By Gavin Arucan | Staff Writer
“A Dog’s Purpose” was supposed to be a feel-good movie dedicated to dog owners everywhere about how a simple dog can make a big impact on the people around it. However, that was not meant to be as footage showing possible animal abuse on set was leaked online, and the internet went into a rage.
The video in question shows an animal trainer attempting to place a dog in rough waters for a scene. After a cut, the dog is shown in the water and nearly drowns before crew members rescued it. The animal rights organization known as PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is leading a boycott against the film for animal abuse by calling for the imprisonment of the film’s crew as well as picketing the film’s showings and shaming those who buy tickets.
Many are joining PETA’s crusade against “A Dog’s Purpose” by expressing their disgust online and starting petitions to get the film banned from theaters. Even Josh Gad, the lead voice actor of the film, expressed concern on social media stating that while he was “beyond touched and moved” by the film, he is “shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.”
While I understand the anger against the film and the video evidence is worrying, I see a huge problem with the way the general public is reacting to this controversial news. It’s easy to make assumptions, especially with what the video shows, but the fact remains that the video doesn’t contain sufficient evidence to prove that animal abuse was indeed happening on set. The biggest game changer is the cut in the footage just before the dog is shown in the water. The gap in time could have been mere minutes long, or it could have been hours. The trainer might have pushed the dog in immediately after his initial attempts to get the dog comfortable to the water failed, or the crew might have waited until the dog decided to enter on its own will. Obviously I’m not saying that the crew didn’t abuse the dog. I don’t know that because I wasn’t on set. However, I am a strong believer in being innocent until proven guilty, and there aren’t enough facts to prove the latter.
Facts do seem to be becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s online culture. People tend to value their own opinions and emotions over solid truths. Thus we get questionable “alternative facts” and Twitter rants as our news. Especially online, where one person can amass thousands of followers for a cause, people can convince themselves to see only what they want to see, and a lot of people want the world to be perfect and politically correct, so they’ll pick out everything that might be offensive or harmful and boycott it.
Again, the crew of “A Dog’s Purpose” very well may have abused a dog, but that’s currently not revealed to be an absolute truth. This isn’t even the first case this year about a movie being boycotted for a “crime” that wasn’t proven. The recent M. Night Shyamalan film, “Split,” was boycotted before its release for being offensive to transgenders and those with mental disorders. Before that, Disney’s “Moana” was criticized for cultural misappropriation based on its toy line. If you dig deep enough, one can be offended by anything whether it be warranted or not.
I have no authority to say if any of those examples warrant offense or not. I am neither a dog expert, a professional mental therapist, nor Hawaiian. However, I can relay the fact that each of those examples of boycotting happened before the movie was released, and those boycotting it did not actually watch it. It baffles me that people can be so angry at something they don’t even know for sure happened. People have the right to peaceably protest, but shouldn’t there be something of substance to protest against? “A Dog’s Purpose” does tread a fine line and the crew should be thoroughly investigated, but the rage and disgust ideally should only manifest if they are proven guilty.