The Truth, Mainly - 09/11/1995

Yet another insidious thret appears on the silver screen
by Leon Satterfield

Hats off to the American Life League.

That's the Christian watchdog group that has warned us of the lascivious content of three Disney feature cartoons:

—In "Aladdin," the AP reports, the League heard the audible message "Good teen-agers, take off your clothes." That's with the sound track running forward.

—In "The Lion King," the League apprehended a cloud of dust in the act of spelling out S-E-X, each letter fading as the next one appears.

—In "The Little Mermaid," the League caught a "wedding officiate" becoming "visibly sexually aroused."

And here's how insidious the Disney folks have become: I missed all three of those outrages. If the League hadn't pointed them out, probably none of us would have noticed them. Then where'd we be?

So I say hats off to the American Life League.

Inspired by their efforts, I hereby View With Alarm yet another instance of a seemingly innocent movie that is—right now—corrupting our youth.

And this is even more serious than the three Disney films. All they threaten is our morality. What I'm talking about threatens our income.

I mean, of course, "Babe." My granddaughters gave it two thumbs up.

While the Guv and the AG agonize over their decisions to run for Senate, while the Legislature is out playing at recess, while the real powers, the lobbyists, are on vacation, "Babe" is undermining Nebraska's economy. Here's how:

It's about beasts who can talk and it's more "Animal Farm" than "Mr. Ed." It's not a mere animated cartoon. These are real animals and when they speak, their hairy little lips move as convincingly as those of Richard Nixon, JFK, and LBJ when they talk to Forrest Gump.

Babe is a pig, as fetchingly gentle and humane as Mr. Rogers, and kids identify with him. Like his littermates, Babe gets to shoathood wanting nothing more than to get fat enough to get a truck ride to Hog Heaven where pigs are so happy they never come back to the farm.

You're starting to get the picture, aren't you?

Babe is saved from paradise when he becomes a county fair prize to whoever guesses his weight. The winner—a very nice farmer with a sweet wife who looks like an ad for good eats—takes Babe home with the idea of putting an apple in his mouth and making him the centerpiece of his Christmas table.

It's a notion little kids in the theater find about as attractive as Jonathan Swift's modest proposal.

Babe becomes a friend to the other animals—who form a social pecking order based on their usefulness to the farm. But a catty Persian lets him in on the dirty little secret: Babe's only piggy purpose is to become pork.

At which point, children in the audience whimper audibly.

I won't tell you the ending, but it leaves those same children cheering.

And here's the danger: Later on, I fear, those children will ask their parents a lot of subversive mealtime questions. Is this pork? More specifically, is this Babe? If not Babe, who is it? Which animal on the farm do Big Macs come from? What were all those cows doing in the feedlot we saw on vacation?

If you've got stock in Monfort or IBP or Con-Agra—or are they all one conglomerate by now?—you might want to give your broker a call. Those little kids' questions may wipe you out.

To say nothing of what they might do to our military readiness. Sen. Carl Curtis may have to come out of retirement to warn us yet again that history records no instance of a vegetarian army defeating carnivorous forces.

Now that they've been alerted, I imagine the American Life League is preparing its own counterattack against "Babe" for calling to question the Biblical underpinning of the state's economy. I mean the passage when God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth—by which we all know He meant humans could eat any animal their cholesterol levels would tolerate.

In the meantime, anticipating visits from our granddaughters, we're looking for any recipe that makes tofu palatable. Ned, the one-eyed Beagle with the headstrong personality and the mismatched jaws, considers tofu a bad joke. He wakes us up in the middle of the night pretending he has to pee, then climbs the chainlink fence to get at the neighbor's garbage. He finds remnants of ham and porkchops and comes home grinning wickedly, roast pig on his breath.

"Oh no," I say, trying to wake up. "That wasn't Babe, was it?"

"Silly movie," I think he says, his hairy little lips moving in perfect synchrony with his words. "A lot of anthropomorphic sentimentality. Besides, the Beagle Bible gives us dominion over hambones."

I don't know how to respond to a dog who claims there's a Beagle Bible, who knows what "anthropomorphic" means, and who can make his lips move that way. So I go back to sleep, pretty sure the American Life League will straighten him out.


Leon Satterfield is a Lincoln English professor. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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