by DICK CHENEY
creators Samm Hodges & Michael Killen
Every person has a certain frustration about the way the world operates. The tragedy is that each person can never be convinced that their special objection to these goings on is anything less than a predictable malady, akin to the common cold. Convinced her struggles are her own, Nan (Alison Lohman) decides to share her awful life with a dog, a mutt named Martin she rescued. (Martin is voiced by Downward Dog creator Samm Hodges.)
Amy Schumer once had a great sketch about people who constantly mentioned the dogs they rescue. Well, it wasn’t so much a great sketch as a painfully obvious joke repeated several times, but it certainly was reflective of something in the culture. Downward Dog has missed out on that, whatever it was, and completely unironically presents the story of a woman who abuses her dog as if she is the hero.
Nan (is she named after bread?) never takes her dog on walks. She allows him to go on all her furniture, and she frequently punishes him by confined him to a small space and telling him that he is bad, even though he is just enacting behavior she has permitted. She allows him to sleep in her bed, which is completely disgusting. You see, dogs often roll around on the ground, where bacteria collects, and to drag those molecules into your sleeping quarters is just asking for various infections.
Obviously she never even read the internet to find out the first thing about what is involved in taking care of a dog. She leaves Martin in alone in the house, with no way of going to the bathroom, for upwards of ten to fifteen hours. This is completely unkind and also terribly unhealthy for the dog’s long term health. Martin’s on Downward Dog is not even marginally better than when he was at the animal shelter.
Things are even worse when it comes to the rest of Nan’s life. In one scene in Downward Dog, she wears a Metallica t-shirt. I was unsure if this was ironically or not, but it came across as completely sincere. She never actually listens to any rock music. Maybe she did before she discovered she did not enjoy it, or before she met her boyfriend (Lucas Neff) who suspect that this woman is a total fake and leaves without saying anything. When he is around, at least he interacts with her dog, the only temporary reprieve of enjoyment or play Martin ever experiences.
Nan works in the marketing department of a clothing company called Crate + Bow, where she articulates her aim as wanting to “change the world.” She never gets involved in politics, even though the actual real-life wife of Samm Hodges, much like every woman I know, spends every waking hour posting and e-mailing anti-Trump material. But to actually articulate the passion of real women in Downward Dog would be angering too much of ABC’s prospective audience, so they don’t do it. Artists should never be such complete cowards.
The Pittsburgh-set Downward Dog is quite an extensive guide for how to be an awful human being. Nan’s boss at work is a guy named Kevin (Barry Rothbart). He is openly sexist, and Nan’s friend Jenn (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) even references that she has complained about his behavior to HR. I guess nothing came from that. In one scene, the two invade their boss’s private office, which is completely inappropriate, and find a white-board with his ideas. From this list Nan derives a diorama which does seem to feature a dress or maybe just a mannequin:
As bad as the diorama is, it is the only thing of any interest this awful person creates. After Martin tears up the diorama, Nan goes with her original idea. Her plan to advertise the various wares of the clothing company she works for is to put a big mirror in front of all their stores that reflects what the customers are currently wearing. The text on the mirror will say, “Look how beautiful you are.” Her boss is furious at this, but some corporate overlord witnesses the presentation and is like, “This could work. It’s just inauthentic enough to make absolutely no sense.” Even that crazy woman who ran J. Crew would have told Nan she was straight garbage.
At first Nan thinks she is fired. Nan is so full of hate after her boss’ reaction that she decides to take her considerable anger out on her pet. I loathe people who take their feelings out on others. She does this to Martin:
You know who can’t handle their own feelings? Children, but their have an excuse for this behavior. Children want to seem cool by wearing a particular piece of clothing. Children think that a mirror is a good way to advertise a product. Children think every single person is beautiful because they simply haven’t seen enough people to know what being beautiful actually means, or that it has meaning at all. A child, a cruel, evil child, might treat a dog this way. A human being never could.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.