I need a redo for my Table Topics question this week. It's not a question I could easily answer within two minutes. I spoke for 2:23 and still didn't have enough time.
The question: If you could change the ending of any movie, what movie, and how?
Thank you for this opportunity to tell you how I would fix True Grit.
Thar be spoilers ahead. You've been warned, though how you haven't seen this iconic classic and its remake is beyond me. My beef is with the 2010 Coen brothers remake.
Look. I get it. The pony has "true grit." He carries Mattie Ross across the river into the Texas territory, following the two lawmen she's hired to avenge her father's death and bring his killer to justice. Homage to the title is no reason to kill an animal.
After Mattie brings her own justice by shooting the outlaw Tom Chaney with a shotgun, the recoil knocks her into a pit full of snakes, and one bites her in the hand. By the time Rooster hauls her out of the pit, she's unconscious and the wound has festered. She needs a doctor, or she's going to die. Fortunately, we met a doctor earlier in the movie, and Rooster has a pretty good idea where he lives.
Mattie's faithful pony is waiting nearby. So is Laboef's horse. Better yet, when they get down from the steppe where Chaney was holding Mattie hostage, they pass Chaney's horse. True grit or no, don't kill the girl's pony trying to save her.
It's a pony. Ponies may be stronger pound for pound, but they do not have the stamina of a horse. Chaney's horse was stolen, so it's probably got thoroughbred stock. That means it could run faster for longer, maybe even getting Mattie to the doctor before she lost her arm.
I don't care that she lost her arm. She was bitten by a rattlesnake. She's lucky to be alive. I'm furious that Cogburn makes one more dubious decision where Mattie's concerned and runs her pony into the ground when he had other choices. Better to shoot a horse you don't even know. And HOW DARE HE cut the little guy with a knife to make him run harder. Cut up some unknown horse meat. He knows this pony. He's being deliberately cruel to get every ounce of go.
I would rather watch Mattie die than lose her pony in such a stupid, brutal, meaningless way. Then Cogburn runs away before she regains consciousness. Mattie's truth influenced those around her, but only so far. In the end, Cogburn was still an asshole and a coward. She's very lucky to be alive, since her life was in his hands.
How does this relate to Pika Perfect?
There's a disclaimer in the blurb's SEO information to let you know no pikas were harmed in the writing of this book. That's because some fictional pikas meet some unfortunate ends. I don't like hurting animals, even fictional ones. I can promise you I will never include deliberate cruelty or abuse in my books. (There was one time, but that book was never published. If you read my edgy YA, I am so sorry for what I did to that poor raccoon. Never again.)
True Grit has changed how I view animals as characters. Do bad things happen to animals in my novels? Sometimes, unfortunately. Does it have to be cruel and awful? Maybe for some authors, but you won't get that from me.