ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lessons in Animal Activism from Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs asks whether we are willing to align ideals with actions or remain mute spectators unmoved by the plight of animals.


Film-maker Wes Anderson is known for his unique and bold takes on pressing issues. Isle of Dogs (2018) is no exception. A sinister plot unravels, and at its centre, a laboratory-made epidemic leads to the mass exodus of dogs from the city. It is a part of an elaborate ploy designed to hoodwink citizens into parting ways with their best friends, dogs. The narrative is driven by conspiracy, corruption, capitalism, and self-serving interests. The film is set in a dystopian future where an outbreak of “snout fever,” eerily similar to COVID-19, leads to the banishment of dogs. Spots, the mayoral household’s “guard” dog, is the first to be forced into exile. Atari, the mayor’s nephew, and other young citizens appeal to the mayor and his administration on several occasions to explore all options but to no avail. The murder of a scientist, the sole opposition leader, who formulated a cure for the disease is the breaking point that compels a group of young, diligent, and well-meaning animal activists to risk it all in trying to save an entire species from annihilation.

A stark contrast is highlighted in the film. Older citizens are coerced into silence using violence and intimidation. Young idealistic students continue to draw attention to the issue. The students are persistent, from drawing graffiti to protesting outside the Municipal Dome, they keep the pressure on the administration. The creative, innovative, and non-violent methods employed by animal activists in the film are met with a backlash. Every effort is made to silence the voice of dissent. There is no place for a voice of reason or science either. Young idealistic activists who dared to speak the truth and demand accountability are penalised, ridiculed, and further marginalised. For instance, an exchange student, Tracy Walker, writes an exposé on the nexus between the administration, mafia, and industry. As an investigative student journalist, she draws attention to the launch of robotic dogs, a new range of replacement pets. The mayor sanctions her, cancelling her visa, and the deportation process is initiated. Often, telling the truth comes at a heavy price.

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Updated On : 5th Mar, 2022
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