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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why We Avoid Canned Drama

Personally, I love drama. By that, I mean plays and other highly dramatic narrative art forms. I write what are essentially dramatic novels. I think a plot is essential to a novel, a play or a movie. Plots are built on conflict. When people say they avoid drama, I am skeptical. However, because Bow is so sensitive to even the slightest conflict, I have been avoiding watching dramas in front of him.

Bow, yesterday afternoon, relaxed and conflict free

If Bow sees two people in arm to arm combat, it makes him want to get in on the action. If he sees a car chase, it makes him very nervous. When we used to drive places together, if a truck got too close to us on the road, he would get very upset. We need to be the biggest car on the road, and others we do not know should stay far, far away.

I like to keep Bow as happy and relaxed as I can and to avoid getting him keyed up over nothing. But every once in a while I try to watch  something with him on my computer screen. It turns out that even what we might consider very subtle human drama gets his hackles up.

Take this scene from an episode of Enlightened: Two old ladies meet by chance in a grocery store. Each of them is shopping for food, but they recognize each other and stop to chat. They have not seen each other in a long time. First they talk about their looks. "You haven't changed a bit. You look so young." There follows an exchange where every compliment contains some kind of barbed put down. Then they start talking about their grandchildren. How many of them there are and how cute and talented and smart. One of the women has just been to see her grandchildren and shares pictures on her iphone. The other woman is estranged from the daughter who has children, and living with the one who has none, so she feels bad. After which they talk about their children, and about their children's spouses and careers. One woman is gushing with how great her children's accomplishments are, while the other feels bad because her divorced daughter is now living with her and is not doing well in any aspect of life. And then the subject turns to their own husbands. And that's when all emotional hell breaks loose, because it turns out that one of their husbands betrayed the other at work, leading the man to commit suicide years and years ago.

Because they are human and women and civilized and temperate, at no point do these two women raise their voices in anger, or pound on their chests or do anything that would seem like an overt act of aggression. But do you think Bow is fooled? He starts to watch this scene with me calmly, but as it continues, he becomes progressively more and more upset, until he can't stand it anymore and starts hurling himself against the glass. I hurriedly click it off and order is restored. But you can see why I would not even try to show him a movie about an ape revolt against humans.

That said, I totally support the right of another ape mother or father or owner or trainer to choose differently. I would never condemn someone because they chose to do something for or with their dependents that I would not choose to do with or for mine. I am not at all like Barbara J. King.

The reason CGI apes were used in that movie, rather than real apes, is that animal rights advocates like PETA and the Humane Society and all those other animal rights groups make a stink every time a real chimpanzee actor, such as Chance Rosaire, appears in a movie with a real human actor, such as Leonardo DiCaprio.

Now, Bow is not an actor. He wasn't trained to be one, and he seldom does anything unless he wants to. But I can definitely see that other chimpanzees have a different life story, and that forbidding them to earn their own living is not helping them to find a place in life. So, I think it is sad that we have to use fake chimps when we could have used real ones and contributed to their livelihood.

But on the other hand, I don't think we have to boycott those films that portray chimpanzees without using chimp actors. My motto is live and let live. And the people at Myrtle Beach Safari seem to feel the same way. They saw an opportunity to educate the public about chimpanzees and took two of their chimps to the movies with them.

Let's make no mistake: the photo op helps Myrtle Beach Safari to raise funds to keep its chimpanzees and the other animals who live there. They have to interact with the public, because the public means funding. People like Barbara J. King want for there to be only one source of funding for chimpanzees: the government. We know what the government has done in the past to chimpanzees. I find nothing humane about that.

The young chimps who were taken to see the movie posed no danger to the public, and they probably did understand the plot of the movie. I remember that when Bow at a similar age saw Jesus Christ Superstar he was able to follow that plot with no problem.

Pre-adolescent chimpanzees are tolerant that way, but I think it is probably not a coincidence that any older chimps at Myrtle Beach Safari stayed home. The desire to actually do something about upsetting situations does seem to grow with the supply of testosterone available.

Unlike many older women I know, I do not think we would have a better world if men had less testosterone and wise old crones ruled the world.  People can do more damage with underhanded comments that destroy another person's reputation than with out-and-out violence. That's why I think that the practice of dueling which was prevalent in 19th century and is described in my Theodosia and the Pirates novels spared us from a lot of ugliness. The possibility of a duel to the death really does cut down on snarky comments.

That said, I want to keep Bow safe from harm. So he is not going to the movies, and he won't be watching any planet of the apes movies any time soon. But I would fight to the death to defend another chimpanzee parent's right to make the opposite choice.


  1. I know dogs are different than Bow and I'm not comparing them but whenever my female dog sees my husband and I giving each other a hug she in turn goes and attacks my male dog. I've always thought this to be strange.

    1. Hi, Susan. That is strange. It sounds a little like jealousy on the part of your female dog and then misdirected frustration.

  2. Duels over insults were mostly over conflicts between men, but occasionally because another man made an insult about the wife of another. I can not recall a single instance, however, of a duel being fought over insults from one woman to another woman.

    1. You're probably right, Pam. I can;t think of any example of a duel fought over a remark that one women made to another. Maybe that explains why historically women have always felt freer with their insults than men.

  3. That's interesting that Bow is so sensitive to drama, even the mildest upset. Hurling himself against the glass sounds like something an autistic child would do when he/she gets upset. Does he hurt himself when he does that? I could understand displaying over being upset, but I wonder why he feels the need to do something that could potentially cause himself an injury?
    I found the duels to the death to be a little extreme over silly insults, often said when people were drunk. A good, old fist-de-cuffs fight though - that would be a good equalizer.

    1. Hi, Kathy. Bow has a very keen sense for social situations, so in a way that is the opposite of an autistic child, who often is not cued in to the drama that is taking place all around him. Bow is more aware of what others are feeling than we are.
      However, it is normal for a chimp as part of a power display to show how strong he is by attacking inanimate objects in the vicinity of the person he is trying to impress.

      In the case of defamation of character, or a trial for rape, a duel is far kinder than an ordinary trial to the person wronged, where the accuser has the burden of proof to show what has happened and that a defamation is untrue. Remember what happened to Oscar Wilde? He would have done better to challenge his accusers to a duel. Sometimes what was done or even what was said is so shameful that being forced to repeat it is like a second violation. In such cases, the law fails. Duels are a better way to solve the problem.

      I don't think anyone would risk a duel over an insult he thought was silly. The danger of dying in itself limits how often people will challenge, And no challenge has to be accepted. One could always apologize and retract the words spoken in haste.

    2. I know of a case in the 1820s where a sea captain was grossly insulted by a merchant, and sought redress through issuing a challenge to a duel. The merchant further insulted the man by refusing the challenge, claiming it was "beneath him" since he regarded the challenger as a ruffian. The captain took his complaint to the newspapers and even called the merchant a coward in print, but the man still refused to duel.

    3. Yes, it was always possible to refuse a challenge.

      During the treason trial of Aaron Burr, Swartwout tried to challenge General James Wilkinson, but nothing came of it, as Wilkinson ignored the challenge.

  4. The frenemy relationships that many women have with years of built up back handed comments are often worse than two men who get in a silly fight at a bar. No one's life is perfect, but it begs us to ask: why do women continue with friendships that are not healthy. I know I am just focus on that one story, but it is very much something than happens in many female friendships. Why do women continue friendships with other women who constantly need to one up each other. Some people I know they just do not care, and they let the comments slide. However, are these people really friends? Sometimes I wonder. It seems more like a friendship because the two women are bored and lonely, and afraid of spending time alone.

    1. I agree, Julia. Some of those backhanded comments that supposed women friends exchange are deadly! I think we should give Bow a lot of credit for recognizing how hostile those exchanges are, when so many humans consider them harmless.