Babe (1995) directed by Chris Noonan

The 1995 edition of Babe directed by Chris Noonan presents Babe the pig to be defined by the type of relationship he has with humans. The relationship in this film that is concentrated on is the shift from working animal to food animal. This film is enough to turn anyone vegetarian, in fact James Cromwell who plays farmer Hoggett became one himself as he said ‘Cromwell told the Vegetarian Times, “I decided that to be able to talk about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian.”’[1] The film through anthropomorphisation, has inspired and continues to inspire significant rethinking of how we treat animals in the process that leads to them becoming food on people’s dinner plates.

I will be concentrating on the scene that is one hour six minutes into the film. This is a heart-breaking scene as Babe realises the ‘purpose’ of pigs. The truth is cruelly told by the cat who takes pleasure telling Babe about his potential future. This scene shows how human and animal relationships are shown in the film as Babe did not understand the differences between domesticated animals/ pets and farming animals, he believed they were all equal.

Figure 1

When looking at this scene, the lighting adds a sinister element as there are shadows covering the cat and Babe’s faces. The lighting, or lack of it on Babe’s face implies that Babe is in the dark about what it means to be a pig. The cat is annoyingly smug as she is in a privileged position ‘I’m here to be beautiful and affectionate to the boss.’ The lighting sets the scene as if the cat is interrogating Babe about his knowledge of what happens to ‘food’ animals. It is ironic that the cat is smug about the unequal treatment of animals as she is kicked out the house instead of Babe when she attacks him. The film emphasises the hierarchy between pets, working animals and food animals and the animals are aware of the differences. The cat will always be protected by her safe pet status unlike Babe who by chance is owned by a kind farmer who has not killed him yet. Furthermore, when Babe discovers what happens to pigs, the camera pans from the cat speaking the brutal truth to the right side of Babe’s face with no lighting so the audience cannot see his expression. The panning camera connotes ethical meaning here as it highlights the connection and familiarity between the viewer and animal characters. The camera focuses back on the cat’s face who continues to crush Babe ‘pork they call it… they only call them pigs when they’re alive.’ Up until this scene, Babe had defined his relationship with humans well, he was happy on the farm as a sheep pig. However, the cat destroys Babe’s initial understanding of humans and animals living in harmony. Babe does not reply to the cat, his face is expressionless, the sense of anthropomorphism is present here as he is so shocked he cannot speak, but his humanness is still present. Babe has a very human childlike fringe and he has a plaster on his nose so although he has found out pigs are killed for meat, the audience cannot imagine he is one of these pigs as he is so humanlike. The audience are familiar with Babe we have made a connection with him and the thought of his potential slaughter fate is very upsetting especially as this is a children’s film.

Figure 2

Babe is presented as so innocent yet naïve and after his discovery, his innocence is cruelly stripped away from him. The camera zooms out and they are sat opposite each other in front of the fire in the same position and a similar height. This makes the audience focus on the similarities between them, the difference is how they are treated by humans. Suddenly there is intense music playing and thunder and lightning which replaces the cats’ evil talking. At the end of this scene Babe runs out of the house and into the farm as if he is going back to his ‘rightful’ place.

Figure 3

[1] Jessica Fox, The Vegan Review, Babe and Okja: two movies that inspired introspection into the vegan message