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In 2002, young adult author Gordon Korman wrote a book titled No More Dead Dogs. The premise is simple. A kid gets tired of reading books about dogs that die, and protests that his teacher tells him he has to read them and like them. The book was a commentary on how often dogs are killed in children's literature, but I’m about to that point of frustration myself. As 2007 is drawing to a close, I’m about ready to shout out to Hollywood: No more dead dogs!
I know dogs are supposed to be man’s best friend, which puts them in the unique position of being easy audience manipulation. We see how close a character is to a dog, and then we understand their feeling of loss when the dog dies. An emotional connection has been built and when it is severed tears flow, both from the characters and the audience. The problem is, writers are getting too repetitive with the plot device, and the slaughter of dogs is starting to piss me off instead of make me sad – and I’m not even a dog person.
Have a character you want the audience to know is a real bad ass? Don’t have him rape or murder people. Instead have him go after the family dog. This is a trend writers like Alexandre Aja have taken to heart and instantly add into their own formulaic writing (although to be fair, Aja turned the formula around this year by having the dog belong to his P2 psychopath, although there was still a doggie death involved). Have we really become so desensitized to violence that we only connect someone as being evil when they kill helpless animals?
This year has seen ample canine carnage, from Molly Shannon’s boon companion in The Year of the Dog to the only family Dr. Robert Neville has in I Am Legend. It’s getting to the point that offing man’s best friend has gotten cliché instead of clever, and entirely predictable. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t feel like listing movies with dead dogs is even a spoiler because you should know it’s coming as soon as you see a dog.
As a frequent movie watcher, I’m sick of all the dead dogs. Hollywood writers, while you’re making circles around buildings as part of your strike, start talking with each other about new ways to torment protagonists and characterize antagonists and leave the slaughter of innocent dogs as a plot device of the past. No more dead dogs!