Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mama, He's Rabid: The Child Abuse That Is Disney's "Ole Yeller" (Part One)

Tonight one of my best friends, Kevin, broke a cardinal rule of being a grown-up and having a tv and movie player of some sort of his own so he can watch whatever he wants whenever he wants. Of his own violition, my boy watched "Ole Yeller".

Somewhere there are 35-45 year olds who can watch "Ole Yeller" with dry eyes. I haven't seen any of them, but I'm sure they exist. My one and only time sitting through it was as part of a presentation for all of the fourth graders at Sunset Acres Elementary in Shreveport. We packed into the auditorium for our weekly assembly and were told it would be a movie. These were usually scratchy McGraw-Hill 8mms about rail safety or Bobs-Merrill strips about the dangers of lying. Little did we know what they had in store for us.

In all fairness, I should note that their presentation of "Ole Yeller" was decidedly low-fi. We sat in the dark as the first frame appeared on the screen, followed by the Disney logo and then the advice to "Start here. Click to the next frame at the sound of the tone." We waited as the scratchy record began and we were transported to post-Civil War Abilene, Texas. Now, you'd think that this would mitigate the emotional ending, but it didn't. It has always been my suspicion that "Ole Yeller" was my teachers' revenge on all of us for giving them so many reasons to cry every day. As we wept in the dark, they probably sat in the teachers' lounge, laughed, smoked and passed a flask around. Most of us stumbled into the light swearing to never, ever watch "Ole Yeller" again.

And most of us kept that promise. Except for Kevin. He showed it to his boyfriend, who got depressed and went to bed. Then he called me up and I answered when he was in midsob.

"What's wrong? Did you and Dave get into a tiff?"


"Oh, honey. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened."

"Dead dog!" (and then more snuffling)

I nearly dropped the phone. "Sophie is dead? What happened?"

Just then something must have caught her attention because, to my relief, I heard her bark.

"Kevin, what is going on?"

"They shot "Ole Yeller" and then Dave got depressed and went to bed."

"Oh, for God's sake! Take it out of your DVD, send it back to NetFlix and promise me you will never, ever watch 'Ole Yeller' again."

"But it's such a good movie!"

"Kevin, listen to me. 'Ole Yeller' is like chicken pox. Only children can endure it unscathed. Watch it as an adult and you run the risk of having sniffly flashbacks, getting too sensitive to live and worse, killing off your libido. Do you want that? Send the movie back. Now!"

"I had no idea. It's in the envelope. Now it's sealed."

"That's my boy. Now get yourself an Otter Pop and watch "Life of Brian. I'm going to bed."

copyright 2006 Jas Faulkner

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