yes, we got swept up into the planet earth series craze a few years ago and own the dvd series (actually, i think it was a birthday gift for greg a couple of years ago). in any case, needless to say, we haven’t really popped one in very recently. i think the last time we watched it was right after ruth was born. we had it on constant replay in the background. well, a couple days ago, ruth was feeling in a mood and i was unhappily sulking on the couch about something and greg walked into the room with the laptop and set it up on a chair in front of us (our makeshift movie theater) and said, “now, we’re all going to relax and watch a movie together.” what does he pick? the planet earth series.
i had my doubts that ruth would put up with this as she normally starts chanting “mickey mouse!” or “thomas!” any time a movie is brought up. i was surprised when, after just a few minutes of protest, she settled in next to me on the couch and began to watch. (i often find this is the case. i will never use the term “easy-going” to describe ruth, but she leans more that way for greg than she ever does for me. what the hell?). i started to think greg had had a brilliant idea. this is good, i thought, she’s learning shit. i started to point out birds, animals and plants to ruth and she seemed generally interested in the footage. that was when the dramatic music started up and all of a sudden, on the tibetan plane, there lurked a predator, a fox. well, ruth has already somehow begun talking about the “big bad wolf” that is out there in the darkness. i felt her tense up immediately. then, out popped the prey: some cute and fuzzy relative of the rabbit, going about his business, totally oblivious to the dangers that awaited. ruth began to moan. i looked over at greg to see he had fallen asleep. i thought about stopping the movie, but decided i would let it play out and try to be really nonchalant about the whole thing so that maybe she would catch on that it was no big deal.
that’s when the chase began. the music swelled and the fox darted after the, i think it was called a pika, and snatched it up above the neck. “oh, no!” ruth said, “it can’t see!” “ruth,” i began calmly, “fox are carnivores. they eat other animals to survive, just like we eat food.” she seemed not to hear me and began to cry as she said in a desperate voice, “he’s gonna eat his head off!” that’s when i woke greg for back up. “ruth,” he said, “this is called a food chain and some animals eat other animals and some animals eat plants.” “HE’S A BABY!” she yelled. we quickly shut the movie off and switched to mickey mouse.
“got any more bright ideas?” i shot at greg. “what?” he said, “she needs to learn. she’s going to be going hunting in a couple years.” still, a couple years is a couple years of more advanced thinking. she is clearly too young to understand that that’s just the way it is. in nature, there is no good or bad, only survival. how could she know this, though, when in every story we read to her, every animal is like a person with feelings. they walk on two feet, wear clothes, go about their business as we do, talk. i mean, this is a kid at an age where she can’t even leave a stuffed animal overnight at the library because “they’ll get scared.” it’s good to have empathy. and it’s fun to have animals as lead characters in children’s books. but, i’ll admit, it’s not very realistic. it’s not the way it is out there at all. a fox is no more mean or evil than the bunny it ate. they are both just doing what everything does: build homes, eat, procreate. i guess that would make for a pretty lame children’s book. and the plot line would always be the same.