Don’t unnecessarily kill off animals in dramas!

One of the nice things about the arrival of streaming services is that we now get to see many programs produced in countries where the language is other than English. I tend to watch a lot of police procedurals, a genre that seems to be very popular worldwide as can be seen from the many mini-series that are being shown in a variety of languages. (Spoiler alert: In what follows, there is a spoiler for a minor plot line in the Spanish (Galician) series Bitter Daisies that can be seen on Netflix.)

In these shows, there are of course human corpses galore but one expects them so their appearance does not really disturb unless the filmmakers go out of their way to show blood and gore and violence, which, fortunately few of them do. Most often, the dead bodies are just briefly seen in the crime scene or in the morgue or the autopsy room.

What I dislike is when animals, especially pets, get killed in a show, especially when it is not necessary to advance the plot. For example, in the series Bitter Daisies, a police detective arrives in a small town to investigate a missing young woman. (Abused, missing, and dead young women and children seem to be the main plot device in many recent stories.) On her first day there, she notices a sign posted on a lamppost for a lost dog and later that day finds the dog outside her hotel. She takes the dog to her room and calls the number listed to say that she has the dog and will return him, much to the joy of the little girl whose pet the dog was and who was naturally very upset by his disappearance. So far, so good.

But then days go by and the detective does not return the dog because she is busy on the case and cannot spare the time to do so, keeping the dog in her hotel. That infuriated me. How can you not realize how anxious people are to get their beloved lost pet back? How can you be so busy that you cannot spare the short time to go to the owner’s home and return the pet? And wouldn’t having to look after a dog in your hotel room take time away from working on the case? That seeming thoughtlessness made me lose sympathy for the lead character, who was otherwise quite interesting. I kept thinking “Why don’t you return the damn dog!” Then after a few days, one of the villains kills the dog, thinking it is hers, as a warning to her to quit the case and leave town. She cannot bring herself to break the news to the dog’s owners so she tells them that he escaped again.

What is worse is that this plot line was utterly redundant, since the point it was designed to make (that the villains were really evil people and that seemingly respectable people harbor all manner of ugly secrets) had been amply made in the rest of the series. This storyline could have been cut completely and it would have made the show much better, at least as far as I was concerned. I am pretty certain I am not alone in my dislike of such things.



  1. Lakitha K Tolbert says

    Yeah, it’s called a “kick the dog” moment, where the villain hits/kills an animal to show the audience how villainous the villain is, I guess. I did love the parody of it in Blazing Saddles though. Before Jaws (and definitely before the fall of the Hayes Code in film) there was a rule to not kill animals and children in movies. Those rules went out the window when Steven Spielberg killed both a dog and a kid in Jaws.
    But just in case this is a huge problem for someone there’s also a website created to warn people that animals are going to be hurt in a movie. It’s called: Does the Dog Die.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    I’m here to make the case for probably the best film trilogy ever to have its plot driven entirely by the unnecessary killing of a dog -- John Wick. There’s a rather good video essay on YouTube taking about how normally films go to some lengths to build dread when introducing the villain. In John wick, they follow the formula… but for the hero. They show how the bad dread him. Its brilliant.

  3. says

    Makes me think of how much “entertainment” revolves around people killing eachother. That’s probably not a great sign about what we find interesting or exciting. I’m trying to think of the last show I saw that didn’t feature a trail of corpses -- but maybe it’s me.

    I get more upset about a dog dying in a movie than a regiment of people. That’s the point of the John Wick movies, intentionally or otherwise.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    sonofrojblake @2: Another fan of the Wick films here. To be fair, the motivation seemed to be that the puppy was a posthumous gift from his wife. That they also stole his beloved car didn’t help…

  5. fentex says

    The fundamental story of John Wick (the avenging owner of a dog) is an old story I first heard forty years ago; “A viking raidng party attacks a village, kills a dog that raised the alarm and then the elderly couple in the hut it was outside -- they later are chased by an avenging group led by a fearsome warrior who picks them off one by one until a final confrontation where, trying to survive, the last of the vikings try to apologize and pay weregild for the elderly couple they killed -- believing they were the warriors parents. “Parents?! I didn’t know them -- you killed my dog!”.

    I loved John Wick because I recgonized the story very quickly and just loved going with the idea -- because I can relate.

    By coincidence I found a stray huskie scavanging on my property this week and stayed home from work to feed it and keep it company while our animal control came to pick it up. It was a mature female with the most beautiful pale eyes and very friendly -- smelling and thin from obviously being alone a while, but also obviously a otherwise well cared for pet. Turns out she was chipped (as is pretty much mandatory here now, so owners will be easy to trace). The guy who came told me that there was still a lot of pets getting lost because of disorientation from lingering effects of our earthquakes ten years past.

  6. Lakitha tolbert says

    #2 sonofrojblake:
    I love the John Wick movies which I find deeply funny for reasons I’m not sure I understand. I’m going to check out the video, too.

  7. Holms says

    #0 Mano
    I can watch endless videos of people tripping, dropping things on toes, falling out of boats, sitting on things which snap and send them tumbling -- and on and on -- with laughter, so long as there is no injury worse than a bruise and some embarrassment. But the second it looks like their dog, cat, hamster or whatever is also about to take some lumps, I see red.

    #2 son
    I thought pretty much that of the first in the series, but it seemed that the sequels were just a third person shooter video game with a flimsy plot put to screen. It didn’t help that the premise of the ‘assassin underworld’ was being taken to absurd lengths.

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