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Please thank "8 Simple Rules" for dissection choice message.

Following in the trail-blazing footsteps of Alicia Silverstone's Braceface, the prime time sitcom " 8 Simple Rules" has tackled the issue of dissection choice in high school. 8 Simple Rules has a history of animal friendly themes. One of the two teenage girls in the family, Kerry, is an animal rights activist. She is also the brightest girl in the school. And, thankfully, she is an attractive and appealing character.
In the past the show has looked, through her eyes, at the issues of circus abuse, cosmetic testing, and at homeless animals. It won a Genesis Award in its first year.

In the episode that aired on Tuesday, May 18, Kerry organizes a sit-in to protest frog dissection. I have transcribed some of the show to give those who missed it a real feel for the presentation of the issue.

Kerry and her mother, Cate (recently widowed in the show --  actor John Ritter, who died last September, had played her husband) have gone to see the school principal, Ed Gibb, to reinstate Kerry in an art class excursion to Europe.  While they are waiting for him, somebody walks past carrying a tank full of live frogs.

Kerry says, "Oh my God mom, did you see those poor lab frogs?"

A little later in the show, the family is hanging out in the living room when Kerry storms in and says,

"Unbelievable! My biology final is on the anatomy of a frog. Anatomy of a frog! Unbelievable! I am not going to cut up a poor defenseless creature just so I can pass the class. It's a living, breathing, feeling entity with a purpose in this world."

Kerry's sister, Bridget, is beautiful and fun, but not bright. She is concerned almost exclusively with her appearance and popularity.
When Kerry complains to her, she responds, while doing her make-up: "Frogs are stupid."
There is obvious irony in the comment as it comes from Bridget.

Later, Kerry and many other students, dressed like frogs, are sitting in the school hallway. Bridget comes upon them and asks,

"Kerry what are you doing?"

Kerry: "I am leading a sit-in. Bridget, why don't you just get out of here? I know you don't care about anything."

Bridget: "Well, I know that you care about your Europe trip and when Mr Gibb finds out about this he is never going to let you go."

Kerry: "Oh my God, I never thought about that."

Kerry's not too bright boyfriend, Kyle, makes some dumb supportive comments: "Bridget, why don't you just get out of here. Frogs are people too you know." Kerry throws him a look of frustration, and he adds, "Well, they sort of are, when you put little hats and vests on them and tape little canes to their hands."

Then Kerry says to Bridget, "Sometimes you have to stand up for your beliefs."

The principal, Mr Gibb, comes out of his office and asks, "Excuse me, what the hell is going on here? Why aren't you all in class?"

A student says,
"We are having, like, a sit-in."

Principal: "You've got five seconds to get back to class or there are going to be consequences."

Nobody moves.

Principal: "No? OK whose bright idea was this? Somebody better tell me who is responsible or you are all in deep deep trouble.

Then Bridget, the vacuous sister, says, "I am."

Bridget gets suspended.

At home that afternoon, the mother, Cate, asks what is going on.

One of the family says, "Bridget got suspended from school for organizing a protest."

One of the boys says,
"What were you protesting? The lack of mirrors in school hallways? "

Bridget: "No.  But am I the only one concerned about that? I mean, hello, beauty discrimination."

Cate: "Now that's the Bridget I know, not the one who stages protests to stop frogs from getting dissected."

Kerry: "OK, that's because she didn't organize the sit-in. I did. She covered for me so that I wouldn't get in trouble and I would be able to go on my summer program to Europe."

Cate: "Well that makes more sense. Yet, I don't feel happier."

Cate says she will go to the school and talk with Principal Gibb. Kerry accompanies her mother.

In the principal's office, Cate says, "I have got to talk to you about Bridget. You've got it all wrong, Ed." (They use first names as they had known each other in high-school and there seems to be some romantic interest developing between them.)

Principal: "Apparently I do. I never would have figured her for an animal rights activist -- not with all the leather she wears."

Cate: "That is just it. Bridget did not stage that sit-in. Kerry did."

He calls to his assistant, "Carol, would you give me the forms for reinstating Bridget Hennessey and suspending Kerry Hennessey?"

Cate: "You can't do that, you can't suspend Kerry."

Principal: "Actually I am pretty sure I can."

Cate: "But Kerry is one of the best students this school has ever had."

Kerry: "One of the best? The best."

Cate and Ed make "a date" to discuss the issue over coffee.

When they sit down to coffee, Cate says, "About Kerry. Animal rights are very important to Kerry so I am not surprised that she would protest a frog dissection."

Principal: "Well, we don't dissect animals here. The frogs that Kerry saw are part of a senior genetics experiment. Her anatomy final is on a computer."

Cate: "Oh. Well, Kerry obviously didn't know that. You don't want to suspend the rare student that actually cares do you?"

Principal: "No. No I don't. And Kerry is a good kid. And I am willing to see if there is a way to let her back in within the rules. So I looked this up. It says here, 'If a parent disagrees with a principal's decision, the parent may appeal to an ombudsman.'"

The Principal immediately appoints himself as the ombudsman and reinstates Kerry.

The show ends with a fun and touching scene. The principal, who had been in high school with Cate (the mother) asks her out to dinner. The recently widowed mother is dumbstruck, and he retreats into his office. She stands there alone and asks Paul, her dead husband, for guidance. She says "I need a sign" and asks for a strong biblical sign like a plague of locusts or something. We hear a frog. She looks down and sees one at her feet. Then she looks around the corner and there are dozen of frogs all over the hallway. She runs out. Then we see her two daughters coming up behind the frogs nudging them towards the doorway saying, "Go! Go! Go be free!"

Students around the country, who care about animals, are fighting for the right to have alternatives to animal dissection in high school, or even for bans on high school dissection.  This popular prime time sitcom, with its subtle ability to influence public opinion, has given their efforts a valuable show of support. In fact, the very existence of Kerry's appealing, intelligent, and animal friendly character, is a recurring show of support for the cause of animal protection. Please make sure that ABC knows the message is appreciated.

The network audience relations department takes comments at:

Please take just a moment to send a quick thank you.

Yours and the animals',

Karen Dawn


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