A Moral Dilemma and A Dog’s Purpose

A recent TMZ video had the Internet in an uproar, and it’s over a pretty innocuous feel-good romp about dog reincarnation.

If you are one of five people who haven’t seen the video already, it boils down to this: an unnamed person on set one day apparently caught footage of animal abuse. The video shows the German Shepherd named Hercules about to jump into a pool of water meant to look like a rushing river. The dog is visibly nervous about going into fast-moving water, and the trainer tries coaxing him in several times. When that does work he pushes the dog in. The dog furiously swims to the end of the pool where he goes under, as divers go after him. That’s when the video stops.

There were a lot of complaints, outraged shares by concerned pet owners, and PETA did their thing. I saw the video. It was shocking and upsetting, and it also made me wonder.

When it comes to the media we consume, and I’m talking entertainment such as books, movies and more, at what point do we decide to enjoy it as is…at what point do we consider bad deeds in its creation?

Not long ago, Orson Scott Card came under fire for being an unapologetic bigot. And I’m not the only one distressed by that fact.

This was surprisingly to me because if I had known him only through his books, especially the Ender’s Game series, I would assume he was an enlightened man. Ender’s Game (the first in a long line of books) especially made a moral point about not judging others…about having compassion for someone once thought your enemy. Yet Card is viciously homophobic. I loved Ender’s Game, read several sequels, and later found out about Card. And then I was conflicted.

Can you enjoy something if you know the creator did something wrong? Should you separate real life just so you can enjoy a piece of fiction? What if someone told you your favorite movie was directed by a person who tortured their actors, a la Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock?

What if you’re an animal lover and you just watched one of the animal actors be treated badly?

If you hear about these transgressions before the fact, you can avoid watching the movie as a form of boycott, hoping a lack of sales will send a message. The real conundrum is how to feel when you find out after the fact.

Later, the producer of A Dog’s Purpose, Gavin Polone, wrote an article that I feel cleared the air. It’s worth a read if you’re even curious about what really went on. A combination of PETA overreaction, selective editing and shameless profit led to this video becoming the problem it did.

However, if Hercules had been hurt on that set due to negligence… I do hope I would have made the conscious decision not to see it. After all, Hollywood seems to gauge “what works” based on that opening weekend. Withholding your $10 could be all you need to do to make a statement.