Last night I went along to a free preview screening of Rock of Ages, a film whose poster promised “Nothin’ but a good time”. Taking viewers on a musical journey through the 80’s featuring all the guilty rock pleasures that not only defined a generation back then but still prove relevant for today’s ‘gleek’ filled audience.
Rock of Ages is an uncompromising guilty pleasure – although I may not want to admit it, it would be hard for anyone in the theatre to argue that their foot was not tapping along from the moment the film opened with Tom Cruise’s rendition of Paradise City.
Rock of Ages has a story to tell, and with that several messages to deliver, using the 1980’s as a backdrop to discuss the social issues of today.
For such a mainstream hopes-to-be summer blockbuster the film managed to weave more accepted plots of female sexual liberation with more subtle side stories of two male characters falling in love, an open slight to today’s conservative America.
Its main narrative tells the audience to be who you want and should be, to live life to the fullest, making the most of each moment and most importantly being free.
A sentiment that I truly believe in, for every animal on the planet.
Unfortunately Cruise and the producers of the film do not share the same sentiment as there is one performer in the film who is not living life in the way he should, Hey Man, performed by Mikey, a baboon.
Hey Man’s role is not small, it’s so big in fact that he gets his own feature credit at the end of the movie after the film’s main stars, Diego Montana, Juliane Hugh, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Alec Baldwin, and before the film’s headline appearance from Tom Cruise.
The baboon’s role is something unique to the film version of Rock of Ages and he serves a purpose, providing some light comic relief against the film’s bad guy record manager played by Paul Giamatti and adding a layer of mystique to Cruise’s primal performance of Stacie Jaxx.
Look around the net and you can find numerous accounts of how primates and other animals are kept and treated in order to be placed before cameras for our entertainment. I have seen first hand primates that have been kept in captivity and “trained” to perform and what is left is a psychologically disturbed primate.
As I learnt back in 2009 when I visited Chimpanzee Eden there is also a further impact; people watching such Hollywood films and seeing baboons, chimps and other monkeys and apes appear in films don’t realise that some of these primates are under serious threat and danger in the wild, not to mention the unseen stress that Mikey himself would be suffering from.
The baboon’s appearance in the film may seem harmless, but it does have global consequences and affects attitudes, as this short video highlights.
Hollywood does not always get it wrong, last year’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes told the story from the apes’ point of view and gave the audience the a glimpse of the journey from bush to science lab. Disney Nature’s Chimpanzee released earlier this year in the United States took the audience on a journey with wild chimpanzees and showed them to the world in a way that they should be seen, in the wild.
Now I am not going to conclude this post by saying you should boycott this film, you shouldn’t and it wouldn’t work; you would just look like the Zeta-Jones led protesters in the film calling for a boycott, and in turn serve up more publicity for it.
Don’t feel bad about seeing it, but if you feel bad when watching a baboon in unnatural situations, just tell the person in the seat next to you why the film provides nothin’ like a good time for the baboon and share the knowledge that primates should not have to suffer for our entertainment