I had to get a filling done at the dentist today, and I’m a really whiny baby when it comes to dental work. I feel totally traumatized when someone pokes sharp objects in my mouth for an hour, and today I spent the rest of the night curled up on the couch watching Netflix and feeling sorry for myself as the freezing slowly wore off. I had a lovely dinner of applesauce and scrambled eggs, because that was soft enough to eat.
I decided to watch some silly Christmas movies. The first one I clicked on was a recently-made cartoon, and I didn’t get into it at all. It seemed to have been made for kids with ADHD, because there was constant over-the-top action happening and it was overwhelming to even look at. There didn’t even seem to be much of a plot, it was just an excuse to fit hundreds of crazy moves into a short time period. The next film I clicked on was much better, and I want to talk about it. I clicked on The Christmas Bunny because the short description Netflix gave me made it look sort of feminist. This turned out to be a very interesting film.
The Christmas Bunny is a tear-jerker drama about a little girl living in foster care who is very withdrawn but then falls in love with a rabbit. She meets an eccentric old lady who takes care of lost and abandoned pets and the lady teaches her how to care for her rabbit. Her love of pets and her interaction with the “Bunny Lady” helps her to grow as a person.
It’s interesting sometimes how different people get something completely different out of the same work of art. This film has a strong family theme, and on the film’s website I noticed that it has received awards by Christian and pro-family types. Obviously this film appeals to the right wing. I also couldn’t help noticing that all the actors were white, which is not the choice I would have made if I was making a film.
However, what I got from this film wasn’t a right wing “pro-family” message. I actually got a very feminist message, and that might have something to do with the fact that I see an analysis of patriarchy wherever I look. You know how it goes, we see things in terms of our own perspective. I’m going to describe some things I got from this film, and just so ya know, spoiler alert! I’m basically going to retell the entire film. I won’t tell you about the climax or the ending though.
So let’s start with the eccentric old lady character. Interestingly, this character is played by the same actress who was the mom in The Brady Bunch. I didn’t know that until I read the film’s web site because The Brady Bunch was before my time. This character’s name is Betsy Ross, and they call her “The Bunny Lady.” I’m not sure what the significance is of naming this character after the woman who made the first American flag. Maybe to make her seem like a patriot? Anyway The Bunny Lady is a hermit who lives on a farm surrounded by tons of animals. She has innumerable rabbits and she also has other animals such as goats. Her love of animals seems to far exceed her love of humans. She’s pretty grumpy when she has to talk to people. The reason she has so many rabbits is because she rescues them when families buy them as gifts for children without having any interest or knowledge about taking care of them, and then discard them later on. Her farm is essentially a bunny rescue operation.
I read on the film’s website that the creator of the film wanted to make a family movie starring a rabbit, because he knew that family films about animals are popular, and he figured that bunnies are the cutest animals. He did research on rabbits and what he found out was that tons of people buy them as gifts and then don’t take care of them. The film ended up being largely about this subject. We even witness the family who gave up the rabbit in the first place, before the star of the film finds it, and how neglectful they were. They didn’t give it a name, treated it like a thing, fed it candy, and then released it into the wild when they got tired of it because they didn’t care about the fact that a domesticated animal won’t survive in the wild.
Betsy Ross, aka the Rabbit Lady, agrees to nurse the neglected rabbit back to health when the foster girl’s brother shoots at it with a BB gun. She is very unfriendly at first because of the fact that they have shot at the rabbit. However, she grows fond of the little foster girl because she is passionate about animals. She teaches her a lot about taking care of rabbits and she shows how passionate she is about them.
Photo credit: http://www.thechristmasbunny.com/
Betsy usually wears farm clothes—practical shoes, jeans, and a brown coat. Between of her farmer clothing style, her gruff and no-nonsense attitude, and her chosen profession of rescuing animals, I got a strong lesbian vibe from her. My partner and I high-fived each other and declared “Dyke!” while we were watching. Of course, a family film that appeals to the conservative American family isn’t going to make a character explicitly lesbian, so one day she dresses up in feminine pink and we find out she used to have a husband. I just ignored this information though, because there have been so many characters in films that sort of seem like lesbians and I’m so used to believing they are, that I will just go ahead and continue to do so. We know how to spot lesbian coding and we know how to believe!
The next character I will talk about, of course, is the star of the film, Julia, who is a young foster girl whose mother has drug problems and can’t take care of her, and who does not speak to her foster family, even though they really try to be good to her. She rarely communicates at all, and when she does it’s often just with a nod. All she wants to do is watch her favourite film over and over, The Velveteen Rabbit. She is, of course, traumatized by her difficult upbringing and her separation from her mother. She isn’t ready to allow anyone to love her, because she can’t trust it.
When the foster family finds out that Julia loves the found rabbit, they see an opportunity to bond with her and provide her with a positive life experience, so they allow her to keep the pet and they also allow her to spend time with The Rabbit Lady. Julia doesn’t talk much to the rabbit lady either, but she listens well and remembers, and obviously appreciates what she teaches her.
This film felt feminist to me because of the focus on female characters, the theme of women who love animals and because of the mentor relationship between the old woman and the young girl. It also deals with the way men can be uncaring toward animals while women tend to be very caring toward them. The foster family has a son already, and he is a typically masculine boy who doesn’t share Julia’s reverence for animals. Not only does the brother and his friend shoot the rabbit with a BB gun when they first see it, but later they sneak the rabbit out of the house and put it in a toboggan to slide it down an obstacle course, putting it in danger. When Julia sees what the boys are doing, she punches and bites her brother until he bleeds.
This is where I felt like there was an analysis of patriarchy happening. The way the parents respond to this incident is to scold Julia for harming her brother, without scolding her brother for what he did to the rabbit. Julia is not generally a violent person, but she knows that her rabbit is worth defending and she knows that her brother has done something horrible. The film never deals with the fact that the brother has actually done something violent toward Julia, by harming her pet. Boys will just be boys, apparently; and boys’ violence is erased while girls’ reaction to boys’ violence is punished. Isn’t that just the way patriarchy always works.
Disclaimer: I am absolutely not saying that all men are violent toward animals. They are just more likely to be, and of course there are some men who are very caring toward animals.
Even though it wasn’t intended as such, as I was watching I felt as though the film was presenting to me an animal-loving lesbian who provides mentorship to a young girl who is learning to care for animals and navigate a world where other people don’t care for them. This I felt was absolutely wonderful. And even though the filmmakers didn’t actually intend to create a lesbian character, they did intend to teach the importance of taking proper care of animals, and they did intend to create some good roles for female actors. I very much appreciate this.
If you are looking for something on Netflix that is female-friendly and that makes you cry buckets of tears, click on The Christmas Bunny!
And since this is just a lighthearted movie post, feel free to talk about your other Christmas movie recommendations, whether they’re legitimately good or whether they’re so-bad-they’re-good. Because 2017 was a shit fest and we could all use some lighthearted content.
The freezing has worn off my tooth now. Gosh, I hate going to the dentist, but at least I’ll be able to chew with both sides of my mouth starting tomorrow. That hole in my tooth was kind of a bummer.