Friday, February 20, 2009

Dinosaur Ethics

I�m in a visit, and I just watched the craziest most morally conflicted Land Before Time movie ever.

Get this�Littlefoot and the other kids make friends with a Sharptooth! It�s a baby Sharptooth, and apparently when they�re young, Sharptooths are still anthropomorphized, so they have big eyes and are capable of love and hugs. But of course, the ever-bitchy Cera does not approve of this, saying that they have to get rid of him because Sharptooths (Sharpteeth?) are �different�. Littlefoot argues that just because they�re �different� doesn�t mean they shouldn�t accept him.

Ok, I see the morals at play here. Pretty basic stuff.

But oh, it�s not so simple!

Because pretty soon they�re all being chased by REAL Sharptooths, the grownup kind with the red eyes and the roaring and the biting� So then we have to wonder�is Cera right? Are Sharptooths innately evil? Will cute little baby Chomper grow up to be a devouring villain no
matter how much love the kids show him? Is evil based on nature or nurture?

(spectacles on)

(tweed jacket on)


While The Land Before Time films have always been rich in symbolism and social commentary, the Sharptooths present a particularly complex moral dilemma. For, despite the series' recurrent themes of tolerance, kindness, and accepting "Otherness", the Sharptooths are presented as irredeemable. No lesson about prejudice here--the Sharptooths ARE, in fact, BAD. The introduction of Chomper as an example of Sharptooths being capable of goodness is unconvincing, because since his parents are non-anthropomorphic monsters bent on murdering and eating Littlefoot and Co, it's implied that sooner or later Chomper will become just like them, whether through nature or nurture. This film is clearly unprepared to deal with the social and racial issues this raises, leaving one to wonder if, perhaps, with the introduction of Chomper, The Land Before Time may have bitten off more than it can chew.

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