Foxes and Friendship

“This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

This disclaimer appears before most traditional Disney films on the streaming platform Disney Plus. Films such as “Dumbo” and “Peter Pan” are now considered racist because of their outdated stereotypes.

Surprisingly, “The Fox and the Hound” has no such disclaimer.

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“The Fox and the Hound” is a bittersweet film about two friends who didn’t know they were supposed to be enemies. Indirectly, the film speaks to unjust prejudice, while at the same time acknowledging racism directly through the character of Big Mama. Tod the fox learns he can’t befriend Copper the pup because Copper is going to become a huntin’ dog. The wise owl, voiced by singer Pearl Bailey, warns Tod in her song “Lack of Education” about his possible elimination.

 

[Big Mama:] Now, if you’re so foxy and old Chief is so dumb
Then why does that hound get the fox on the run?
‘Cause he’s got the hunter
And the hunter’s got the gun
Ka-blam, elimination!
Lack of education!

If you pal around with that Copper hound
You’ll wind up hangin’ on the wall
Keep you nose to the wind
And you’ll keep your skin
‘Cause you won’t be home
When the hunter comes to call

[Tod:] Oh, Big Mama, I know Copper would never track me down.
Well, Copper, he’s my best friend.

[Big Mama:] Ho ho, your best friend!
Now, Copper’s gonna do what he’s been told.
Suppose he’s chasin’ an old fox in an old fox hole
And along comes the hunter with a buck shot load.

[Boomer:] Ka-ka-blam!
[Big Mama:] Elimination
[Dinky:] Lack of education!
[Big Mama:] You better believe it, Tod!

The truth of the matter is that either Tod or Copper will be shot if their friendship continues.

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Tod and Copper do not start out hating or fearing each other, but the world in which they live tells them a fox and a hound cannot be friends. Tod doesn’t want to believe that Copper will ever change, and it’s not till Copper comes back as a full fledged huntin’ dog that he has to “grow up” and accept reality.

Much can be learned about love and friendship from the tale of Tod and Copper. Racism is not natural, it is learned. Children at play do not have the same hang up as adults, unless they are taught. There can be no friendship where love is replaced with hate.

Our society is lacking true friendship because we do not know how to love one another. Ancient philosophers like Plato agree friendship requires a love for the good of the other. It requires a delight in loving the other and outdoing one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10). Problems in friendship do arise when there is not equality of virtue or vices turn up against each other. According to Cicero, friendship is an act of goodwill and must share a common value of virtue, which is a love for truth and beauty.

At the end of the “Fox and the Hound,” it is not romantic love that wins the day or obedience to masters. When Copper is attacked by a bear, Tod leaves his lady fox to save his old friend, even though he risks getting caught by the hunter. Tod could have easily chosen to return to the forest, but his love for Copper never changed, despite their differences. After falling from a log (similar to how they first met), Tod finds himself at the end of a shotgun. Thankfully, Copper steps in between Tod and the hunter just in the knick of time, returning the favor.

“Love” between friends need not be romantic. When these lines are blurred, true love, the selfless sacrificial kind, is lost. A distinction between these two loves must be defined. Lovers see beauty in each other and stand face to face,  but friends stand side by side in pursuit of a common goal — beholding beauty. Love in friendship is a different kind of love than romantic desire. Love in “The Fox in the Hound” is the type of powerful loyal love we see in Christ.

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According to John, there is no greater love than laying down one’s life for a friend (John 15;14; 1 John 3:16). In the end, there is no happily ever after for Copper and Tod. They each return to their separate worlds, but their friendship is so strong that it becomes more than a memory and it changes the hard hearts of their masters, mending even the human relationships in the film. Tod is still a fox living in the wild and Copper remains a hound dog living with the hunter, but their childhood friendship is honored. Their love and loyalty passed the test of time. True friendship never dies.

Karlie is a recent graduate with a degree in theology, but has a love for philosophy and aesthetics. Her writing style is a synthesis of truth, goodness and beauty as she develops a reformed theology of aesthetics. As a motherless daughter, she shares her personal reflections of grief on her blog Sow in Tears, but hopes to reflect God's design for beauty according to nature through her writing on The Reformed Philosopher.

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