A Discussion of Anthropocene in the “Isle of Dogs”

Photo Courtesy of Paul Hudson / Flickr.

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, in Lecture Center 102, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences hosted a screening of Wes Anderson’s film “Isle of Dogs” as the Fall event for the annual series, “Without Limits: Interdisciplinary Conversations in the Liberal Arts.” 

The mission of the series is to intertwine the numerous aspects and facets of the liberal arts. Events that are a part of this series are hosted by a range of departments including faculty from philosophy, English, geography, sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Each year the faculty carefully chooses a different theme for the series, with the topics relating to issues that face humanity today. They have ranged from food to citizenship, and this semester it is the Anthropocene, or the human epoch. 

In his introduction, host and English Professor Jed Mayer defines and discusses the imperativeness of the anthropocene. “We find ourselves entering a period of tremendous instability and many have suggested we give our epoch a new title, one named after the force responsible for climate change and other phenomena,” Mayer explained. Furthermore, Mayer asserted that the Anthropocene raises these essential questions: who are we and who do we want to be? “Isle of Dogs” contemplates these concepts, which is why it was chosen to satisfy the theme of the anthropocene. 

The film is set in the futuristic, densely populated Japanese city, Megasaki. The city’s Mayor Kobayashi signed a bill to exile dogs, all of which have contracted the dog flu, to Trash Island. Instead of pursuing scientific options and believing that researchers will come up with a cure to aid this disease, the government chose the easy way out. Later, it is revealed that choosing to send all dogs to Trash Island benefitted the government in a capitalistic way. 

This film represents our world today wherein it is evident that governmental powers chose to profit off of businesses and schemes detrimental to our environment and the future of our planet. Moreover, there are many ways that humans can live a sustainable life and slow the effects of climate change, and yet there are still many people that choose to not think consciously about how their actions can negatively affect the future of Earth. 

There are still many industries that are not using reusable energy, not thinking about their carbon footprint or operating sustainably. The actions that humanity takes when it comes to approaching climate change are more imperative now than ever before, a key message highlighted in “Isle of Dogs.” 

When it comes to analyzing the film cinematically, a large part of the discussion following the screening centered on whether or not aspects of the movie were culturally appropriative or not. While there was lots of speculation about whether or not Anderson appropriately represented Japanese culture, it was prominent that the international student from Ohio, who was imperative in inspiring major change in Megasaki, was a “white savior,” who investigated and encouraged activism to save the dogs. 

The next event as a part of this series will be on Nov. 21. Meanwhile, there is a book display in the library with literature on this topic. 

Dani Gardner
About Dani Gardner 12 Articles
Dani Gardner is a first-year music and English double major. This is her first semester on The Oracle. Her favorite articles to read and write are in Arts and Entertainment, especially when it comes to music.