Bits and Pieces

Screening Animal Life and Death

Subjects: Media Studies, Cinema Studies
Paperback : 9780472056255, 210 pages, 20 illustrations, 6 x 9, July 2023
Hardcover : 9780472076253, 210 pages, 20 illustrations, 6 x 9, July 2023
Open Access : 9780472903573, 210 pages, 20 illustrations, 6 x 9, July 2023
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How and why animals—especially dead animals—matter in film and television

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: Slaughter Cinema
Chapter 2: Glass Walls
Chapter 3: Cabinets of Curiosity
Chapter 4: TV Trophies


Bits and Pieces: Screening Animal Life and Death gathers pivotal and more mundane moments, dispersed across a predominantly Western history of moving images, in which animals materialize in movies and TV shows, from iconic scenes of cattle slaughter in early Soviet montage to quandaries over hunting trophies in recent home-renovation reality TV series, to animals in Black horror films. Sarah O'Brien carefully views these fragments in dialogue with germinal texts at the intersection of animal studies, film and television studies, and cultural studies. She explores the capacity of moving images to unsettle the ways in which audiences have become habituated to viewing animal life and death on screens, and, more importantly, to understanding these images as more and less connected to the “production for consumption” of animals that is specific to modern industrialization. By looking back at films and TV series in which the places and practices of killing or keeping animals enter, occupy, or slip from the foreground, Bits and Pieces takes seriously the idea that cinema and television have the capacity not only to catch but to challenge and change viewers’ regard for animals.

Sarah O’Brien is an academic editor. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

“O’Brien’s wonderful study offers rich readings of the mediation of animal lives and deaths by cinema and television, its connections to slaughter and taxidermy, and related questions of race and commodification. O’Brien traces the historical and material contours of these entanglements in highly astute and accessible terms, prompting us to look anew at animal and animalized presences on-screen, from slaughter cinema to ‘TV trophies’.”

- Laura McMahon, University of Cambridge

Bits and Pieces explores the ways in which film and television mediate our understanding of animal life and death, and especially the issue of animal slaughter. The scholarship is sound, and the presentation of the material and writing style are wonderfully clear and crisp.”

- Claire Jean Kim, University of California, Irvine

“O’Brien rightly finds images of animals everywhere—but doesn’t try to approach the subject encyclopedically. Instead, she hones in on parallel thematic and imagistic tracks, and takes intensive looks within. Bits and Pieces is a compelling, well-written, and deeply researched work.”

- Cynthia Chris, College of Staten Island, CUNY

"A seminal, original, and groundbreaking study, "Bits and Pieces: Screening Animal Life and Death" by Sarah O'Brien will have a special value for readers with an interest in how the cinematic and televised portrayal of animal life has impacted public perception. Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, "Bits and Pieces: Screening Animal Life and Death" is unreservedly recommended as a unique addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Cinematic & Television History collections and supplemental Performing Arts curriculum studies lists."

- Wisconsin Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review