The website doesthedogdie.com tells you whether or not a dog dies in a given piece of media. So… okay, yeah, it’s what it says on the tin. But it’s grown in its history since at least 2014 (which I say based on a Times article from then talking about it as if it’s new).
But, again, it’s more now. Like, a lot more.
DoesTheDogDie currently tracks over 80 movie events that viewers have identified to them as movie-ruining happenings. These include the natural next steps of “Does a cat die?” “Does a pet die?” and “Does an animal die?” and extend out into some more universally triggering content such as warnings of domestic abuse, suicide, drug abuse, and the like.
The site doesn’t only include “movie-ruining” things. It even has ones that people just simply don’t like and make them uncomfortable! If people fart, spit, or wet themselves in this piece of media, someone will log on, check the box that says “Yes” and maybe leave a comment detailing the event so you can avoid the media or at least be prepared! (I keep saying “media” because although the site largely covers TV and movies, it also has some podcasts, books, and other things!)
My household uses this on so many things. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s free. There’s even an app that can allow you to request tracking additional content questions. It also allows you to “pin” certain questions at the top, so you can see only the ones most relevant to you without potentially getting a spoiler on if, say, a parent dies in a movie about a father and son trying to walk across a continent and they’re, like, the only two characters in the story.
If you’re having trouble finding more use in this, I’ll try to explain. There are two main reasons why I use this so much (and am going to bat for it).
The first is the obvious one: There are some movies I don’t want to watch if I know a little more about them. Someone who just lost a pet just flat out does not want to watch a movie about a dog dying—or maybe they do! Maybe they want to cry it out, but for those who don’t, they can avoid it! The same goes for other triggering content and content that folks don’t trust to be handled well.
Similarly, comments will sometimes have timestamps on where to skip if you want to watch something but want to wholly avoid a scene. If something like an airplane crash is triggering to you, maybe you can just step out of the room or fast-forward through it.
The second reason I use DoesTheDogDie is the surprise factor. The timestamps can also let you know “Okay, there’s going to be a jump scare around this scene, so I can be ready,” or, when the timestamps aren’t present, they can let you know if the plot has any unpleasant surprises in store for you.
This is why I’m so mad at the movie A Star is Born (2018). Firstly, I really did not like the movie, but that was further cemented when a character dies by suicide and their body is shown, lingeringly by the camera. It caught me totally by surprise. It sucks! I hated it!
Yes, in a movie about self-destruction and addiction and stardom and the collapse of careers and lives and blah blah blah, it can be obvious they’d go there. But cutting from someone feeding a dog a steak to that person’s dead body is jarring, unpleasant, and unnecessary. For the plot, for my eyes, and for my soul.
It all comes down to what the creator of the site John Whipple said in that interview I mentioned earlier: “We believe that watching a movie or reading a book shouldn’t be a dreadful or debilitating experience.”
And listen, again, I love a dreadful or debilitating experience. I’m all about that sublime and unpleasantness and terror and discomfort in media, but I want to know what the hell I’m signing up for. That’s why I called it “the surprise factor.” There are some things I’m okay with watching media handle well and things I’m not okay with being slapped by.
The Night House (2020) is a great example of this for me. The movie is specifically about a woman whose husband recently committed suicide; the movie tells you this ten minutes in. You can tell at every turn that this woman is fighting the same fight against that dark void. It’s uncomfortable and worrying, to say the least, but DoesTheDogDie let me know that this is a movie about suicide, not one featuring a suicide prominently displayed so someone could add a line to their campaign for an Oscar.
So if you’re going to get onto me about promoting “trigger warnings,” save your breath. (also consider: Fuck off!) Trigger warnings are valuable, full stop, no debate. DoesTheDogDie provides those and an opportunity to selectively choose your media, because there’s more than enough out there to choose from without ruining your day.
Unless, of course, you want your day ruined from time to time.