Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Are Some Non-Humans Treated Like "People" While Others Are Not?

I have always wondered why, in fiction, some obviously intelligent entities are treated as "animals" or "pets", while others are acknowledged as equal to their human compatriots. It seems like a very arbitratry thing. Below, I cite three examples of this, and challenge you, dear reader, to explain why these chracters do not get the respect as intelligent beings that they deserve.

1. Chewbacca - Chewbacca flies and repairs the Millenium Falcon, and wields his bowcaster - advanced uses of tools and obvious inteligence. Chewie also displays recognition of human laguage and an ability to communicate directly. He is a key member of the team that helps the Rebellion to triumph over the Empire. Yet for some reason, after destroying the Death Star, while Chewbacca is invited to participate in the Rebel award ceremony, and provides the final celebratory roar, but Princess Leia does not annoint him with a medal like she does Luke and Han. Why not? Don't even get me started on the droids - R2-D2 was property, while IG-88 roamed free as a bounty hunter?

2. Snoopy - Charles Schultz gave Snoopy a quiet wisdom and more emotional range than the humans around him, as well as the ability to fly a plane among other talents, yet he was consigned to the dog house in the backyard, as a second-class citizen of the Peanuts world.

3. Pluto - I believe it was the brilliant Wil Wheaton's dialogue from the movie "Stand By Me" that began my confusion about this: "Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a Duck, Pluto's a Dog - what's Goofy?" More to the point, Mickey, Donald and Goofy all interact as equals. Pluto, on the other hand, is Mickey's pet, walking on all fours among the cast of anthropomorphic bipeds that surround him. Why does Mickey, a mouse, who has relationships as an equally free and intelligent entity with everyone from Minnie to Roger Rabbit feel it necessary to subjugate Pluto as a "pet"?

What does it say about us that we accept the sub-human treatment of some of our most beloved characters?

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