Dunston’s Betrayal

Hey folks. Thanks for visiting, the official home of The Chicken Feed website. When we started up this page, my buddy Andrey and I agreed we could pause it any time we wanted – without pressure, without guilt – to focus on the difficult business of Being An Adult in 2017.

There’s an important part of that I’ve been struggling with lately: learning to leave the past behind. It’s always heartbreaking to let go of a childhood belief, but sooner or later, in our own time, on our own terms, we all have to accept it:

Dunston never “checks in”.

No no no, please. Hear me out. This is important. At no point in the 88 minutes of Dunston Checks In does the 1996 children’s film deliver on its blindingly-simple three-word mission statement.

In fact, to function as a classical narrative, it is imperative Dunston does not check in. The entire premise is dependent on an orangutan going about his mischief in a 5-star hotel unknown to staff and guests; a hijink-laden status quo that would be negated entirely were he to formally register his presence with reception.

I can only assume this is how our parents felt when King Kong died at the end of King Kong Lives. Or how Yahoo Serious fans felt when his comedy work revealed him to be actually very silly.

It all seems worryingly irresponsible, and I think I speak on behalf of a generation when I put the question to director Ken Kwapis: why lie to us? Why you promise a primate who played by the rules when you intended only boisterous pie-in-face mayhem?

When our formative entertainment can announce the literal opposite of what it delivers, how can we take anything to follow at face value?

Let’s face facts: we live in a post-truth world, and we didn’t get there overnight. History repeats itself time and time again. It doesn’t begin with a revolution or an election, but a blind eye turned; a scientific community ignored; a first stone cast; a children’s film misnamed.

Do we have Dunston to thank for today’s gas-lit, fake-news climate? Could something as pure and innocent as a cheeky primate – hilariously hurling coconuts onto human skulls, causing mass property damage, ending multiple careers – truly have heralded in something so sinister?

It seems an almost-inevitable conclusion… unless we dared consider the one and only alternative: that Dunston was ahead of his time, put on this Earth to teach us. To warn us. To arm us against those who would give us Alternative Facts.

To save us.

In my quieter moments, I sometimes worry that we, as a society, may have forgotten the redemption arc at the heart of the Dunston mythos. He entered the Majestic Hotel as a jewel thief’s accomplice, smuggled in via conspicuously-large luggage. He left it proudly, via the front door, with a newfound understanding of family and friendship.

As we drag our own personal baggage into adulthood, only time will tell when and how the orangutan will emerge, and what kind of agent for change he shall be. At which point, we can only look back 21 years to the example laid bare before us. And choose.

Did Dunston continue his life of subservient crime? Did he “check in” as ordained? No. He took a bubble bath and pushed Faye Dunaway into a very large cake.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us. ❤️