“Zoo” is a gorgeously photographed meditation on nature and desire, owing a great compositional debt to Errol Morris. It is also a smoke-and-mirror sleight-of-hand, existing in protective shadows like its zoophile protagonists. The film is as beautifully euphemistic as the melodic-sounding word itself – zoophilia – conjuring up not “horse-fuckers” but merely misunderstood men. (Much like NAMBLA members, who aren’t creepy pedophiles, but harmless “man-boy lovers”.) With enough manipulative window dressing, the horror of nonconsensual sex can be obscured.
Don’t get me wrong. I applaud director Robinson Devor and writer Charles Mudede for their bravery in attempting to explore the side of a man’s death the media ignored in favor of a quick joke. But in their trying to present the side of the “zoos,” I couldn’t help but think of the political comedian Bill Maher’s appraisal of the evolution versus “intelligent design” debate – you don’t have to air both sides if one of those sides is bullshit. The homosexual community rightly bans NAMBLA from marching in gay pride parades because giving boy-fuckers a voice automatically bestows legitimacy. Like zoos, NAMBLA members display horrific audacity in refusing to take responsibility for unconscionable desires, in attempting to re-categorize a mental illness as simply a benign and unfair societal judgment. It’s a Catch-22. Devor and Mudede in letting the zoophiles speak have also allowed them to alchemize their pathology into a lifestyle choice.
Much has been made of Rush Limbaugh’s infamous sound bite on bestiality. (Of course it was consensual! How could it not have been?) I guess Rush also thinks an eight-year-old boy coerced into having an erection would be consenting. (He’s hard! How could he not want to fuck the babysitter?) If only the filmmakers likewise would have exposed this illogical line of reasoning. So let’s at least be honest. Subjectivity is an inevitable result of directorial vision. Like a Riefenstahl film is an elegant masterpiece about murderers seen through the lens of Germany, “Zoo” is a lushly poetic look at abuse told through the eyes of rapists.