The Talking Dog

January 2, 2011, Sunday talking dog bear blogging

"Wow!" is the only available reaction to this movie review of "Yogi Bear" that Dean rightly suggested just might be "the greatest movie review ever."

Once in a while I go into a meta-level discussion about talking dogs, which, of course, are not something one sees that could be described as "normal" and hence are something that one would find "disturbing"... [as an aside now, let's talk about just why the name of this here blog is "the talking dog" which is, of course, based on the joke way down at the bottom of the home-page (go look if you want... then come back here!)... The title was chosen after a vote of the progenitors of this here blog, three of us from Barack Obama's college class (Columbia '83), m'self, "the Unseen Editor" and the Raving Atheist, met in a downtown Manhattan eatery just a few blocks from the WTC and just a few weeks before 9-11, and contemplated our group web-site... my first suggestion, "New York Jew Nature Walk" was vetoed, and the compromise candidate, based on my favorite joke, was selected. The rest is blogging history (of course, prior to 9-11, the neologism "blog" or "web-log" was not widely used.)] Notwithstanding that on this blog, it's always about me... back to our main theme for this post.

IO9's review has an elegance that can almost be described as a unified field theory for our current social order. On the canvas of what by all accounts is a movie that should never have been made (when I saw the previews, my own reaction was "just what the world needs-- a live action Yogi Bear!") and transforms it into a masterwork for the ages... the moviemakers, trapped as they are in our culture along with the rest of us, presumably had no idea of what they were accomplishing, until IO9 pulled it out as the defining metaphor of our social order. "Jellystone Park is District 9 (for Bears)" is more than just hilarious. It sums up all of the troubling "isms" that pervade our consciousness ("racism," "sexism," age-ism" not to mention "fascism" and "consumerism")... and it does it expeditiously and clearly.

IO9's observation is that while within the conceit of the movie, "talking bears" are very unusual but are not unheard of, nonetheless, there is more than just a bizarre indifference to Yogi's speech, and his clear intelligence as well as familiarity with both the ways of modern humanity and other brown bears, [poor Boo Boo's obvious intelligence seems a complete oversight to everyone] the universal reaction seems to be, rather than "Holy S***! A talking bear!" is, instead, the somewhat more troubling "you are disturbing our perceived order of things... why can't you go back to being like the other bears, to wit, not anthropomorphic (let alone sentient and articulate) and leave us alone to the neat little reality we have constructed for ourselves."

Anyway, the word is "alienation" (as in the fascinating film starring Mandy Patinkin from some time ago)... people are not merely alienated from talking bears like Yogi and Boo Boo, or from sentient aliens in "District 9," but of course, from each other, in the almost infinite varieties of apartheid we have created for ourselves (and, if you like, rather than concern ourselves with the more overt "bantustans" of the apartheid era in South Africa, how about "gated communities" or "exclusive suburbs," or for that matter, "private property" or "nation-states.") I know what you're thinking: ever thus. Man's inhumanity to man is evidently an essential part of being human, and the cruelty that can be inflicted once man forms into tribal groups is legend, and of course, dominates the [war-torn, with no small assist provided by your American tax dollars] planet to this very day... "what else is new?" might you be astutely saying.

Ah... but that's not the alienation I was going for. I'm not even going for Yogi's and Boo Boo's own (tragic) alienation from other brown bears (perhaps their choice of neck-and head attire has something to do with that). I'm going for man's ultimate alienation-- alienation from his own soul, his own inner essence... that it's not merely the casual passer-by (from whom Yogi is purloining a pic-a-nic basket) who wishes Yogi would go away, but people who should really be interested-- like the park ranger or the scientist--, even they wish Yogi [and Boo Boo] would just go "be like the other bears." We have lost the child-like wonder that made new things exciting... opportunities to learn more about them, and in doing so, learn about ourselves.

Instead, the quotidian "normalcy" of a world where bears don't talk, or at least, don't disturb us with their talking, is what is to be preserved at all cost. Kind of like our currently unsustainable, isolated suburban existences... no matter who must be killed, nor how much must be stolen, our vaunted life-styles are not subject to introspection or reflection of any kind... the assumptions on which we live our lives become irrebuttable presumptions. And hence, fundamental revelations about existence that cause us to question ANYTHING... are to be isolated... placed out of view so as not to infect the purity of essence of the hermetically sealed current arc of our existence. If you ask me... this is all our loss. People sit in funny, painful positions on hard floors for years for this kind of enlightenment and realization.

"Yogi," it would seem, capable of this kind of zen realization, is a most apt name for this "smarter than the average" bear.