Not long ago, my wife and I were intent on having a "family movie night," a tradition in which my wife and I argue for 75 minutes over what movies might be appropriate, after which my son summarily rejects all the ones we settled on and goes to play Roblox while we watch "House Hunters" reruns.
However, this time we thought we had a winner, having settled on "Eight Below," a story about a pack of sled dogs who find themselves forced to survive on their own in Antarctica for six months.
(Note: Multiple spoiler warnings from here on out.)
We still needed my son to buy into it. When he walked into the room and saw it was a movie about dogs, he immediately asked, "Do the dogs die?"
I mumbled something along the lines of "probably not," but my wife chimed in with a firm, "no."
She didn't know anything more than I did about the movie, but said it in that mom-confident manner that mothers use when they have no idea but just want the kids to shut up. "Yes, honey, I'm sure fishy is fine, he's just sleeping."
(Fishy is not fine.)
We settled in to watch it.
As you have probably already surmised, not everyone makes it out alive, with two of the eight dogs meeting an untimely end.
My son has yet to forgive us, and in fact, will no longer watch any movie with a dog in it.
This came up again more recently when I was considering yet another movie about a dog and thought there had to be some independent source I could consult so as to convince my son that no dogs die, ideally a sworn statement from the producer notarized by a paralegal authorized to practice in our state.
I went to Google and started typing in, "does the dog die in…" and before I got the movie title out, up popped "Does The Dog Die?", a crowd-sourced website for all your movie-based triggering needs.
Mind you, this was not only for my son. I can't stand movies where the dog dies, either. Old Yeller is right out. Marley and Me?
Are you kidding?
Look, I literally stopped watching, as in turned off mid-movie, "I Am Legend," a zombie-apocalypse-type tale in which the survival of the human race hangs in the balance unless Will Smith, with the help of his faithful dog, can find a cure for alopecia.
In the process, the dog dies, possibly at the hands of a hairless Chris Rock.
I might not have all the details exactly right, but that's how I remember it.
In my defense, I do have a slightly higher tolerance level than my son and thought that as far as canine carnage goes, "Eight Below" was tolerable.
Let's just say you get to a point in your life where two outta eight ain't bad.
Otherwise, I'm perfectly okay using my son as an excuse as to why I don't want to watch a movie where the dog dies.
The site itself was the brainchild of the founder's sister.
"My sister is an animal lover and came up with the idea around 2011. She recognized that screenwriters used the trope of killing dogs to dramatically affect viewer emotions. She recognized it but wanted none of it," said Does the Dog Die? Founder John Whipple. "So she asked me, a software developer, to build doesthedogdie.com so she could be an informed moviegoer."
DatingNews.com considers this an excellent way to ensure a stress-free date night.
No one wants to end a date night by being upset with disturbing or sensitive content in a movie or TV show. Does the Dog Die? provides individuals and couples with peace of mind by tracking potentially triggering events in media — from animal deaths to bright, flashing lights. Couples planning in-home dates can visit the website before date night to avoid watching something with upsetting or offensive content.
The site fully exploits one of the Internet's greatest attributes, and that is the ability to harness the knowledge of the planet, in this case, determining whether or not a dog dies.
Okay, so it's not curing cancer, but still, impressive.
Other users can vote comments up or down as a way of approving good content and identifying trolls or spammers. If a comment gets enough downvotes, the site removes it.
Users can contribute to the platform by adding media and requesting new categories.
"The site is moderated by users. It's just me running it, and there was no way I could keep up with the demand of monitoring every new movie and TV show. Registered users are allowed to comment on their ratings. However, they only get one comment because we're not a discussion forum," John told us.
While whether or not a dog dies is still the site's most popular search, there are more than 80 current categories that provide a kind of tour of human neuroses.
There are many you would expect and for which there would be universal sympathy. You could certainly understand why people who have experienced specific trauma want to avoid reminders, such as depictions of child abuse or domestic violence.
There are plenty of typical phobias, too, like a fear of spiders and other bugs.
And the biggest phobia of all.
There are also triggers for the squeamish.
There are other, more curious entries.
This strikes me as really... specific. Not to mention really fixable. There's genital and finger/toe mutilation as well, but those are very serious injuries that can be life altering, as opposed to merely dentist-enriching.
In addition to dogs dying, there are a number of specific categories for people dying, including, "a kid dies," "a parent dies," "someone dies by suicide," "a pregnant woman dies," "the black guy dies first" (not really a thing, but okay), and finally:
Again, kind of specific given the many other categories of people you could have chosen to include on this list. You might think this is pure crowd-sourced virtue signaling.
No, this is pure crowd-sourced virtue signaling.
There is balance however, including this essential entry.
There are many additional requests for new categories awaiting the judgment of the Internet, and this is where it gets a little more interesting.
There are several like this, and I'm surprised some version isn't already a category as I would think it would, at a minimum, be useful for parents.
The casual manner in which the expression "OMG" is generally thrown around drives me crazy. If you are genuinely calling on God‘s mercy that is fine, of course, but I see no reason to summon the Almighty because your Wi-Fi is slow.
Call Xfinity, okay?
I'm not being snarky: This person needs to talk to someone and not substitute a crowd-sourced movie site for professional therapy.
Seriously. Does anyone have a hotline number?
People's general anxiety over the dog dying is bigger and more widespread than I realized. Search "does the dog die?" on Twitter and you'll get returns like this:
"Does The Dog Die?" is a useful tool particularly if used as less of a way to hide from the world and more of a way to ensure a decent first date or a pleasant evening with the family.
Speaking of which, I read this piece to my son before submitting it as I typically do with anything involving him. These were the comments that followed.
You've got me thinking about Eight Below again.
If I could, I'd have that movie taken down.
It will be ten years before I'll be able to watch a movie about dogs again.
It will be eight years before I'll trust you guys.
Okay, so we have some work to do.
Incidentally, since "Does The Dog Die?" is crowd sourced, there's no reason why we can't make our own suggestions for new categories.
Imagine what a bee swarm could do to their numbers.
Let's see where we stand, first.
Incidentally, that last one was a suggestion by my son. This was the exchange:
Son: How about people who put the milk in the bowl before the cereal?
Me: What?! Who puts the milk in first?
Son: Crazy people.
Don't forget to vote!
(For those of you particularly interested in determining if a movie, book, etc., is age appropriate, my wife and I routinely use Common Sense Media. The community entries can be particularly useful.)
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