Oh deer, oh deer
More than 60 years ago Walt Disney’s Bambi, an animated film about a young deer and its animal friends frolicking about in a bucolic forest, kicked off a generational ‘sho schweet’ moment.india Updated: Apr 25, 2008 20:54 IST
More than 60 years ago Walt Disney’s Bambi, an animated film about a young deer and its animal friends frolicking about in a bucolic forest, kicked off a generational ‘sho schweet’ moment. Every child who saw the film was supposed to take home not only the lasting image of a cute member of the animal kingdom but also to be infused with the virtues — aesthetic and ideological — of pastoral life. The big doleful eyes of Bambi have made venison eaters — as well as other non-vegetarians — quake with guilt. In fact, the compelling scene in which Bambi’s mother is shot dead by hunters (the death actually occurring off-screen) can be considered as one of the most violent sequences in cinematic history making Quentin Tarantino look like Florence Nightingale. Such was the impact of the ‘death of Bambi’s mother’ scene that when first screened in 1942, hunters protested, complaining that the film demonised them. Things have changed since then, and now, some pipe-smoking cultural studies scholars are picking on Disney’s classic ‘Love Nature’ film for ‘sentimentalising’ and ‘distorting’ views of nature and animals. Um, and how is that?
The Director of Oceans Programmes at the Environmental Defence Fund, Rod Fujita, insists that movies and documentaries that “pull at one’s heartstrings” — like Bambi or Born Free or Free Willy (not Stuart Little or Antz though) — can obstruct understanding real threats to nature by oversimplification and playing rhetorical stunts. In other words, by playing up the utter innocence of wildlife, generations get a silly, one-dimensional picture of animal life on Earth — thereby probably giving rise to eco-fascists or other hardcore elements like Greenpeace or Peta activists.
Might the worthy scholars be reading a bit too much into things? Or are we, silly domesticated geese that we are, missing the trees for the pretty pictures? Whether it’s Bambi or other pastoral kitsch classics like Black Beauty, the fact is that supposed subliminal messages in pretty cartoons or movies are soon forgotten by most people who grow up to relish their sushi and waste paper in writing down pointless memos. So even if Disney was telling us to save the world much before Al Gore was going on about it, films perform their proselytising role only that much. Which also means that the unreleased documentary film on the punk band, The Sex Pistols, Who Killed Bambi? is unlikely to turn us into deer killers with a blood lust if and when we ever see it.