The Dog Lives
So I went to go see Independence Day opening night in a packed house in Bangor, Maine, with a friend of mine, Shane Leonard.
In the first act, about a thousand Los Angelenos find themselves trapped in a tunnel, when the alien mothercraft unleashes a city-shattering death ray, and fills the underground passageway with a wave of murderflame. So I’m watching as this one heroic dog escapes the slaughter, leaping to safety beyond reach of the flames, and the entire movie theater explodes into a thunderous roar of celebratory applause. And Shane and I look at each other, like, what the fuck, why is everyone cheering, this one flea-bitten mutt lived and A THOUSAND PEOPLE WERE JUST INCINERATED IN A CONCRETE TUBE
A couple weeks later, Shane scooted out to see some other film I had been looking forward to, only this time I wasn’t able to join him. But I did call the next day and ask how it was.
"Enh," he said, in a tone of lazy disinterest. "The dog lived."
Ever since then “the dog lives” has been my shorthand for a story that plays all the expected emotional notes in the most schmaltzy and annoying way possible. Stories in which the dog lives offer up bloodless gunfights, heroism without sacrifice, death without meaning, loss without grief, and pat solutions to prefab personal struggles. I prefer genuinely bad movies to theoretically good movies in which “the dog lives.”
Just finished Joe Hill’s Locke and Key and enjoyed it more than most things I’ve read recently. “But what about his Tumblr?” you ask. Good news! That is also good!