FX Network’s psychological comedy, Wilfred, may well be one of the most complicated television shows in history. It falls right behind David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, but just before J.J. Abrams’ LOST (Thanks to the ending to mock all endings. I would actually put LOST right behind Full House for that sorry excuse for an ending, but I know that no-one would agree to that far of a critique).
The inner complications that surround a normally ridiculous, slap-stick comedy featuring a neurotic lawyer named Ryan(Elijah Wood) and an unshaven man wearing a dog-suit named Wilfred(Jason Gann) will keep psychology majors busy for years if they need to psycho-analyze a piece of pop culture for a last minute term paper that they need to hand in after hitting up three keggers the night before. Is Wilfred actually Ryan’s “id” in an interactive form, while Ryan is the “ego”? If that’s so, does that make Bruce the “super-ego”? And what about Bear, an even more extreme version of Wilfred. Is Bear Wilfred’s “id”, which makes Bear Ryan’s “super-id”? Is the basement truly Ryan’s subconscious, or just a basement? Is Wilfred actually a man in a dog-suit, and Ryan is the only sane person in the world, or (in LOST form) is this purgatory or a dream where Ryan is fighting his inner demons?
I plan to ride the show out until these questions are answered. If they aren’t, I’ll be picking up the Australian series in the hope of getting some closure, because I hate shows that don’t close properly. Like LOST.
That doesn’t mean I can’t play the comparison game to make some sense of things, so it occurred to me that Wilfred seemed to be following the flip-side of another piece of cult media, A Boy and His Dog. The parallels are twisted, but the theme seems passable for many a term paper.
A Boy and His Dog is a post-nuclear apocalypse movie starring Don Johnson (Yes, THAT Don Johnson) as Vic, a young survivalist in a barren wasteland, and Tiger as Blood, Vic’s dog who seems to have a telepathic link to his human friend that no-one else can hear. While the link is vaguely mentioned, it is mentioned by Vic, who cannot be considered a reliable narrator.
Parallel Point-1 : Ryan seems to have a delusional link to Wilfred, his neighbor’s dog, as he sees the dog as a full-grown man in a dirty dog-suit and converses with his constantly.
Vic seems to have the instincts of an animal in the post-apocalyptic wasteland: he wants to constantly mate, he grabs food from caravans with the slyness of a mongrel, he has no moral check in anything he does. This relates well to Freud’s idea of the “id”. Blood, however, plays the part of the “ego”, trying to appease Vic’s need for instant gratification with long-term survival. It’s an odd switch, considering that human’s are supposed to be the reasonable species, and dogs like to run around humping and eating.
Parallel Point-2 : In Wilfred, the idea of the id and ego seem to be where they are supposed to be: Ryan, the human, continues his plight to order his life as the ego, while Wilfred plays the part of Ryan’s instincts that have been closed off for so long. Instead of the ego setting up checks for the id, the id is trying to remove those checks in order to release the ego. Things become a bit complicated when you factor in Bear, who seems to be Wilfred’s id, which would make Bear Ryan’s super-id. Then there is Bruce, Wilfred’s human counterpart. Is he Ryan’s super-ego, Wilfred’s ego, or even Ryan’s dad? The world waits for answers.
Quilla June Holmes (played by Susanne Benton), the dweller from down under who traps Vic with sex and promises of love, seems to be the middle-ground of humanity in A Boy and His Dog. Eventually, basic animal instinct evolves into a more sophisticated but equally mindless human instinct: striving for power, recognition, love, things that still complicate the order of the ego. The idea of the
ego literally eating those instincts as symbolic is not lost, since those instincts are even more useless when there is no society to display them in.
Parallel Point-3: Jenna, aka Squishy-Tits (played by Fiona Gubelmann), is still between the id of Wilfred and ego of Ryan, but she is more an attainment of sanity. If Ryan can let loose his emotions just a little, Jenna is the prize: human interaction within the parameters of reality. As well as sex, I’m sure.
The “down under” in A Boy and His Dog is a subterranean society that strives to control its citizens with rules and sameness. Freedom is traded in for security, which is ruled by a governmental body of three people. From banquet-style feedings to marching bands to everyone wearing mime face-paint, “down under” is a systematic attempt to make sense of a post-apocalyptic world.
Parallel Point-4: Whether Ryan’s basement is his subconscious or a messy basement used for storage, it is a place where Ryan attempts to make sense of his life after his suicide attempt, sometimes with drugs, hopefully not with a giant stuffed bear, but you can never be too sure with a show like Wilfred.
Do these parallels answer questions? No, but at the very least, they should coerce the writers to create a funny, intelligent ending to Wilfred that won’t end up no explanation, or worse, an ending that shows that the years of your life spent following the show was all to hear the characters say, “It was all just a dream.”