The Monday, April 16 episode of the hit CBS series "King of Queens" presented some wonderfully animal friendly material.
I will share the plot, and some of the lines, below:
The lead character, Doug, who is a delivery man, almost runs over a chicken. He is relieved to see the animals is ok. But then he sees a man looking for the chicken, coming out of a restaurant that has dead chickens in the window. Doug grabs the chicken and makes a run for it.
We see him driving along with chicken in the front seat, making his deliveries and trying to find the chicken a home. He finally drives many miles to deliver the chicken to a small farm where it seems the animal will be well looked after.
When Doug gets home, his wife, Carrie, pulls a big roasted chicken out of the oven.
As the sweet romantic song, "Just the two of us" plays, we flash back to scenes of Doug driving along chatting with the chicken and then leaving the farm after giving the animal one last pat and a look of love.
We then flash back to the kitchen where Carrie is pulling a leg off the roasted animal on the table. Doug yells, "Stop it!" and runs outside.
He sees his neighbor, Glen, and explains that he rescued an injured chicken that day, and got attached, and when he came home Carrie was serving chicken. Doug says he feels stupid, but Glen says he shouldn't. Glen says,
"Do you have any idea what goes on at a poultry mill? It's barbaric!"
Doug says, "I guess I am pretty much done eating chicken. Hey -- thank God I didn't make friends with a cow, you know what I am saying?"
We cut to the men sitting on the neighbor's couch, watching a video. We see Doug's distressed face as we hear, "After they are stunned , the cattle enter the death chute, where they are killed, dismembered and prepared for processing."
Doug asks, "Is it almost over?"
Glen says, "Not until you learn how hot dogs are made."
Back at home Doug, obviously upset, says to Carrie:
"Glen just showed me some movie about how meat is made, and now I can't eat it."
She says, "Come on!"
And he says, "Carrie, I am serious! I was just down at the refrigerator and you know what I ate? An apple!"
"I don't understand. You eat fast food two to three times a week. It never occur to you that animals were involved?
Doug says, "Because they don't make it look like an animal - they are very clever that way."
Carries suggests that maybe Doug really should stop eating meat. She says,
"Maybe this whole thing is fate, you know, a chance for you to start eating better, stick around a little longer, and burp less."
"I guess I could give it a try. I have eaten meat for over forty years. It is not like they are coming out with anything new."
And then we flash to a meeting at a burger chain, where executives are working on new burger ideas. They come up with "The Leaning Tower of Pizza Burger." It is a stack of five patties on a mini pizza.
Carrie comes down for breakfast and says to Doug,
"Look at you enjoying your tofu sausages. I can't believe they're not eggs."
He says, "You know what makes them taste better? Knowing I am doing the right thing -- and a butt-load of hot sauce."
He puts on glasses, which he has never worn before, and we soon realize that he has had a full character transformation. At fist it seems it might be positive. He is doing crosswords. He is reading and enjoying intellectually complex books. He expresses concern about Carrie drinking coffee, because the people who pick the beans work under terrible conditions. So veganism is being associated with intelligence and consciousness and concern for the whole world.
But unfortunately, once again, we have a storyline in which the vegan goes too far and becomes obnoxious, pushing his new found passion on others. Carrie at first tries to be patient, for example she pretends to be pleased that he is cooking bean steaks for dinner "again!"
But we soon learn of her annoyances -- such as Doug having set a one-flush per day rule in the house. And when Carrie is invited to a prestigious party by her boss, Doug brings her a shapeless hemp dress and expects her to wear it. Then, at the party, he gives her boss the coffee lecture.
Doug and Carrie fight, and Doug says that his change is forever -- which I thought a noteworthy juxtaposition to the well-known "one day at a time." And indeed, Doug falls off the wagon when "The Leaning Tower of Pizza Burger" is released, and another company brings out a competing product on the same day. Doug desperately tries to ignore the products but cannot go anywhere to escape the advertising.
We soon see Doug passed out on the couch surrounded by fast-food bags. As he wakes up, his whole demeanor is like that of somebody who has just gone back to drinking; it seems meat is being subtly presented as an addiction.
What is unfortunate is that Carrie looks so happy as she walks through the door and sums up the situation. And, sadly, the viewer could hardly blame her, because Doug has been impossible to live with as he has tried to impose his sudden change of consciousness on those around him.
If that had been the ending, the show would have been more of a downer. But in the final scene we flash to the hen, safely in a coop in a big comfortable barn with other hens, as the farmer says "Good night gang." The camera focuses on her face and we see her remembering Doug's face as he lifts her off the street. "Just the two of us" is playing again. Of course it is funny, but it is also oddly touching.
The chicken scenes were so warm, it really will be surprising if Doug goes back, in forthcoming episodes (this is the last season) to eating chicken.
When we have seen shows like Braceface on TV -- an animated fun show about a hip young adolescent vegan, played by Alicia Silverstone, it is hard not to be disappointed when other shows or films that explore veganism make vegans look kooky. Yet I believe (and I paraphrase) that we must not let the search for the perfect be the enemy of the good. So though we might have liked to tweak the King of Queens episode, I think we can be excited that the world has changed so much in the last few years, that a hit comedy would present compelling arguments for its lead character -- the epitome of the everyman -- to give up meat.
Please go to http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.shtml, choose "The King of Queens" from the pull-down menu, and comment on the storyline, so that the producers know that animal subjects generate viewer enthusiasm. It will take just a moment of your time, and will help influence future storylines. Feedback matters!
I send thanks to Jodi Chemes, Leigh O'Brien, Karen Loveless and Mariann Sullivan for making sure I knew about and could tape and share the episode. It is particularly helpful when people on the East Coast see an animal friendly story line, and email me so that I can watch and/or tape it when it comes on here, on the West Coast.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)
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Date: Tue Apr 17 21:12:28 2007