Think about how often dogs appear in movies. Whether classic like Bound homeward or modern blockbusters like A dog’s purposeman’s best friend, has been a staple of the movie screen since the days of Charlie Chaplin’s A dog’s life. One of the big sleeper hits of 2022 even has a simple name dog. But take a closer look at what kind of dogs are seen in movies – usually they’re German shepherds or golden retrievers, maybe a bulldog if you need a supporting cartoon character in something like that Marry me, Thickor The game plan. However, pugs are largely absent from this depiction. How is it that this particularly adorable breed of dog is so often banned from cinemas?
A major reason why pugs aren’t more common in movies can be explained by the type of features they appear in. Mugs the pug played one of the pets in the title lead of Marie Antoinettewhile another pug makes a cameo appearance in the Jane Austen adjustment Mansfield Park. In these cases there is fidelity to the story or source material informing of the presence of pugs. If they weren’t there, people would be screaming about the absence of Marie Antoinette’s boobs. This isn’t to negate the value of these cinematic pugs, but to show how movies with pugs in them tend to have external factors that inform the presence of these creatures.
Interestingly, pugs are often used to indicate that a film is either set in the past or in the future. The scarcity of creatures in the everyday modern world, their presence on screen can immediately suggest to the viewer that they are viewing something set in another era or world. Movies that are in the high-fantasy genre The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug can use boobs for blink and miss it cameos for this purpose. Movies now like to be set in futuristic worlds Island of Dogs, duneand Brazil Also, use pugs as shorthand for the “oddness” of an ambiguous future. In other words, pugs can rarely simply exist in natural, modern settings.
The use of pugs as a direct sign of strangeness even extends to a trait that is as present in today’s world men in black. This title is home to perhaps the most famous movie pug, Frank the Pug. This pug character is intended to be a vocal, otherworldly being, once again rendering a pug only as a visual shortcut for a departure from the “typical” world. No matter what time pugs show up, they’re always supposed to stand up for miserable craziness. That explains why they can’t just show up anywhere. The visual coding for pugs is so ubiquitous and ingrained in all types of cinemas that you can just stick a pug in some naturalistic drama Richard Linklater or Jim Jarmusch has a chance to reverse the understated realism of the play.
One reason pugs have taken on such a role in film is their relative lack of popularity in the breed. The American Kennel Club’s 2021 breakdown of the most popular dog breeds includes a variety of canines in the top positions of the list. These include cinema mainstays, German shepherds and poodles, and even other odd breeds like corgis. Pugs, meanwhile, are registered at number 33, behind Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies. If pugs were consistently the largest breed in America, movie studios would have more initiative to appeal to such a large fan base. But with pugs low on the canine popularity totem pole, there’s even less reason to change their consistently minimal presence in cinemas.
There’s also the fact that pugs are unusual looking creatures, a trait that has to do with how often they’re used as shorthand for odd environments and settings. With squashed noses, rounded bellies but long legs and eyes so big they look like billiard balls, pugs are a cross between an anatomical nightmare and an adorable sausage. This makes them perfect for cuddling or just watching them run around, but not by Hollywood’s canine beauty standards. Much like leading human men and women, dogs have a high bar to overcome if they are to be considered “fit” to headline movies.
Movies tend to revolve around German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers, who just look more “normal” and don’t fill the soundtrack of the movies they live in with constant grunts and snores. In addition, these are also the breeds that can perform great physical feats with ease. Think of it like a lot of dog movies The Call of the Wild or Marley & I, are based on larger live-action or CGI dogs that can leap trees or dash through wheat fields without missing a breath. Now imagine one of those classic dog movie tales performed by a pug. You could certainly have a pug at the center of one of these movies, but that would require a drastic change in the key components of Hollywood’s dog movie formula. The narrow definition of what constitutes a “proper” canine protagonist in movies leaves pugs out in the cold.
Then there is the controversy surrounding the existence of pugs, namely that their distinctive looks and physical traits are the result of breeding that makes everyday life for pugs a nightmare. This has led to organizations such as PETA criticizing telecom company Vodafone for using pugs in its advertising, with the organization suggesting that the frivolous use of pugs in its commercials minimized the pugs’ daily struggles. PETA’s constant criticism of its own handling of canines makes its pug-related reviews seem suspect at best. However, the potential for a PR nightmare related to the problems inherent in breeding pugs certainly doesn’t make these dogs seem more viable as protagonists for movie studio executives.
There have been a handful of boobs like Frank in film history men in black or Monchi a The Mitchells against the machines, has made the breakthrough into prominent cinema roles. In doing so, these puppies have shown what kind of unique entertainment this dog breed can provide. Unfortunately, there are a variety of reasons that keep boobs from getting the constant cinematic limelight they deserve. While German shepherds and golden retrievers become de facto movie stars, pugs are usually reserved only for biopics or to indicate a movie is set in an “alien” world. Perhaps one day there will be a film landscape where pugs can inhabit a variety of films, a reflection of just how diverse individual personalities of pugs can be.
Until then, pug fans will only have to be satisfied with Frank, Monchi and of course the pug wig sketch Saturday night live.
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