As I suspected when the story broke, video of a frightened dog being … let’s say, strongly encouraged, to get into a pool during the filming of a “A Dog’s Purpose” has led to an explosive response from dog lovers on the Internet.
What I didn’t suspect was so many saying we should withhold judgment.
Here’s an example from my own Facebook page — a comment in response to either my ohmidog! post, or a previous comment from a reader who had decided not to see the movie. It urges viewers of the video not to “rush to crucifixion”:
“I also know that there are HOURS of footage to the contrary which this was conveniently edited from, and calculatedly released just prior to the film’s premiere. A PETA plant, I believe. I also personally know several people behind this film. I know how shocked, appalled, stunned, mortified they were. I know they immediately sought answers, spent all of yesterday viewing all TRUE, raw film from this exact scene shoot as well as several prior rehearsals … Closed minds, open mouths, soapboxes, rushing to judgment, social media & MEDIA are DANGEROUS TO GOOD PEOPLE.”
Peruse social media and you’ll find, for every 10 people expressing outrage, at least one saying the video was edited (as it clearly was), that there’s a conspiracy afoot (as is likely) and that we shouldn’t have an opinion about what we see on the video until we see it “in context.”
Guess what? I don’t, in this case, need context. Show me hours of footage of Hercules, the German shepherd, being pampered by his handlers and it won’t make a whit of difference.
Even the author of the best-selling book the movie is based on, while admitting mistakes were made, is spinning things as positively as possible.
“…When I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs,” W. Bruce Cameron wrote on his Facebook page. “I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.”
“The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water — I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool,” he added.
Again, it’s the argument that the dog was mostly treated right. That’s good to know, but not the least bit relevant.
The 45 seconds showing the handler nudge, push and lower the dog in the water against his will make it clear he was frightened, resistant and stressed — and that should have been enough to call off the stunt, at the outset.
That eventually they maybe did, for that day, or for that dog, doesn’t change the 45 seconds.
The producer, the director, and one of the stars have all said they found the video disturbing. The American Humane Association agrees, and they’ve placed the representative they assigned to monitor the movie on leave.
And yet the apologists — motivated maybe by their love of the book, or by their hate for PETA, or by their ties to industries that exploit dogs — keep saying it is too early to say anything bad occurred.
That said, what the video shows is only borderline abuse, if it’s abuse at all. Hercules was not physically harmed. In the history of animals in the entertainment industry, far worse things have happened, which is why this IS a story and why vigilance and monitoring are necessary in movie productions involving live animals.
Pursuing criminal charges, or a boycott of the movie (as PETA is calling for), may be over-reactions. I won’t say what the video shows meets the legal definition for animal cruelty.
But stating this is not proper treatment for an animal in a movie? I have no qualms with doing that. And I have no problem pointing out perfectly realistic results could have been achieved with computer graphics.
After Hercules went in and out of the churning water — outboard motors were used to create the effect of river rapids — the video cuts to another scene showing a German shepherd in the water, and going under it, for long enough that someone on the set shouted “cut it” and handlers rushed to his aid.
Some reports suggest that part of the video was taken on a different day, and could have even involved a different dog.
That second part of the video, I’d agree, though it does seem to convey a little bit of alarm on the set, is so short and blurry that it does require some context.
But pointing out flaws in the video, or the questionable motivations of those who provided it to TMZ (probably for a fee), does nothing to excuse the behavior on set — or the movie maker’s bottom line responsibility for it.
Cut through the haze of Internet hubbhub, sparring, intrigue, and guesswork and what we can see in the first part of the video — in or out of context — is enough to remind us that animals in the entertainment industry need to be protected, and that they should never be forced to pursue stunts against their will.
That, I suggest, should be step one in sorting through this episode — seeing the underlying concern, not obfuscating it — whether you were a party to it, or just watching from the outside.
Step two? The movie’s makers need to accept responsibility, and none seem to have gotten anywhere close to doing that.
Instead, they almost all seem to be saying “I was disturbed by video. I didn’t see it when it happened. I wasn’t there. Mistakes were made. I would have stopped it. Why was the video just now leaked?”
Movie fans, dog lovers, and most of all Hercules, deserve something better than that.
(Photo: Amblin Entertainment)
Posted: January 23rd, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, amblin entertainment, american humane association, animals, animals in movies, book, churning, context, controversy, cruelty, director, dogs, encouraged, entertainment, fear, forced, fright, german shepherd, handlers, hercules, industry, judgment, lasse hallstrom, leaked, movie, opinions, peta, pets, pool, responsibility, stress, tmz, trainers, treatment, video, w. bruce cameron