Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Blood of Chihuahuas Will Be on Disney's Hands

Well, this certainly looks astoundingly awful. I caught a preview prior to Wall-E (which is, in a word, outstanding), and words cannot describe on how many levels this movie looks awful. First, there’s the aforementioned fact that it’s full of Chihuahuas. Why I would want to waste an hour and a half of my life seeing that ridiculous creature on the big screen is beyond me. I suppose it’s supposed to appeal to some universal “cuteness” factor, but (and I love dogs) the Chihuahua has all the cuteness of syphillis to me. However, if other people want to waste 10 dollars per person seeing these films (or taking their children – I’m so glad I don’t have kids right now), whatever.

And it would be fine if the stupidity stopped their, but it actually only begins to scratch the surface. What human should we have voice over for the Chihuahua? Why, George Lopez, of course! Everybody knows that Chihuahas are from Mexico, and so are George Lopez's ancestors, and Americans like George Lopez! It will work great!

And from there, the stereotyping only gets better. The basic plot appears to be that Papi (the Lopez-voiced dog) has been repeatedly jilted by Chloe, a snobby rich Chihuahua who belongs to a painfully-rich owner (drawing an obvious and uninspired example from Paris Hilton). The owner goes to Mexico to vacation, Chloe gets lost, and Papi mobilizes all his efforts and troops to find Chloe and, doubtless, win her heart over (I’ve yet to see anything about this movie beyond the trailer, but I’m willing to bet they end up together at the end, with everybody learining some valuable life lessons). Aside from the fact that the name “Papi” already seems a bit…umm…stereotypical?, Lopez either chose to or was directed to throw out any subtlty, giving Papi a blatant “Latin lothario” accent. And in case we really didn’t get the point, Papi is brown, while Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is white. So just to sum up: sterotypically macho brown dog with generic “Latin” accent named “Papi” tries to rise up from poverty to win the heart of white rich dog. Awesome plot, even more awesome racial imaging.

And of course, the long-term effects of this film could be disastrous. If people see this film in large numbers, it will almost inevitably lead to a temporary explosion in the demand for Chihuahuas. People will take their kids to the movies, everybody will want the “cute little doggy,” and they’ll run out and by them. And then they will find out that Chihuahuas, like any pet (especially dogs), require a lot of attention, are high-maintenance, and, just to mix things up, are the most human-aggressive breed of dogs. Without question, hundreds, if not thousands, of people may end up adopting Chihuahuas, thinking they’re getting the little ball of fur they saw in the movie. What may particularly alarm new Chihuahua owers whose decision derives solely from the movie is the fact that Chihuahuas (not pitbulls, as the sensationalist media would have you believe) are the most human-aggressive dog breed. When they learn that Chihuahuas in real life are nothing like the movie showed, they’ll end up in shelters and large numbers of Chihuahuas will be euthanized.

And while I don’t love the Chihuahua, I really hate when people who have no business owning pets due to lack of preparedness or understanding get pets because of some movie, only to find that the pet is nothing like the sanitized version they saw in the theater, and they end up abandoning the pets (usually dogs) to shelters to be euthanized by the hundreds or thousands, all because of some stupid movie. Certainly, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is setting up this probability for Chihuahuas. This pattern is not without precedent; after the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians (and its sequel) came out, Dalmatian ownership in the US skyrocketed, as everybody wanted the little puppies they saw on the big screen, all without knowing that Dalmatians aren’t the greatest “family pets” and often go deaf early. As a result, rescue organizations had to work overtime trying to save Dalmatians and find them new homes, and thousands of Dalmatians still had to be euthanized, all because the families that bought them that actually owning a dog was far different from what they saw in the theater. There’s no reason to expect a live-action Chihuahua movie to not have the same effect, particularly given that some people actually do culturally and/or ethnically identify strongly with the Chihuahua in ways that I doubt anybody really could culturally or ethnically identify with the Dalmatian (save, of course, for that small number of people with ties to western Croatia and Montenegro).

I can’t explain how badly I hope this movie bombs. Based on how the preview looked (and they can be misleading), I fail to see how there won’t be some public outrage or even protest over the racial stereotyping of this film. And as sad as that will be if it’s the case, it will dwarf in comparison to the number of dogs that get euthanized, all because Disney sold some new sanitized, fluffy image on the big screen that had virtually nothing to do with reality, and people bought it hook, line, and sinker. Disgusting.