The American Labrador This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 30, 2010
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Squeamish about putting your beloved puppy through surgery? Dexter Blanch from Louisiana may just have the answer: a chastity belt for dogs. Forget that it’s completely binding and unsanitary – as long as we can protect our precious, pureblood Betsy from those nasty other dogs, this sounds like an ideal invention! But haven’t you ever considered what you are really doing to your dog? Hasn’t it ever crossed your mind that Betsy might not want to be restrained? Is it possible that we are binding Betsy not for her own good, but for our own, selfish reasons?


Controlling the sexual instincts of animals and controlling sex overall (Paris Hilton’s beer commercial is no exception) has been a dominant drive for the adults in our society. By putting Betsy into a chastity belt, we are trying to veil a very important aspect of life. But why don’t we want to expose it? The answer is simple: we want to protect our children by trying to “beautify” nature. Animals, from Betsy to Simba in “The Lion King”, have been modeled to reflect what adults believe is ideal; every child wants to be like the courageous and proud Simba while the hyenas - Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed – are made to look dull-witted, troublesome, and savage. This is only one example of many where animals have been used as tools to market the idea of “good” versus “bad” (Shenzi’s and Banzai’s names translate into demon and dubious, respectively). The ulterior motive of adults has turned into a battle to burn the concept of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” (which, ironically, is symbolized by three monkeys) into our children’s minds. This blatant divide of animals into two distinct groups has led to the formation of a caste system of sorts, where one animal just happens to be better than another, just because their instincts are considered ideal by the human adult.


Driving to school one day, I made a startling discovery: that the small, dead body lying on the street corner was once a raccoon. Half of its body had been run over repeatedly and now resembled a meat pâté, while the other half had been left intact. His dead eyes seemed to connect with mine as I drove past, turning right at the next intersection. Well, I reasoned, he shouldn’t have been walking into traffic. I comforted myself with this thought as I drove on and almost completely forgot about the raccoon. A couple of minutes later, I noticed a long line of cars in the other lane of traffic stopping. As the cars in front of me stopped too, I looked to my left and saw the reason for the traffic jam: a family of geese. They took their merry time crossing the street, holding traffic back for five minutes until they all crossed. If only the raccoon had been this lucky, I found myself thinking. And then it hit me: why were we showing such amenity towards the geese while disrespecting the body of the dead raccoon? What sets the raccoon apart? Was this another case of “good” animals versus “bad”? Of course it was. The geese were safe because they stood for family (goslings stay with their parents for two months as they grow and they seldom leave the flock) and loyalty (a female goose, once it chooses its partner, may stay with him for the rest of her life). The raccoon, however, was punished because he stood for mischief, stealth, and viciousness.


So what about the fates of the other animals that have been bound and gagged into our animal caste system? There is no doubt that animals such as cockroaches and mice fall under the “Untouchables” category, while domesticated animals – those we have the most control over – are at the Brahmin level. Disney especially lends to this by associating animals with specific ethnic groups. In “The Lady and the Tramp”, the Siamese cats, like stereotypical Asians, are buck-toothed, have slanted eye, and speak in exaggerated accents. In “The Jungle Book”, all of the “refined” characters speak in British or American accents, while the monkeys, voiced by African Americans, speak in jive (not to mention their hit song, where they sing to the human Mowgli that they “wanna be like you”). The most obvious example is in “Dumbo”, where our elephant hero meets three black crows (one named “Jim Crow”. Really, Disney?) which smoke cigars, speak in jive, and do nothing but sit around all day. Thus, the wholesome, 100% American Labrador rises above to the Brahmin level and represents what we want our children to be: well-mannered, loyal, and obedient. We tie a leash to our children, put blinkers in front of their eyes, and lead them down this man-made path.


There are those, of course, who stray from the path. From beatniks in the ‘50s to emos today, children (and especially teens) have been rebelling against the main-stream, Labrador look. More children, acclimatized by their friends and the internet, are accepting the fact that swears and sex (the two greatest sins in the eyes of adults) are common in our daily lives. Some adults have accepted and even advocated the radical idea of integrating the three. The youngest samba queen in history, Julia Lira, is the perfect example. Only seven years old, Lira led the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, outfitted in a sequined halter and a feathered miniskirt. Children in Nepal are another example, where their 10-day “cursing festival” allows them to vent their anger by shouting insults at one another.


However, this does nothing to hide the fact that adults are trying to show the world through a Disney-esque lens, where “good” animals are highlighted and “bad” animals feel the bite of our two–pronged whip. The heroes from our favorite tales have repeatedly pounded the same idea into our children’s heads: that honesty triumphs over dishonesty (Pinocchio), that modesty wins over greed (Snow White), and that self-sacrifice is necessary for the greater good (Wall-E). But is this reality? Last time I checked, entrepreneurs like Ford, Rockefeller, and Bill Gates didn’t always play by these rules. In fact, they gained their success by acting the part of the “bad” animal. Henry Ford, for example, takes on the predatory role of the wolf as he tried to hunt for more efficiency and lower production costs. This eventually resulted in the assembly line, the mass-production of Model Ts, and control over the automobile industry. Rockefeller, however, can be likened to a grizzly bear; his use of horizontal integration wiped out most of his competitors. Through this process, the Standard Oil Company gained almost complete control of oil refining and marketing in the United States. Bill Gates, on the other hand, is more like a magpie. Although a renowned entrepreneur of the personal computer revolution, a lot of his business tactics (vicious copyright enforcement and licensing agreements, among others) are considered anti-competitive .

In fact, we are more like these animals than we’d like to admit. Throughout the ages, both children and teens alike have been labeling adults as bullies (or jerks, “The Man”, old bastard, etc.). Thinking back to Disney for a minute, doesn’t this battle of kids versus adults sound familiar? Simba going against his uncle Scar, Bambi and his battle against the hunters, and pretty much every Disney movie is, in some way, demonstrating child empowerment over the evils of adults. Thus, mom and dad become synonymous with characters such as Ursula and Jafar. So why do we insist on teaching our kids to be “good” when we are the ones who are “bad”?

Whether this is a matter of control or “we don’t want our kids to turn out like us” doesn’t matter. Although honesty and loyalty are positive values to learn, true success means we have to stop clutching at this man-made idea of “good”. I understand that we want to protect Betsy. We also don’t want to expose our children to danger. But we shouldn’t be disciplining them by holding them back from the real world. If we teach our children to accept that all traits are beneficial, that all aspects of life are natural – sex and swears included – our animal caste system may be abolished. And maybe there’d be less roadkill on the streets.





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