I Think About This A Lot: When Two Talking-Pig Movies Were Released In One Year
I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
In 1995, O. J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder, eBay was created, and America was desperately in search of talking pig narratives. Perhaps there was a wave of Charlotte’s Web nostalgia, or the esoteric sensibilities of 1992’s Porco Rosso had finally seeped their way into the mainstream. Whatever happened, Americans demanded that piglets find themselves on adorable, if somewhat disturbing, adventures and that they all speak with high-pitched voices.
Whenever anyone brings up the weird Hollywood trend of two movies about nearly the same thing coming out at the same time (Armageddon vs. Deep Impact, Rookie of the Year vs. Little Big League, Antz vs. A Bug’s Life), I’m the lone friend who interjects “AND REMEMBER GORDY?” Nobody remembers Gordy. I am the keeper of the flame. The guardian of The Watchtower of the Pig. His name was Gordy.
There is a reason nobody remembers Gordy: It was terrible. The film follows a talking pig as he tries to save his family from the slaughterhouse to which they were sold after the farm they lived on found themselves in dire financial straights (prompting the Roger Ebert zinger, “as if the natural inclination of farmers would be to support their animals until they die of old age”).
Gordy then sets off on a literal Epic, meeting country singers, helping people fall in love, becoming famous, and thwarting a scheming businessman. He even gets a speech from then–President Bill Clinton (not actually Bill Clinton) at a Gordy-centric concert organized by Cousin Jake (I do not care to explain who Cousin Jake is). Bill Clinton! What did you get, Babe, a “that’ll do”? This is America, and our presidents know each and every pig by name.
Gordy eventually gets his family back to live on a farm again. A farm. Where pigs are typically killed. Okay then.
Gordy also came with a song, “Pig Power,” by Tag Team, which makes me miss the days when every movie got a rap song.
Gordy would have been your typical bottom-barrel kid movie stuff if not for Babe. Gordy, it’s important to note, was released before Babe (and I am doomed to scream “GORDY WAS FIRST!” for eternity, like I was cursed by a witch who is either very bad at curses or the best at curses). Without Babe, Gordy is forgettable. With Babe, it’s an affront to farm-centric cinema. Now it’s not just a silly movie about a talking pig made for 5-year-olds that you can ignore, but a film about a talking pig that failed to relate the pig’s problems to class struggle and become nominated for an Oscar. You’re trying to pull at my heartstrings by making Gordy talk with that cheap peanut-butter-on-the-roof-of-his-mouth trick? Get the hell out.
Once Babe-fever was on, Gordy tried to capitalize on it. Entertainment Weekly’s Steve Daly described how Miramax tried to pull a fast one on Blockbuster customers. “When it bombed in theaters last May, months before Babe first opened, this movie was a Miramax release,” he wrote. “But Disney owns Miramax, so it created a ‘Disney Presents’ ad campaign and front-loaded the cassette with ads for plush animal dolls of barnyard characters that aren’t even in the movie.” He then gave Babe and A- and Gordy a D.
Perhaps Gordy didn’t get enough love because, compared to Babe, he just wasn’t exceptional. If there were a piglet who could herd sheep, we’d all clap our hands and cry and let him live happily ever after. But Gordy can’t do anything particularly interesting. He’s just cute, and slightly more determined than your average piglet (and, okay, kids can hear him talk). Gordy isn’t “some pig.” He’s just like any other, and deep down we know that his rise to fame would not have happened. He would be brought back to his farm, raised, and killed.
I think what gets me so much about Babe and Gordy is that Gordy was so close. Not to being a breakout, Oscar-winning hit, but to being The Pig Movie. The type of movie that comes on HBO during daytime hours or in some Freeform marathon, and you go “omg The Pig Movie!” and watch it out of nostalgia and think of it warmly even though it’s objectively terrible. It raises the existential question of whether you’d rather be remembered poorly or just forgotten. Gordy didn’t have a choice in being the latter. Gordy could have just been Gordy. Instead it’s not-Babe. Gordy, and all of us, deserve better.