Lady and the Tramp is your classic love story, told through the use of animal protagonists. I would image as a child watching this film you would not see much past the true love and happy ending that encompasses the plot. However, watching this again with a critical eye, it is most definitely a construction and perhaps critique of the social hierarchies within society today. By using stereotypical identities and portrayals of the different dogs, a system of “rich dog” versus “poor dog”, I noticed, began to develop. I first caught glimpse of this binary when hearing the dogs stress the importance of the symbolic collar. Stray dogs, such as Tramp, do not have a collar and therefore are automatically segmented into the lower class of the dog world. The collar suggests something of the aristocratic environment – where people are well off and supported in unity with one another. Tramp doesn’t have a family – which is why the ending is so emotionally impacting. He gains not only the love of Lady but a family as well. This is one why I think the film is successful (aside from the complete overuse of identity stereotypes).
I want to elaborate on the use of stereotypes for a minute but especially in regards to the scene of the dogs in the pound. This struck me as an odd scene. Not only were the dogs literally weeping for a good two minutes while sad, depressing music was playing and a thunderstorm was brewing outside, but the dogs looked (as the modern day adolescent would say) … rather “ratchet”. They looked like the criminals of the dog world. There was a seemingly Mexican dog with a moustache, a female dog with a notable Jersey accent, droopy eyes and exaggerated “trashy” eye makeup, and a russian dog. Really Disney?
What had me the most puzzled, was the exclusion of dog owners John Deer and Darling’s faces throughout 99 percent of the film. Why? Perhaps it was simply to direct the focus off of the human characters and onto the animals. But my guess is there was something much more to it that I haven’t quite put my finger on yet. Without the inclusion of their faces, it makes it hard as a viewer to identify with these characters. I almost see them as the villains of the film because of this (even though they do not act very villain-ish). I find it odd that the end scene focusses on Lady’s reconnection with her owners, their family, and her new family with Tramp – but I find it struggling to believe the unity between Lady/Tramp and the house owners simply because the humans are not imaged in the end shot. It makes me question, is this image of the perfect household really all it lets on to be?
I would lastly like to briefly comment on the way in which Tramp calls Lady “Pidge” – now to put it bluntly, that sounds a awful lot like ‘bitch’ to me – the term used to describe a female dog. Hmm . . . I am getting the sense that Tramp is called “tramp” for a reason. Now as informal as that idea was, it’s definitely something to muse upon. Especially when you take into account the scene where Lady is lecturing/questioning Tramp about all of the other female dogs he is talking to.
All in all, I found that aside from the great love story that it seemingly is, it raises a lot of important questions about identity, the home and the power constructs of society. And for that reason I deem it successful.