I Won’t Watch Anything That Involves Animal Cruelty

It doesn’t matter if it’s fictitious or not; I’m not down with it

Photo: Mike Lorusso via Unsplash

I’ll never watch The End of the F***king World, The Stranger, or Don’t F*ck With Cats, even though I normally enjoy watching movies and TV shows about serial killers, young adults, or true-crime.

I’m still undecided about Tiger King.

I can’t stand to watch any kind of animal death or animal abuse, even if it’s fictional or necessary to move the plot along. I love reading suspense and mystery novels but will immediately stop if there’s too much foreshadowing regarding a sweet dog, or a cat with a little too much personality, because I know that at some point that pet will be killed to raise the stakes.

Besides my personal aversion, I think harming an animal just to make the bad guy more despicable is lazy writing. Animals aren’t disposable and shouldn’t be used as manipulative devices — even if no animals are harmed in real life.

Although I can’t force filmmakers, novelists, or screenwriters to not include any kind of animal violence, I can avoid putting myself through the anguish that I feel seeing it. I’ve experienced the loss of a pet and it’s not something that I want to go through vicariously. I also don’t need inspiration for more nightmares where one of my cats (both living and dead) are in danger.

So, I do my due diligence before I watch something and try to find out if there’s anything in a movie or T.V. show that may negatively affect me. If there is, I need to determine whether the moment is quick enough for me to miss it by closing my eyes or if I need to skip the whole thing in its entirety.

I was prepared for the box of dead kittens in The Haunting of Hill House and could avert my eyes though it still made me extremely sad.

To determine whether I can watch a show or a movie, I will question my friends about whether there are any animals harmed, check out the parental guides on IMDB, or visit DoestheDogDie.com. But as conscientious as I am about preventing myself from witnessing animal cruelty, sometimes it will happen without any warning.

Riverdale, I’m talking to you.

Imagine my shock and dismay to see Betty Cooper mortally hurting a cat with a rock. At least I had recorded the episode and could fast-forward through it. Though, I wasn’t happy when they flashed back to that scene several times.

The Shape of Water may have been an Oscar winner, but the monster’s habit of eating cats meant that I stopped watching before having to witness it having dinner. And no, I never watched one second of Alf. I know it’s a comedy but there’s nothing funny about killing cats.

I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s, except for the scene when she lets the cat out of the cab onto the streets of New York City, so that it can “be free.” For me, in that moment Holly Golightly is the opposite of endearing.

In fact, Holly, go f*ck yourself.

I’m not great with any kind of blood spurting, gore-filled movie, but I have to admit that seeing regular violence doesn’t upset me in the same emotional way as animal abuse. I can’t help but think about how I would feel if one of my cats was harmed. I’d be devastated.

The way that animal lives are treated as disposable plot devices on so many movies and shows makes me feel that most people don’t understand the value of an animal’s life.

On one book forum that I follow, a woman posted to ask if there were any animals harmed in a recently released thriller. Rather than treating it like they would a normal question about other types of potentially triggering content in the book, her post got a lot of negative responses. People chided her for wanting to know — they just didn’t understand why it mattered to her.

I understood her concern, especially after reading about the lead character’s senior dog and having all the warning bells go off in my head that the author was setting up something. Since it was a suspense novel, the odds were that some tragedy would befall the dog to motivate the character to take action.

But I had finished the book, and it turned out that, while it was a reasonable concern, there wasn’t any animal violence in this instance. I didn’t give any spoilers; I told her that she could safely read the book without worrying that she’d come upon something needlessly violent or gruesome involving an animal.

I sometimes wonder if avoiding seeing violence to animals may cause it to have an outsized power in my mind. Should I seek it out, and toughen up?

No.

I don’t ever want to feel insensitive to animal cruelty. I can miss those movies, T.V. shows, or passages in books — there’s still plenty of material that doesn’t utilize animal cruelty out there for me to enjoy.

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Startup, Tenderly, Fearless She Wrote, MuddyUm. Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

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