Monday, July 30, 2007
It was the late 1960’s. The law of the jungle was broadcast every Sunday afternoon on a television show called Wild Kingdom. While obviously staged and comically over-produced, as wildlife programs go it was the only game in town. The master of ceremonies was a guy named Marlin Perkins, a kindly old grey haired circus ringmaster with a cottony voice and little concern for the Prime Directive. Each week, assorted wilderness beasts underwent detailed analysis in severely sanitized terms. This was, and I’ve said it many times before, an unfortunate manifestation of vestigial Victorian modesty. Stupid Victorians!
Most of the truly interesting aspects of animal life never made it past the censors, which is too bad considering there just isn’t a whole lot going on in the life of your typical Gnu when farting, crapping, screwing and birthing are deemed dangerously destructive to the developing moral framework of red-blooded American mother’s sons and daughters. By virtue of a stroke of the pen and a shear of the scissor, those natural facts of life found their way into the editor’s trashcan.
Prior to modern times, homo-sapiens and their progenitors had survived countless thousands of generations (300 generations for my Christian Fundamentalist compadres) of direct exposure to sexual activity and bodily functions of the foulest biological origin, and we somehow survived it all.
Things are different now. We are protected from the details. We throw buckets of water on mating dogs and blur out images of humongous elephant baloneys while clinging desperately to the image of the peaceable kingdom. It turns out it’s more of a queendom, but that’s another story. At the end of the day, righteous indignation keeps us all safe and sound, insulated from the most profound displays of physical attraction. Goddamn Victorians! Did I mention I hate those bastards?
Off the soapbox and back to my point, in the early days, nature film producers found themselves in a quandary. How do you create a compelling narrative when the star of your show spends most of the day eating grass and defecating? It was the predators in general and the lions in particular that filled the entertainment gap. You never saw them fart but that was ok because killing makes for some righteous Sunday afternoon relaxation with the family. The Victorians were apparently ok with that.
--------------------Bad Hair Day--------------------
Lions always put on a good show; a well-regulated social order and proficiency at the kill provided ample metaphor for their naturally predatory human counterparts. On the hunt, the big kitties are all about efficiency. They seek out the weak and the lame. To a predator, weakness is relative. In the absence of an obvious injury, a sneeze or a bad hair day might spark their interest. Prey animals in lion country pay a heavy price for even subtle deviations from normal behavior; few of them die of old age. Instead, they take early retirement, an option that typically involves being processed into little furry turds.
Cut to the scene of a shade-tree in the heat of the day, lounging predators nurse distended bellies and lick blood from each other’s faces. Marlin Perkins was telling my story. In those days, I was in almost every sense of the word one of those little furry cat turds that littered the ground under the shade tree. But I’ve told that story before and I don’t want to go over it again, gotta stay focused.
-------------------------Definitely Not An Eagle-------------------------
More than likely, you have imagined yourself as one of those animals, a leopard doing what leopards do or an eagle taking it easy on a thermal updraft. The animal that you imagine yourself as says something about how you view yourself, but maybe not in an obvious way. Maybe you do yearn to sink your teeth into the warm flesh a still twitching Gnu. It could be you’re just tired of looking over your shoulder, had enough of people telling you what to do. Chances are, given the choice and knowing what that choice would entail, you might choose a vulture. They don’t kill, they don’t get in any big hurry, they just take it nice and easy until the quadrupeds get a bellyful and then swoop in for a little buffet action. I think the mating hierarchy is a little less strict for vultures, which is a huge concern. Consider the lion, if you expect to get a little bit of that furry hind shank, you pretty much have to be the biggest, hairiest, meanest motherf*cker on the block. Any less and you’re left skulking the perimeter, watching the action from the sidelines.
----------------It's ok, Daddy's just tickling mommy!----------------
The same is true for all of the really cool animals that you might imagine yourself to be. All accept one, the Bonobo Chimp. They are fairly intelligent, mostly vegetarian, and they are all about scratching each others’ itch and keeping the flea population to a manageable level. Also, they have sex with whoever is in the mood, anytime of the day, any day of the week. They might be the only animal in the peaceable queendom with no rules when it comes to “making a ham sandwich” if you know what I mean. They do it face to face; doggy style, sixty-nine and three-ways are rumored. They do it hanging upside down, swinging from a branch, they trade food for sex, and there are also legends that have them ”playing the rusty trombone.” I would pass on that. They don’t care who sees their scary sex faces either. I find that a little disturbing too. If I were a Bonobo Chimp, I think I would tone that down a little, unless it was after dark, then who cares. Of course, my information on them is a little dated. If it turns out they’re a bunch of assholes like all the other jerks in the animal queendom, I don’t want to hear about it. Just let me have that one fantasy without ruining it with “data.” And no, I don’t consider having sex with hairy-assed monkeys a personal goal. But if I had to be an animal, that’s the one I would be.