We were only a few minutes into the movie and I already had my thumbs in my ears and the rest of my fingers pressed over my eyes. I hear my husband’s muffled voice say, “he’s ok.” I take my hands from my face. “This might not work, huh,” he said mostly to himself. “Can you ask the internet?” I offered. “I just need to know if they’re going to kill him because if they are, I’d rather watch something else.”
We were watching the movie Mama. “He” was a little brown dachshund who appeared to have signed up to die at the hands of a messed up, feral little girl.
I’m a little funny about animals. And kids and babies, but film and TV producers seem to understand that most audiences don’t want to see children hurt. They are completely oblivious to my sensitivity about animals. To be fair, I am an extreme example. I get agitated when I see people practically strangling their dogs because they didn’t train them to walk politely on leash. Not that my dog is going to win any etiquette awards any time soon, but I have accepted defeat and walk her with a harness.
I can’t watch Ben Stiller movies because the guy thinks it’s hilarious to throw small animals out of windows. I did not enjoy Life of Pi because right off the bat they drowned a whole goddamned zoo. Then I spent the rest of the movie worried about the tiger. I used to be able to reassure myself whenever I sensed an animal was going to be hurt by saying something like, “Wow, that dachshund is a really good actor. What a convincing death scene. If there were doggie oscars, he should totally get a nod.” But that trick stopped working a few years ago.
I wasn’t always this sensitive, and I’m not this way about lots of other things. I’m ok with tough guys beating the snot out of bad guys who’ve got it coming. I still might cover my eyes, but I won’t be upset by it. But it’s something entirely different with animals. The muscle in the middle of my shoulder blades knots up and gets cold and I feel an almost unbearable urge to run. Like if I can get out of the room fast enough and start a load of laundry or something, I can get the bad images/feelings out of my head.
It’s isolating, like sitting in the middle of a sea of Ben Stiller fans and being the only one who isn’t laughing. And it sucks for my husband, who will watch anything. I need entertainment that has been vetted for things I find potentially upsetting. It’s ridiculous.
“You are not going to believe this,” husband says, his smile lit by the glow of the laptop. “What, he lives?” I respond hopefully. “Yes, but that’s not the unbelievable part. I just googled ‘Mama’ and ‘does the dog die’ and I got this.” He turned the screen toward me.
There is a website called “Does the Dog Die” that offers very brief summaries for movies where it looks like an animal might get hurt. They put little happy/sad/very sad cartoon dog faces next to each movie they have reviewed indicating whether any pets die, or get injured, or are all happy and fine. There was Mama, right next to a happy dog face.
I cannot explain how happy that site made me, not just because they answered my question and the answer was the best one (happy dog face) but because they made me feel less crazy. Someone (maybe even several someones) out there thinks this is important enough to make a really helpful website for me (actually, the husband) to find. I am so grateful.
I honestly don’t remember the last time I relaxed and enjoyed a movie the way I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of Mama, and I’m not even convinced it’s that great a movie.