6/23/08

RVOD026 Skipper Learns a Lesson

(1952, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Let’s go down to the salon and hurl epithets at the poodles!

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Skipper the Racist Dog learns that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Summary:

Why do none of these dogs begin each syllable with the letter R?Somewhere in the midst of a barren Midwestern wasteland, Susan and her hirsute dog Skipper move into a new neighborhood. Susan quickly makes friends, and soon she’s joined a multi-racial child task force dedicated to digging random holes in vacant lots.

She invites Skipper to join them, but our hairy protagonist refuses. Why, one of those kids is black, and another Polynesian. She leaves him to stew on the porch. The neighborhood dogs arrive to greet him, but he doesn’t like them either. The dachshund has a funny shape, the German shepard’s too big, and that black and white mutt just looks shifty.

At this point you might be wondering if there’s anything Skipper isn’t racist against. Well, he’s okay with poster paint, I guess. Soon he’s covered in the stuff, but it’s not as much fun as he apparently thought it would be. He goes looking for Susan to get cleaned up. The neighborhood dogs find him first and drive him away. Skipper tries to tell them that it’s him, the dog they spoke to earlier. “We know,” the dogs reply. “Get away from us you lousy bigot.” (Or, you know, words to that effect.)

Eventually he finds Susan, who recruits her multi-racial posse into helping her bathe all the poster paint off of him. Having washed all the racism away too, I guess, he apologizes to everyone for his earlier behavior. With his apology accepted, dogs and children alike run off to frolic in the hole-pocked vacant lots once more.

Thoughts:

We've burrowed eight whole inches into the earth!  What fun!It’s encouraging to know that, even as early as 1952, a few makers of educational films thought racism was kind of stupid, and managed to convey this in a way that children would understand. It’s also encouraging to know that since that time, ten-to-twelve-year-old kids no longer have to entertain themselves by wandering unsupervised into the hoary barren wilderness to dig holes in vacant lots with sticks. Since the advent of X-Box Live, in fact, they are now free to spend their leisure time in the comfort of their own homes, hurling racial and sexual epithets into their headsets at people they will never meet and whose real racial backgrounds they may never discover. We have truly come a long way.

I had never before considered anthropomorphic racism as a subject for mockery, but that’s probably because such an idea had never even occurred to me before I saw Skipper Learns a Lesson. Mike, Bill and Kevin take the concept and run with it, though. “He’s a rabid racist. Literally,” Bill says near the beginning. Kevin, in the meantime, wonders where the hell this is supposed to take place. “Roaming packs of dogs?” he says. “Vacant lots? What kind of neighborhood is this?” “I don’t even want to think about how he treats cats,” says Mike. To which Kevin responds, “He probably secretly dresses up in their clothes and goes to their clubs.” The short is a little staid, but it’s often bizarre enough to inspire some pretty funny commentary.