The Dog Has To Die

I love fairy tales but not the watered-down versions. My mom is an English teacher so she gave me access to the real stuff. I liked the ones where Cinderella made her step-sisters dance to their death in iron shoes fired over hot coals. Rumpelstiltskin threw a tantrum that he split him in two. Rapunzel was a single mom raising twins. Somehow the Prince finds them even though he’s blind and dragged himself through the desert. Someone should make a modern Rapunzel. Instead of dragging through dirt, the Prince walks into Eyeglass World in Phoenix and bumps into single mom, Rapunzel, who works at the Supercuts across the mall. It could be a Lifetime movie.

    I know that not everyone embraces uncensored stories for kids. Parents usually want them “Disney-fied” where there is nothing to make kids scared. They want control over the kid’s exposure to violence. I have many friends that feel this way. I can respect their reasons. What I can’t understand is sanitizing the material so much that the kids would have more entertainment from a blank screen. There is a story to be told. Sometimes stories are tragic. Life can be cruel. There is revenge. People are flawed. It’s a time to explain to kids that loss is a part of life and there is survival. 

     I have permission to tell you about a friend who loves to censor as long as I changed her name and she got to pick her alias. “Nadia” invited me to hang out with her daughters and watch Frozen. I’d seen the movie once. I was good. They’ve seen the movie three thousand times. Each time is like its brand new. I said not tonight. Nadia offered to make margaritas. I drove straight over. When we sat down, the girls crowded on the floor and Nadia perched on the arm of the couch with the remote. We started the movie. 

Singing. Dancing. Snow…

Nadia hit fast forward…

Cold. Snow…

Fast forward…

 Snowman…Fast forward.

 I soon realized that I watched more of the movie in fast forward then in real time. 

    “What are you doing?”

    “There are parts they shouldn’t see.”

    “It’s a Disney movie. What kinds of parts?”

    Nadia leaned toward me to whisper. “Like the part where the parents die on the ship.”

I sat and processed that for a minute. The parents have to die to set off the story. So I got curious. “What do the girls think happened to their parents?”

“They left them.” Nadia said. Her voice went even lower. “I don’t want to upset them.”

“Your parents abandoning you isn’t upsetting?”

Nadia ignored me at that point but my mind was wild with questions. All Disney movies deal with orphans. How can you cut that part out?  That is what makes the story special. They overcame the greatest tragedy a kid could face.

It reminds me of an episode of a 90’s sitcom called Friends. Phoebe finds out that her grandmother turned off every movie and created a “happy ending.”  It came as a shock to know that Old Yeller died. She realized that she missed out on the most important messages in the story. The story doesn’t have value unless the kid shoots the dog.  Old Yeller has to die. It’s why we remember the movie. 

When I left that night I let it slip that the parents went down with the ship. I blame Nadia’s strong margaritas. It wasn’t my place to do that. I know I’m in the wrong. Nadia did forgive me but didn’t invite me to watch Aladdin. I think that someday the girls will thank me. They got a chance to appreciate Frozen from a new perspective.

Published by Julie Ann Sanchez


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