rep spoke up about the unsafe treatment, she was promptly fired, due to an alleged deal between her company and HBO's producers. When the dust cleared, the manager had settled a wrongful termination lawsuit with the AHA and no other charges were made.
"Howling sewer dick, how could something like that happen?" you scream into the smartphone, snarling through your morning BM. Well it turns out that the entire film industry is designed to ignore these hilariously avoidable events.
The average film production functions with all the serenity of a Nickelodeon game show. Movies are perpetually over budget and behind schedule. Crews have limited time at each location to set up and break down equipment. And in it all, someone needs to make sure everyone is safe, getting paid, and not fucking around. That person is the Unit Production Manager, the highest low-level position on set. So imagine being a UPM on The Hobbit and getting told that farm animals are dying amid all the other problems you're juggling. Would you a) stop the 700-million-dollar-production to ensure the safety of a chicken and risk your entire career, or b) put on a white southern tux and start heating up the cooking oil?
Do you love this chicken more than you love paying rent?
This is why you don't see anyone speaking out in the Dog's Purpose footage. A boom mic operator who has been standing for the last 10 hours simply doesn't have the emotional bandwidth to risk their entire career because a dog looks frightened. The reality is that everyone in that video probably just wanted to get the shot and go home. And considering that this was a second unit crew which included neither the director nor the actors, there's no one with the confident authority to shut the production down.
"But isn't this why the American Humane Association exists in the first place?" you ask. Yes! It is! Only, as several reports by both The Hollywood Reporter and The LA Times have uncovered, the Humane Association does a garbage job of policing the studios, and has a long history of representatives withholding cases of abuse and even having romantic relationships with trainers and producers. It makes you wonder how many cases of cruelty go unpunished when the only time the AHA takes action is after some kind of public outrage.
Who watches the watchers' watchers?
It sounds scandalous, but imagine if your job was to rat on the only other people you work with all day. This is why when a tiger nearly drowned on the set of Life Of Pi, the AHA rep (who was dating the producer) downplayed it to her bosses to avoid a conflict.
The Hollywood Reporter
Oh, yeah. WAY better that you didn't purposefully try to drown the tiger, you heroes.
At this point, you might be asking, "Hey, wait. Why did Life Of Pi even need to almost drown a REAL tiger?" Good question, hypothetical you. After all, this award-winning film which everyone watched exactly once spent a hearty slice of its publicity yammering about how groundbreaking their CGI tiger was.
Rhythm & Hues
Which brings us to the obvious solution. For not only did the production nearly kill a living tiger, but it also successfully killed a VFX company in the process.
And thanks to oversaturation and overseas competition, we saw numerous effects companies go under during this same time. So in the dumbest dilemma ever, we have one group too overworked and corrupt to monitor animal abuse on film sets, and another that can create flawless CGI animals and is begging for business. How are either of these problems a problem when both problems exist?
For all the things we needlessly digitize, like stunts and blood effects, for all the dead actors we resurrect into Gumby-skinned abominations, the one thing CGI is really good at is replicating animals.
Disney/20th Century Fox/AMC
Guys, I'm not saying we have to replace every animal with a computer counterpart, but can Hollywood at least budget in the post-work needed to avoid drowning dogs? Is that too much to ask? Filmmaking is already an inherently insane act that serves no rational purpose except to placate one of the eight million species on this planet. So maybe it's time we stopped dragging terrified animals into our elaborate make-believe industry just so we can feel good about keeping them as tiny cuddle slaves.
Dave lives in your heart and also on Twitter.
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