I’ve been watching the new American series of Wilfred. I’m familiar with but haven’t seen the Australian series, so thankfully I’m not going in with any pre-conceived ideas about jokes or characters. The writing is decent and the acting and character development is good so far. The Australian accent is at times a little jarring but thankfully there haven’t been any attempts at cross-cultural jokes that would be lost in translation.
So what is this show really about? What is the purpose of humanizing a dog for the sake of a show? There are perhaps more literal and obvious answers to this, dog is ‘mans best friend’; so it makes sense that for a fictional show he should talk. The dog character, Wilfred, acts as a benchmark for comparisons (or likenesses) between animal and human behaviour.
However, I suggest that Wilfred is a show about mental illness. The first episode opens with a suicide attempt by the protagonist Ryan. This is a young man who feels isolated, misunderstood and controlled by others around him. During his failed attempts at suicide we hear Wilfred for the first time. Has Ryan in his loneliness projected or hallucinated a voice onto a canine companion.
To support this claim, Wilfred’s voice is mentally subjective, only Ryan seems to hear it. This is necessary for narrative verisimilitude however; it reeks of schizophrenia and the creation of imaginary friends. Ryan constantly experiences paranoia and things that occur within the world of the show, often get blamed on the dog. Is Wilfred Ryan’s alter ego??