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Western Animation / The Spine (2009)

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What has happened to us, my songbird?

The Spine is a "psychorealistic" National Film Board of Canada short film by Chris Landreth (known best for his animated short called Ryan). Mostly told from the POV of a fellow group member named Angela, the short is about the relationship of Dan and Mary, who've had 26 years of Awful Wedded Life. The short starts at the group counseling session for codependency where Mary interrupts Dan and the therapist to say what she's upset with Dan about. Her tirade continues in the couple's kitchen where Dan takes her hand and asks her a question.

Tropes for The Spine:

  • Addled Addict: Some of Angela's appearance and mentions of a prescription suggest she might be this.
  • Awful Wedded Life: All of the couples in the codependency support group are this in some form or another but Dan and Mary really take the cake, as, apparently, Mary's domineering and dismissive attitude towards Dan is because she can't have children and, over the years, Dan became something she could "hold, cradle, scold".
  • Armour-Piercing Question: What really gets Mary to think (and leave Dan for awhile) is Dan asking her, "What has happened to us, my songbird?"
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Dan and Mary have a lot to work on in their relationship, Dan manages to reassure Angela that things'll be okay and she does come away from her group counseling experience a little better than before.
  • Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: Mary and Dan, though, Mary, while her size and shape further emphasize her domineering and henpecking of Dan, does have some justification, as she has a thyroid condition caused by being put in three kinds of fertility drugs.
  • Fat Bitch: Mary's an exaggeration but she is pretty round and the biggest character of the cast, on top of being most nagging and grating, too.
  • Destructive Romance: It's clear Dan and Mary love each other but, as the summary says, their relationship is mutually destructive. Mary's domineering, naggy, and loud, while Dan is meek, quiet, and small, with his wife all but bullying him. In the support group, we see other couples are like this, too.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some of Dan and Mary's relationship might call to mind a son and his annoyed mother, instead of husband and wife.
  • Grew a Spine: Most of the short is about Dan doing this, after Mary leaves, and he really does this, where he grows an external green, blue, and magenta spine and starts standing up straighter and is more confident. He seems to revert back being small and spineless when Mary comes back, however.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Mary as we find out has underdeveloped ovaries and couldn't have children. All the fertility medications she took did nothing to help, either, and just messed up her thyroid gland.
  • Meaningful Name: "Mary" just so happens to be a name meaning "bitter". She's not a happy person, as we can see.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The characters look the way they do to symbolize their personalities and struggles. For example, Angela serves as somewhat of a Distaff Counterpart to Dan with tears in her head, while Dan has tears in his head, is small, and shriveled, with his wife, Mary, being spherical and gigantic.
  • Vague Age: Dan and Mary, though not that vague, as, if short takes place in 2009, then that would mean they were born in 1957 and that their marriage date would have been in 1983.