I was just watching a movie where the main protagonist dies, and it didn’t really bother me. This got me thinking. Why is it that more people are upset by an animal’s death in a movie than a human’s? Think about it. Let’s take an example from a pretty popular movie; I Am Legend (by the way, spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it). There was the scene with Will Smith holding his German Shepard in his arms and singing to it, as he had to kill it before it became a zombie. Then there was scene at the end where Will Smith blows up all the zombies and himself to save the girl. During that movie, both Will Smith’s dog and Will Smith die, but which character’s death upset you more? If you’ve seen the movie, I am willing to bet that most of you would choose the scene where the German Shepard is killed. Why is it that scenes like that or Old Yeller, Marley & Me, or even the animated Lion King get us so as Americans so upset?
Well, what I think it comes down to is how desensitized we are as a society to human death nowadays. From the time we are children, in the news, movies, TV shows, video games, even cartoons there is human death all around us. In a movie or TV show humans are killed all the time for no real good reason whatsoever, but for an animal to die it usually has to have an essential purpose to the plot. Back to the I Am Legend example, the dog is killed so Will Smith is left alone for the first time, and he loses his closest friend. Not very often is a dog killed in a movie just for the hell of it. The reason being because people aren’t desensitized to a dog’s death the way they are to a human’s.
I am not saying its a bad thing that people get upset about an animal dying. I mean just look at those ASPCA commercials with the sad cats and dogs to slow music. It’s tough to watch. What the bad thing is, is the fact that the same sentiment isn’t shared towards humans. These TV show/Movie examples, paint a much bigger picture for society as a whole. It shows how we don’t want to look out for one another; we are used to seeing humans suffer.
One of the main reasons I got the idea to write this, is because of a pretty gruesome video I watched the other day. This video started with a man being held in a lion’s mouth inside of an Indian zoo. The lion eventually started more aggressively trying to kill the man and was shot and killed. The man was nearly killed as well. While reading through the comments, everyone was so upset about the lion’s death and hardly anyone cared about the man that was about to die. This boils down to the fact that people don’t see a lion getting killed everyday. I just played Call of Duty and killed about 100 people so that guy dying isn’t as big a deal.
I guess where I’m going with this is the fact that we need to start becoming more sensible about both human and animal deaths. Yes, it is sad when a dog is beaten to death, but it is also sad when somebody overdoses on drugs and dies. Honestly, if I were to see pictures of both of them dead I might be more upset about the dog than the person from drugs. This is the problem and this is what I am saying needs to change. This doesn’t only apply to dogs, it applies to any animal that people put up on a pedestal and value more than a human life. One reason we as humans are so sympathetic towards animals is because we humanize them. We’ll think of our dogs as looking at us the way a child does. Those looks may be similar, but that is really just us giving a dog human characteristics to be able to relate with them. What creates that pedestal is the fact that we’re thinking of these pets on the same level as we would a human. When at the end of the day, even though it may take some time to retrain our minds, and the media makes it tough on us, we shouldn’t value an animal’s life over a human’s.