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Free Range Chickens
Live Free or Die

By Bret Hrbek



The other day I found myself sitting with two good little buddies of mine who just happen to be six and four years old.  At that age, as you may remember, you tend to pick one or two videos and watch them over and over again until either you ruin the tape or your parents can't stand the fact that not only do they have to listen to the movie once again, but they have to listen to their child echo the script with the characters.

For my generation that movie was probably Star Wars.  Luckily for my parentsVCRs didn't arrive in my house until the early 1980s.  And besides, my dad is such a movie junkie; it was more for his entertainment than my brother's
or mine.

The kids' movie-of-the-moment, movie for March 2001 at least, seems to be Chicken Run.

Hey, it could be worse.  I could have been sitting there watching Japanese animation or Clefairy talking up Dratini in Pokémon the Movie.

So if you can get through the gutter English reminiscent of Liza Doolittle, Chicken Run is one to watch.

The movie is about the chickens of an English farm, which only remain alive if they produce the required quota of eggs for the farmer and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Tweedie.   Their homes are reminiscent of Auschwitz.  The barracks are in rows.  Barbed-wire fences line the parameter.  And vicious guard dogs watch the chickens constantly.  They must produce eggs or die.

For the most part the chickens accept the lives they live and believe that at as long as they work hard for their master they will receive the essentials in life.

Ginger, however, has other plans.  She longs for freedom.  She longs for the ability to live or die by her own hands, er, wings.  She prays for help from above to allow her to escape the hell that fate assigned her.  And her wish comes true when an American rooster (how poetic) named Rocky lands in the
fenced-in area of their home.  In exchange for protection from his former masters, Rocky agrees to teach these ladies how to fly.

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But Ginger faces a tougher challenge than teaching unflyable birds how to fly.  She faces the task of convincing her peers that there is a better way to live.  That instead of contentment they should feel afraid in their current state.  Instead of peaceful they should feel enslaved.  Instead of helplessness they should feel courage.

At one point Ginger is speaking to her peers and painting a grand picture of how their future could be in a chicken's equivalent of Eden.  The land flowing with water and chicken feed?  She talks about the chickens living for themselves.  Being free to come and go as they please.  She talks about freedom.  And does she get support?  No.  She's challenged with "Well, who will take care of us?"  "Who will feed us?"  "Who will watch over us?"

So instead of concentrating on her escape plan, she has to use valuable time and resources to convince the other chickens that freedom to live as they want is the only way to really live.

And when she finally has their attention and the desire to live free and work for them own selves sinks in, the chickens do the impossible.  The natural impulse to live free produces a miracle by their hands and minds. They defy natural law because they use their free will.

How does it end?  I'm sure you can guess.  And if you don't know, then ask your nephew or niece, child or grandchild.  They'll know.

And while you're asking them how Ginger and her friends turn out, why don't you ask them if they want to work their whole lives for Mr. Tweedie.  Or would they rather live on their own merits and power and ability.

Ask them if they want to be discarded because they no longer produce what their society demands.

Ask them if they want work day and night for someone else's benefit.

Ask them to please turn off the VCR and play outside a little bit.  Too much of a good thing is bad.  Even if it has a good message.  Do you really want your kids speaking like that?

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© Bret Hrbek, 2001

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