::: Whit Stillman
CHARLOTTE: Saturday, I took my niece, who’s seven, to see the Disney movie Lady and the Tramp. She loved it! It was so cute. I’m beginning to fall in love with the whole idea of having kids.
ALICE: I hate that movie.
ALICE: It’s so tacky. Not to mention depressing.
CHARLOTTE: This sweet movie about cute cartoon dogs
you found depressing?
JOSH: There is something depressing about it, and it’s not really about dogs. Except for some superficial bow-wow stuff at the start, the dogs all represent human types, which is where it gets into real trouble. Lady, the ostensible protagonist, is a fluffy blonde cocker spaniel with absolutely nothing on her mind. She’s great looking but, let’s be honest, incredibly insipid. Tramp, the love interest, is a smarmy braggart of the most obnoxious kind. An oily jailbird, out for a piece of tail, or whatever he can get.
CHARLOTTE: Oh, c’mon.
JOSH: No, he’s a self-confessed chicken thief—an all around sleaze ball. What’s the function of a film of this kind? Essentially it’s a primer on love and marriage directed at very young people; imprinting on their little psyches the idea that smooth talking delinquents, recently escaped from the local pound, are a good match for nice girls from sheltered homes. When in ten years, the icky human version of Tramp shows up around the house, their hormones will be racing, and no one will understand why. Films like this program woman to adore jerks.
DES: God, you’re nuts!
JOSH: The only sympathetic character, the little Scotty who’s so loyal and concerned about Lady, is mocked as old-fashioned and irrelevant, and shunted off to the side.
DES: Isn’t the whole point that Tramp changes? OK, maybe in the past he stole chickens, ran around without a license, and wasn’t always sincere with members of the opposite sex. But through his love for Lady, and beneficent influences of Fatherhood and Matrimony, he changes and becomes a valued member of that rather idealic household.
JOSH: I don’t think people really change that way. We can change our context, but we can’t change ourselves.
ALICE: I agree with Josh. Scotty is the only admirable character. It would have been a much better movie if Lady ended up with him.
DES: I’m really surprised. I think Tramp really changed.
JOSH: Maybe he wanted to change, or tried to change, but there is not a lot of integrity there. First he’d be hanging around the house, drinking, watching ball games, maybe knocking Lady around a little bit. But pretty soon, he’d be back at the town dump chasing tail.
DES: Oh give me a break! Are you taking your medication? Because what you’re saying is completely nuts!