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By four years old, I already knew that gravity worked differently for Wile E. Coyote than it did for me. Even at that age, I understood cartoons weren’t real. That’s why it bugs me so much when full-grown non-hunters ask me how I can shoot Bambi.
Most are kidding, but it’s pretty clear that some have formed a lifelong perception of hunting based on a ’40s-era cartoon deer. And it makes me wonder if they would ask a busboy why he’s body-slamming Spongebob against the counter. Or go to the paint store and ask if they carry all the colors of the wind.
Sure, Walt Disney’s work has brought a lot of joy to kids through the years. But Bambi’s make-believe universe has turned some into real-world morons when it comes to nature.
For now, let’s set aide the obvious – talking animals. As a storytelling device, that one dates back to Aesop. (And if you still believe it, you need more and better medication.) Let’s just focus on Bambi’s biggest myths: those tiny seeds of misinformation that grew into firmly held beliefs as the audiences got older.
For example, because of Bambi there are millions and millions of grown-ups in this world who believe:
5. Animals are all buddies in the wild. There’s Flower, Thumper, Friend Owl and Bambi. Hooray, the gang’s all here and they’re all hungry. So what’s on the menu? Looks like Friend Owl will have some leg of Thumper and Flower tartare. That’s because in reality, wild animals aren’t friends with each other at all. They are at different times predator, prey or apathetic bystander, but never are they best pals.
4. Forest fires are man-made tragedies. In all fairness, Walt had some help from Smokey the Bear on this one. Still, Bambi clearly presents fire as an evil brought on by man’s presence. Never mind that controlled burns bring the regenerative benefits of nature’s own wildfires and help prevent them at the same time. In fact, Mother Nature, pyromaniac that she is, starts more fires than man.
3. Deer have a wonderful family life. Bambi portrays the father as macho and somewhat aloof, but loving all the same. His mother was protective and doting. (Almost like Red and Kitty Foreman in That ‘70s Show.”) Conveniently, they left out the part where Daddy Deer attacks Bambi for getting too close to his does. And had she lived, Bambi’s mother would have chased him away from the herd at a young age so he wouldn’t breed her or his siblings. If deer could talk, my bet is they’d do so mostly with therapists.
2. Hunters are deer’s only predators. Notice that the only characters who die in Bambi are killed by man. In the bizarre Bambi universe, we never see predation, competition or starvation. But in reality deer don’t retire to Florida, take up shuffleboard and enjoy time with the grandkids. Nature takes them in ways that would horrify Cruella de Vil.
1. Man is an intruder in the forest. Pesky humans. If it wasn’t for us, Bambi and company could go about their daily lives in peace and harmony. The truth is that man has only recently become a machine-fed, cubicle-dwelling couch potato. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who spent most of their time trying to find dinner and the rest trying not to be dinner. We were always a part of the food chain and for the time being we’re near the top.
Granted, man has left some deep scars on the natural world. But Bambi lays all the animal world’s problems on hunters, and that’s ridiculous. Every human on this planet has displaced non-human life to one degree or another. And by turning 40 square miles of Florida into an amusement park, I’d say Disney has done more than its fair share.