With the release of Oscar-winner Hugo on DVD yesterday, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the “scandal” surrounding one of its performers. Blackie, the Doberman Pinscher who portrayed a fierce guard dog in the film, was overlooked in the nominations for The Golden Collar Awards (arguably, the Oscars for canine actors).
Hugo director Martin Scorsese promptly sent off an indignant letter to the editor of the L.A. Times. He writes that it’s easy to applaud Uggie, the adorable Jack Russell Terrier who ultimately won for his role in The Artist. But just because Uggie’s character is charming and likeable while Blackie’s is ferocious and unsympathetic doesn’t mean the latter is any less deserving of recognition.
Scorsese, reportedly furious at the snub, says:
“We have learned to accept the human antihero, but when it comes to dogs, I guess we still have a long way to go. I’m proud of Blackie, who laid it on the line and dared to risk the sympathy of her audience.”
Though I haven’t seen Hugo yet, I like Scorsese’s pictures — and I like his point. Just because you play a bad guy in the movies doesn’t mean you are one in real life, or that your portrayal of one is any less relevant or compelling.
Let’s be honest though: The Golden Collar Awards is a ceremony for humans. And there’s nothing wrong with that — I’m all for celebrating dogs and their incredible aptitude to learn and please. But dogs don’t care about red carpets or fancy clothes, and there are dozens of outings a dog would enjoy more than a flashy, media-saturated affair. I guarantee that Blackie couldn’t care less whether or not she won a Golden Collar Award. What matters to Blackie is that she receives the attention, security, exercise, and medical treatment that all dogs deserve.
Scorsese goes on to suggest that there might be more nefarious reasons behind Blackie’s omission in the nomination process: breed prejudice. Dobermans have long been feared and maligned. And I’m not challenging Scorsese’s artistic vision or his motive for casting Blackie, but as an animal advocate, I can’t help but wonder if there was a less breed-incriminating option he could’ve picked for the role. I wish we were at a place in history where one member of a group didn’t bear the burden of representing the whole, but we’re not there yet. (And yes, I realize there are choices he could have made with potentially worse ramifications.)
No question that the Golden Collar folks got it right in one regard. Uggie’s actual award, an 18-karat gold inscribed collar tag, will be auctioned off. Proceeds will benefit the Amanda Foundation, an animal rescue organization in Southern California.