Those of you who are of a certain age may be glad to know that kids these days are still watching Homeward Bound. For those who haven’t heard of it, it is basically Disney’s rip-off of the far superior Milo and Otis. TLDR; Two dogs and a cat make a trek through the wilderness in order to be reunited with their owners.
At the end, the oldest dog falls into a hole and hurts his leg. Unable to go further, he lies down in defeat, and the screen fades to black. We then cut to their human owners the next morning. One of the little boys hears a noise, and behold! His missing dog comes bounding over the hill and into his arms. The family is overjoyed, and all the more so when the little girl sees her missing cat come over the same hill. What was lost is now found!
And then nothing happens. They all hold their breath waiting for the last dog to appear, and he doesn’t. The last son finally gives up and starts coming up with reasons why it would never happen (“He was too old”) and everybody’s heart falls. And then, just as they give in to despair, the last dog comes limping over the horizon, everybody is reunited joyfully, and the credits roll.
But think back on that next-to-last moment. The pinnacle of the movie consists of emotionally torturing a child. Picture a Dawkins inside that universe. What would he say to the unjust gods of Disney who chose not only to create world where such things could happen, but actually make it central part of their universe? Would you even be able to answer him? Can we, the gods of Homeward Bound, really claim that it is legitimate to crush a little boy’s hopes in order to increase our own pleasure, and indeed that our pleasure would not be properly complete without the boy’s suffering?
I have no answer for HB Dawkins. His argument seems sound enough, except for the tiny little fact that none of us actually seem to believe it. This ending is not only not unique, it’s cliched. We do not seek out peace and joyfulness in the worlds we create. For a good story, we want to see evil brought on the just. We want to see struggle and death, and watch our heroes brought low. And then we turn from the worlds we have created, see the same in our own, and shake our fists at the sky.