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"Judging Amy", April 12, 2005
The episode of the CBS series "Judging Amy" that aired on
Tuesday, April 12, included two storylines relevant to animal advocates.
that explored cruelty to companion animals, was handled beautifully. The other
issue, one relevant to billions more animals, the choice of Amy's daughter
Lauren to go vegetarian, is still being played out.
Starting with the good news on the animal cruelty issue:
Amy sees a case in which a teenage boy has beaten his mother and locked her in a
basement for hours. The neighbors heard her screaming. The prosecutors call him
sadistic and remorseless and want him charged as an adult.
We first learn that something was very wrong with his rearing when his mother
explains that she can no longer control him, and then says, "He won't stay in
his room anymore. When he was little I could lock him in his room till he
settled down. 'You want to be loud, you want to carry on? Fine - Mom's going to
the grocery store -- see you in a few hours.' I can't do that anymore, he is too
big and mean."
Later, when Eric is on the witness stand, he says, of the attack on his mother:
"It ain't like I didn't warn her."
When queried he says,
"I told her if she touches the dog, something is going to happen."
Judge Amy Gray: "What dog? Is there a dog in the picture?"
Prosecutor: "I believe Eric keeps a pitbull in his mother's back yard."
Amy: "What happened to the dog?"
Eric is silent, looking distressed and angry. Amy explains this is his last
chance to tell her what happened before she has to decide whether to have
him tried as an adult in which case he could go to jail for a long while.
She asks again.
Amy: "What happened to the dog?"
Eric: "She hit him with the bat. She can't hurt me, so she goes after the
The Mother yelling: "That dog was dangerous, he was training it to attack
Eric yelling back: "That dog couldn't hurt nothing! They were going to kill
it because it wouldn't fight. That's why I took him. I taught him to fight
back. I know because he bit me when I pulled her off. He was hurting and
thought I was her."
Amy: "What is the dog's name Eric?
Amy: "You want to see Cassius again?"
Eric, now sobbing: "He is dead. She beat his face in. His jaw was all...I took him to the park and I buried him that night."
Mother: "I didn't want that dog in my yard. It was always barking and making
Amy: "So you beat it to death with a baseball bat?"
We see, again, Eric crying. End of scene.
At the time of sentencing this is what Amy says:
"I am surprisingly hopeful today. I am saying that because it is very hard
to hear what has been said in this courtroom and not feel disheartened.
Here is child rearing at its worse. Abusive, negligent, mutually
destructive. As parents we must prepare for the day when our children will
test us, and it is at that point that we must be the most vigilant, not just
in disciplining them but in disciplining ourselves so that punishment does
not become an outlet for our anger and disappointment. Done well or done
poorly, parenting leaves its mark. And as Sonya Oldham has learned, you
reap what you sew.
"But I promised you hope today and for that I direct you to Eric Oldham.
There is a lot to look past, I know. Eric is a violent kid. And I have to
admit that initially I saw him as a kid who didn't care about anyone or
anything, so emotionally damaged that he was not capable of caring.
But I was wrong.
Eric loved his dog. He rescued it, he trained it, he took care of it, he
mourns its death. And while that doesn't make him any less violent, it is a
cause for hope. So, Eric, I am dismissing the kidnapping charge. However, I
find probable cause on the charge of assault in the second degree. So, if
Eric admits... (After a brief consultation with his lawyer, he nods) I will
commit Eric to DCF as delinquent for placement in a residential treatment
center for eighteen months. I am recommending the QUANT facility which has
an inmate program for the training of seeing eye dogs. Seems like a good
You know there is a world out there where you don't need those fists, Eric.
Protect what is good in you and you won't ever have to face a locked door
And in a soft voice, she says to him, "Good luck."
The episode did a beautiful job of making the connection between what
cruelty or kindness to animals says about a person's character.
At least with regard to companion animals.
One of the strong points of "Judging Amy" is that Amy's character is
complex. She is a sensitive, intelligent, charismatic person, but far from
perfect. We see that clearly in her reaction to her daughter Lauren's choice
to go vegetarian. Here is how the theme has played out so far:
Amy is boasting over breakfast that she is cool with Lauren's attempts to
differentiate herself, as young teenage girls do. (Lauren appears to be
about twelve or thirteen -- the actress who plays her is in the seventh
grade.) She says she can die her hair pink, and not tell her things, and Amy
won't let it get to her.
Lauren walks into the room wearing a "Meat is Murder" t-shirt. Amy asks
where she got it. Lauren says it is from her friend Regan, a friend Amy has
not met. Lauren pushes the bacon off her plate, saying "Ew."
Amy: "So, you're suddenly a vegetarian?"
Amy: "Yes what?"
Lauren: "Yes I am a vegetarian."
Amy: "You are going to just stop eating meat?"
Lauren: "That's what vegetarian means."
Amy: "Yes, I know, Lauren, but you can't just eat toast and gummy bears and
whatever. You're gonna have to get protein, otherwise you won't be healthy.
Isn't that right, ma?"
Amy's mother (Tyne Daly): "I think the two heart attacks disqualify me on
Lauren: "We don't have to eat animals to survive, but we do it anyways, just
because we like it, and that's cruel."
Amy: OK, OK. For the record, animals eating other animals is a totally
natural thing. Believe me if there were animals who were bigger than you and
smarter than you and had opposable thumbs, they'd eat you.
Lauren as she leaves: "I am not going to argue about it."
Amy calling after her: "Well I think you should think this through because I am
not going to make you a separate tofu whatever at every meal."
Another day (the next day?) Lauren comes down to breakfast but only wants to
take a banana. Amy says, "Just drink some milk or something." (It has not
been made clear whether Lauren is vegetarian or vegan but previews of the
upcoming episode suggest she has become a "straight-edge" girl, and they are
The doorbell rings. It is Regan, who is tough looking -- spiky hair, loads
of eye shadow, multi pierced ears. She and her brother stopped by to give
Lauren a ride to school, but Amy won't let Lauren ride with them. When
Lauren leaves the room for a moment, Amy reads aloud Regan's badge: "Meat is
murder." Then Amy comments sarcastically, "Wow, I didn't know that. I am a
judge, you think they would have told me."
Regan says: "Maybe you didn't listen."
Amy says, "I think it is time for you to go Regan."
The next relevant scene is dinner time. The whole family is surprised that
Amy has cooked.
She tells Lauren: "Its ravioli. There is no meat."
Then Amy's brother says, "What is in this? These little round things. Did you
put shrimp in this?"
Lauren: "I knew it!"
Amy: "It is just shrimp. You didn't say anything about seafood."
Lauren: "You are trying to trick me into eating meat!"
Amy: "Shrimp is not meat."
Brother: "It is also not an ingredient in ravioli."
Lauren: "Why don't you just respect my beliefs?"
Amy: "A lot of vegetarians eat seafood. And I think you should too Lauren."
Lauren: "You don't know what is best for me."
Amy: "And Regan does?"
Lauren, leaving: "You don't even know her."
Amy, again yelling after her: "I know she dresses like a homeless person!"
Actually, throughout the episode, both Regan and Lauren wear jackets covered in
various animal rights badges, such as the 'no fur' badge.
That night, Amy discovers that Lauren has run away. She has only gone as far as
her father's house across town. The next morning when she gets home, Amy says
they need to have a big talk that night. Lauren consents but says: "Don't talk
about my friends. Just because they don't agree with you, doesn't make them
Amy says, "OK."
That night we see Lauren asleep in her room. Amy comes in and hangs up her
jacket. The last shot is on the 'no fur' badge.
We hope the show is heading towards suggesting that Amy should take some real
interest in and show some respect for Lauren's positions. The promo for the
upcoming week was not promising. It said: "Amy's daughter is hanging out with
the wrong crowd and Amy is getting scared." But promos are not written by the
show's producers. In an upcoming scene we hear Amy asking Lauren" "You went to a
club called the straight edge??"
Since straight-edgers, besides being vegan, consume no alcohol and do no drugs,
such friends should hardly be a parent's worst nightmare. But they look rough,
as Regan does, so it is reasonable that Amy might be nervous. We can't tell yet
how this will play out.
Since the upcoming episodes have already been filmed, viewer feedback will not
impact them. But it can have a significant impact on future seasons, so please
take a moment to let the producers know that Lauren's choice is a good one.
Notes from parents of healthy vegetarian teenagers would be particularly useful.
If that is you, I urge you to write!
Also, there is a poll on the Judging Amy page, where we can support Lauren's
choice. It asks "Is Lauren too bratty?"
Since Lauren hasn't really been bratty, but has only decided for herself that
she wants to be vegetarian, it is a disappointing question.
The options given are:
-- Yes, she needs to learn to respect her mother.
-- No, she's acting like a normal teen.
-- Not sure.
Unfortunately, as I send this out, the first option is ahead. You can vote at:
And you can post a comment supporting Lauren's healthful and compassionate
choice at: http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.shtml
Choose "Judging Amy" from the pull-down menu.