'The Grey': Is film's portrayal of wolves as man-killers too dramatic?
Most North American wolves are exceedingly shy. But given starvation, territorial incursions and habituation with humans, attacks can – and do – happen. Wolf attack scenes in 'The Grey' nevertheless have drawn criticisms from animal rights groups.
Any casual reader of Jack London will get a stab of recognition from the portrayal in the movie “The Grey” of battered survivors defending with flaming torches against snarling, snapping wolves.Skip to next paragraph
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After all, the opening stanza of Mr. London's classic “White Fang” details the struggle of two frontiersmen against a hungry pack of wolves, using some of the same savage imagery that confronts “The Grey” star Liam Neeson in the movie, which opens today.
But is it a fair portrayal?
To be sure, the perception of wolves as man-killers goes back millennia, representing perhaps humankind's most primal fear: becoming prey.
But animal rights activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have called for a boycott of the movie, saying the portrayal is misguided and couldn't come at a worst time: when packs of wolves, reintroduced by federal wildlife biologists, are desperately trying to regain footholds across some of America's northern reaches. The movie's premiere comes as a radio-collared wild wolf known as OR-7 has drawn the attention of many fans as wildlife officials track it from Idaho through Oregon and into northern California.
“The Grey portrays these intelligent, family-oriented animals the same way in which Jaws portrays sharks,” PETA writes in a statement. “The writers paint a pack of wolves living in the Alaskan wilderness as bloodthirsty monsters, intent on killing every survivor of a plane crash by tearing each person limb from limb. Yet wolves aren't aggressive animals, and as Maggie Howell, the managing director of America's Wolf Conservation Center, says, 'Wolves don't hunt humans—they actually shy away from them.'”
PETA also took offense that the filmmakers, talent and crew ate wolf meat as part of a bonding ritual as they tackled the filming.
For their part, the filmmakers say they meant to build drama, not animosity towards wild canines that once roamed nearly all corners of the globe, but have dwindled dramatically in numbers as they've been hunted and squeezed into restricted territories