THE ODDEST MOVIE to come out of Hollywood this month is I’m Still Here, a partly staged documentary about an actor called Joaquin Phoenix (below) who wipes out his brain by the relentless application of enough drugs to kill a dozen elephants, or Keith Richards.
“Yessss! Watching a rich Hollywood star self-destruct would be really fun,” said a friend of mine who is a really nice guy, except for being an evil sadist who should be put down immediately.
While it is unclear how deliberate Phoenix’s acts of self-abuse are, the movie has triggered discussion about why people destroy themselves.
My friends reckon it’s a male trait.
“If you exclude women, 100 per cent of suicides around the world are guys,” one said.
Whoah—shocking statistic! Or maybe not.
Discussing male self-destruction over lunch, a diner commented: “You said in your column last week that your dog attacks you. Author Clive James had a dog which was so aggressive that when there was no one to attack, it would chase itself, attempting to bite off its own testicles. What is the evolutionary advantage of that?”
I couldn’t think of an answer, so I emailed the question to knowledgeable people asking for help.
Say goodbye, testicles
The following day, I did a one-hour stretch as a teacher’s assistant. While the girls were uniformly angelic, the boys, demons all, appeared pre-programmed to climb windowsills, playhouse roofs and trees and then fall to their deaths. Again came the question: what is the evolutionary benefit of male idiocy?
Catching falling boys is exhausting. Fleeing to the staff room, I hid my face in a science magazine containing a feature called The Ant Death Spiral.
The queen ant is a huge bulbous creature who stays at home waiting to be fed. (Why does this remind me of my aunts?)
The guy ants go hunt for food.
Every now and then, a male ant loses his way, presumably because he refuses to ask for directions, and eventually circles around to rejoin the group.
The other ants follow his trail. The entire colony of a million ants ends up walking in circles until they die. Below is a video of it.
It’s all very sad, I suppose, but I can’t cry for bugs. I only feel sympathy for poor dumb mammals, or mammal-like creatures, however odd they are, such as cats, dogs, manatees, dugongs, tarsiers and Michael Jackson.
Which was probably why I couldn’t get the image of poor Mr James’ dog out of my head.
What happens if a dog attempting to bite off its tail or reproductive equipment actually manages to reach them?
Google offered only this suggestion: “They don't realize that this particular thing is a part of their body,” wrote Swati Nitin Gupta in EzineArticles.com.
When I switched over to my email, I found someone with a psychology background had answered my question.
“Dogs who bite off their testicles remove themselves from the gene pool, and thus benefit the dog species as a whole. Exactly the same thing can be said of self-destructive human males such as Joaquin Phoenix.”
Does this mean that Mr Phoenix also attempts to bite off his testicles? I really MUST see this movie.