An Outdoor View: The perils of watching

Editor’s note: The Clarion previously published this column on March 4, 2005.

What is the world coming to?

More and more, I see examples of the consumptive users of the world being threatened by “watchers” — people who prefer to watch things rather than put them to a good, practical use, such as food.

I don’t know when it all began, but I blame Walt Disney. If he didn’t start the fire, he certainly fueled it.

My parents took me to a movie theater to see “Bambi” in 1943, when I was six. Going to movies was against their religion, but apparently “Bambi” didn’t register on the Sin-ometer. It was my second movie. I don’t remember my reaction, but I probably had one. I’m still a little leery of mirrors, having been scared witless by The Queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

What has always irked me about “Bambi” was that a hunter was the villain. The gun shots that killed Bambi’s mother echo still, in the anti-gun and anti-hunting attitudes of millions of people, here and abroad. The DVD remastered “Bambi” is selling like crazy.

An even more insidious thing about “Bambi” was that it attributed human characteristics to animals. Millions of kids saw a deer experience love, become brave and establish meaningful relationships with Thumper, Flower and other forest friends.

Did “Bambi” actually warp minds? There is no certain way to know. But in June 2003, when the American Film Institute (AFI) had a panel of judges list the top 50 movie villains of the past 100 years, “Man” in “Bambi” ended up Number 20. (Captain Bligh in “Mutiny on the Bounty” was Number 19; the shark in “JAWS” was Number 18.) Among the criteria used for selecting the heroes and villains was “Cultural Impact: Characters who have made a mark on American society in matters of style and substance.”

“Bambi” made a mark, all right. How many people think it’s OK to eat hamburger, but not venison? Or, put another way, it’s morally right to displace wildlife from land so crops can be raised to feed cows to kill and eat, but anyone who would kill and eat a wild deer is more evil than Count Dracula (Number 33) and Freddy Krueger (Number 40).

What a country. What are we coming to? Last fall, I caught myself watching, of all things, fish.

Three friends and I were in a cabin cruiser at anchor in a protected Prince William Sound cove, relaxing over adult drinks and high-cholesterol snacks. One of the guys had brought along an underwater video camera, which he lowered to the bottom.

I ignored it for a while. But within five minutes, all four of us were oohing and ahing at the yellowfin sole and other little fish swimming around on the monitor. We spent the next couple of hours watching fish.

Picture it. Four macho guys who had spent the afternoon killing fish, up to our ankles in slime and blood, grinning like little kids, having fun watching little fish. Not one of us thought to put a line over the side. I hesitate to admit it, but I caught myself saying “cute,” a word foreign to my lips.

At least I didn’t see any flounders fall in love.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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