There are stereotypes that can be innocuous like cats not knowing how to drive, but some stereotypes can be detrimental. Take a look at wolves:
(a) Vandals of private property: “Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?”
(b) Cross-dressing stalkers: “My, what big teeth you have!”
(c) Out of control serial killers: “He’s a hairy, hairy gent who ran amok in Kent.”
Do you know what I think of when I hear the word wolves? Big dogs. That’s all they are. They are animals who like to eat. But instead of prepackaged pet food or table scraps, they may grab a deer or a cow. That’s it. That’s what they do, part of the food chain. They don’t spend their days spray painting graffiti on public buildings or use advance degrees in mathematics to show bankrupt companies as otherwise solvent. They just want to grab a burger in its rarest form. And if their organic approach to eating makes them “Big” and “Bad”, then no more steak tartare for the rest of us, which for me is an easy sacrifice to make.
Before I go too far in one direction, I want to point out that stereotypes on some level can be good. For, example, look at bears.
If I’m at work and I step into the break room to see a grizzly bear rocking the vending machine, my natural instinct isn’t to shout, “Hey buddy, see if you can get me some Doritos.”
No, years that go back farther than the days disco have created DNA inside of me to step back and head in the other direction.
I’m not the only one with this fear of bears as killing machines. Deer, moose and Canadians will back me. Still, I think we as a society should not be too disparaging against those who are just trying to get through the day. Sure, it’s a tough world, but who sticks up for the carnivores? Who is their advocate to fight against the years of bad publicity?
DIRK: I’m Dirk Chambers and welcome to Another Look, the talk show that goes beyond the conventional and accepted to revisit the topics of the day.
Tonight’s discussion: What role does the Wild Kingdom play in today’s society? Tonight’s guest will bring a fresh perspective to the age-old question. His name is Samuel Johnston, a diamondback rattlesnake from Durango, Colorado. He is the president of an international coalition of wild animals who have felt misrepresented by their fellow man. His group hopes to better their image through thoughtful debate and honest dialogue. Welcome Samuel.
SAM: A pleasure to be with you.
DIRK: I understand your organization is only a year old.
SAM: Although we’ve had an extensive grassroots campaign, it is only recently with conference calling and crowd funding that we have been able to go international and form WAFBR.
SAM: Correct. Wild Animals for Better Representation.
DIRK: Couldn’t your organization come up with a catchier acronym?
SAM: I suppose, if we had the funds to retain a Manhattan PR firm, but most of our members do not work for a living.
DIRK: You say your organizations mission is to create a better image for your members. How do you achieve this goal?
SAM: By speaking the truth. For example, the notion that the snake is the incarnation of Satan is an all-around falsehood. Everybody in the Wild Kingdom knows it wasn’t a snake that tempted Eve, but an otter.
DIRK: An otter?
SAM: And the forbidden fruit wasn’t an apple, but spoiled clams.
DIRK: An amazing revelation!
SAM: The only reason the story evolved from an otter to a snake was Man’s inherit need to spice up a story. And can you really blame Him? After all, what makes a better story: Adam and Eve puking rotten clams all over the Garden of Eden or a venomous snake tricking them with fresh fruit?
DIRK: Clearly the venomous snake.
SAM: And why?
DIRK: Because of the snake’s ability to kill.
SAM: Precisely. Because of our predatory overbite, Man equaled us to Satan and the misinformation campaign began.
DIRK: Any other misconceptions you would like to address?
SAM: There is the foolish notion that because of a forked tongue, a snake’s speech is somehow impeded by a lisp.
DIRK: Another falsehood?
SAM: Well, you certainly don’t get a chance to do summer stock theater in Greely Colorado – like I have – with a lisp.
DIRK: We may ask for a soliloquy if there is time.
SAM: Happy to resurrect Richard the Third.
DIRK: Joining Sam is the area president of the West Indies chapter of WAFBR. When he isn’t lobbying for fishing restrictions and responsible recycling, he keeps a busy schedule by lecturing on the encroaching dangers of his own species. Please welcome, Shane R. Jones, a Great White Shark.
SHANE: Great to be with you Dirk. Enjoy your show.
DIRK: I understand you are calling from an underwater phone booth off the coast of Barbados.
SHANE: I am. Modern technology, will it never cease to amaze?
DIRK: I would like to first ask what’s all on our minds. How is the weather?
SHANE: Absolutely beautiful. But when isn’t it. HEY! KNOCK IT OFF.
DIRK: Excuse me?
SHANE: I’m sorry. There are a couple of kids in a skiff trying to harpoon me. I’ll be right back.
SAM: You see, Mr. Chambers, this is a perfect example of what we in the Animal Kingdom put up with every day. Throughout the years of tall tales and biased news coverage, there is no greater stereotype than the shark lurking in the cold waters waiting to snatch its next innocent victim.
DIRK: But sharks are predators.
SAM: Yes, but in a purely natural way. It’s the cycles of nature. That doesn’t mean sharks are without a sense of humor.
SHANE: I’m back.
DIRK: Is everything fine?
SHANE: Oh, yeah. You know kids: always trying to land the big one. So I swam over and told them to knock it off.
DIRK: Did they?
SHANE: One of them shot me with a flare gun. So I sunk their boat.
DIRK: You must be pretty big to sink a boat with such ease.
SHANE: Well I’m 17 feet long and weigh close to 2,000 pounds.
SHANE: You don’t get to be the king of the ocean by watching daytime TV. I work out, quit smoking and watch my diet by staying away from fatty foods like rubber tires, whale blubber and American tourists.
SAM: See, I told you he has a sense of humor.
DIRK: And, Shane, why did you decide to join WAFBR?
SHANE: Besides my colleague, Sam, you will not find an animal more greatly misrepresented than a shark. If I were to only believe the human perspective, I would only see myself as a cold-blooded murderer.
DIRK: But you are cold-blooded.
SHANE: Yes, but I maintain there is a double standard.
DIRK: How so?
SHANE: Take the biggest propaganda machine of them all – the film industry. They create characters like James Bond and the Terminator who exceed all bounds of decency and the audience applauds. But when a shark decides to have a little fun with a seaside resort – in Massachusetts for God’s sake – all the sudden it’s mass hysteria.
DIRK: Samuel, you mentioned most of your members do not work. Which are gainfully employed?
SAM: We have some bears in Alaska that are commercial fishermen. Some beavers in northern Canada have logging permits. Then you have bees who work 24/7. You think they reap what they sow?
SHANE: I hear that honey is nothing more than bee vomit. Is that true?
DIRK: In a matter of speaking. You should try it.
SHANE: I’m fine with sea lions and the occasional kayaker.
SAM: Ha! Ha! Ha! There he goes again. I, myself, tried to land a job as a paid lobbyist for the World Wildlife Fund, but you will not believe the amount of discrimination that runs through Washington DC. I had a senator from Wyoming tell me I’d make a fine pair of cowboy boots.
DIRK: Being an international group, you must have a rather large membership. What is your size?
SHANE: It depends on whether it’s hunting season or not.
DIRK: Looking over the list of species that belong reads like a list of animals you are taught to be quite afraid of: the Bengal Tiger, The African Lion, The Nile Crocodile, The South American Jaguar, the North American Timber Wolf…
SAM: I’m glad you brought up the wolf, Mr. Chambers, because you will not find a more misrepresented animal. They are our most sensitive and shyest members or our organization.
SAM: Painfully so. Although they have strong family bonds, they are loners who don’t relate well with other animals. They never attend any of our chapter meetings or engage in online discussions. Any grievances or concerns they fax to our corporate headquarters.
DIRK: That is shy.
SAM: They may be our most reclusive members, but they are the soul of our organization. Did you know most are poets?
DIRK: I did not. Pass on Richard the Third. I’d like to hear a poem from a wolf.
SAM: I have one memorized. It’s from C.R. Gatlin entitled Howl:
Howl! Howl! I howl at the moon.
Howl! Howl! I cry for you.
DIRK: Extraordinary and quite brief.
SHANE: You don’t get much time for odes when you are on the run.
DIRK: Looking at your list, I notice one animal conspicuously missing – the piranha.
SAM: And for good reason. They refuse to join. They enjoy their sorted reputation.
SHANE: Never invite them to a rain forest fundraiser. They’ll show up drunk and it will only get worse from there.
DIRK: I’ll take note.
SHANE: I hate to dash, but the harbor police just showed. As the great CR Gatlin once wrote: Look not for fate, but move before it decides.
DIRK: What more needs to be said?
SAM: Just that I will be co-starring in Waiting for Godot with my good friend and fellow thespian Auggie Shaw at the Farnsworth Family Campgrounds, July 20th – 25th.
DIRK: Wonderful. Is Auggie also a Diamondback?
SAM: No, he’s Rocky Mountain Wolverine and he can be quite temperamental. I suggest not sitting in the first couple rows.
DIRK: Good fun! What a perfect way to end today’s discussion with a stereotypical roast.
SAM: It’s no joke. He has a horrible temper. Whatever you do, do not bring up The Missoulian review of his King Lear. Not his finest work.
DIRK: All you campers have been warned.