Reviews: Marmaduke

A Fascinating Examination of the Human Condition

It is always fascinating to open the newspaper and read the next installment of Brad Anderson's magnum opus, Marmaduke. This famous serial essay is the result of one man's lifetime of deep thought and introspection.

In Marmaduke, Anderson examines two opposing forces ever-present in humanity: The need for free will and self-expression versus the need for security in the name of the greater good. Anderson expresses his ideas of the subject through the hypothetical interactions of fictional characters, who tend to embody the extreme expression of one of the two aforementioned forces at the expense of the other.

We have Phil, Dottie, and their two children, who are pressured by their neighbors to maintain the ideal image of the post-modern suburban family. Roughly once a week, for example, Phil will get a complaint from his neighbors about the rambunctious behavior of his dog, and Dottie will express exasperation that the floorboards are scratched, that there is mud trailing through the kitchen, or that her and Phil's home is not perfect in all aspects, which, needless to say, she believes would cast her family in an unfavorable light. This hen-pecking and worry has clearly taken its toil: Phil and Dottie rarely express joy, excitement, or affection to each another, but almost exclusively exchange dry and dreary quips. Their children seem to have escaped such a fate for the time being, but one cannot safely assume that they'll remain that way as they grow up in this soul-crushing environment.

On the other hand, we have the titular Marmaduke, a Great Dane of titanic proportions. In a clear critique of Nietzsche's ‹bermensch, Marmaduke is able to do as he pleases due to his immense size. Left to his own devices the hound engages in whatever frivolity crosses his mind, at the expense of the others around him. Whether he is digging up the neighbors' yard or devouring a pork-chop that was not his, Marmaduke is rendered a slavish, mean simpleton led only by his passions, and manages to alienate himself from all others as result.

Overall, Marmaduke is a cautionary tale advocating internal balance, rather than to burn quickly in the fires of hedonism or to slowly waste away via self-neglect. I heartily recommend it to anybody, as well as the 2010 stage adaptation of Marmaduke, written and directed by David Lynch.