Movies That Ruined My Childhood: Old Yeller
Movies play a big part in everyone’s childhood. Be it the firs time you experienced a classic like Star Wars or that special Disney flick that you watched every weekend with your parents. Especially now, when movies have become part of our culture and early development, all but replacing the baby sitter, we all develop ties to those movies that are wired into our happy times. But sometimes things go wrong, and you watch a particular movie that seems hell-bent on destroying your developing little mind.
In Movies that Ruined My Childhood, we take an unflinching look at the dastardly films that scarred you as a youth and made the closet a place of unspeakable horrors. So let’s work through this together as we exorcise our demons.
Call it a public service. You’re welcome!
Set in post Confederate Texas, this classic movie tells the tale of the Coates, a family so poor they would have carried food stamps in a money clip, except being Texas, they didn’t even have food stamps. Sorry guys. They probably ate rats or something, I don’t recall the movie showing dinner time.
The father is a footnote, off to make money on a cattle drive. As a result, his 16 year old son Travis is put in charge of the house (yes, this an excellent idea, despite the fact that I wouldn’t put a 16 year old in charge of my Netflix account, let alone my household.) Things are bleak, and then Old Yeller comes onto the scene, a dirty, thieving, Black Mouth Cur (no, seriously, that’s the dog’s breed!) who becomes the darling of the family despite Travis’ initial resistance.
Travis shuns Old Yeller, until Marty Stouffer’s Wild Kingdom tries to kill his ass, with Old Yeller jumping in and fending off bears, boars, and wolves. This dog is The Wolverine of strays, and Travis objects to him stealing cornbread. Hell, in reconstruction Texas, that’s called a day’s wage. Seriously, the animals Old Yeller fights would make When Animals Attack proud.
Old Yeller remains a family friendly tale right up until the end. Disney studios, in this coming of age story, decided that following Fred Gipson’s young-adult novel ending was the best way to teach a lesson to children. That lesson being that
the things you love the most will one day try to eat your face. And you must shoot them. Shoot them dead in the brain pan. So a Scholastic Reader’s version of Dawn of the Dead. I know it was written in the novel, but somewhere Disney’s cold, dead, cryogenic head cackled in evil laughter when the ending was green-lit.
To this day, I look at my faithful family dog and wonder “are you going to eat me?” Then I glance over at my friend, Neil, and wonder how soon it will be till I have to lock him in the barn in case he’s contracted rabies. Never can be too sure.
Thank you for that, Disney.