The Sentimental Value of Lassie
Nostalgia is a sadness without an object, a sadness which creates a
longing that of necessity is inauthentic because it does not take part
in lived experience. Rather, it remains behind and before that expe-
rience. Nostalgia, like any form of narrative, is always ideological:
the past it seeks has never existed except as narrative, and hence, al-
ways absent, that past continually threatens to reproduce itself as a
—Susan Stewart, On Longing (1993)
His mother had asked him to forget about Lassie but he could not.
He could pretend to and he could stop talking about her. But in his
mind Lassie would always go on living…. He would sit at his
desk at school and dream of her. He would think that perhaps some
day—some day—like a dream come true, he would come out of
school and there she would be, sitting at the gate.
—Eric Knight, Lassie Come-Home (1940)
The year is 1954. A television legend debuts. Jeff Miller, a simple farm boy, squirms in his suit and tie as he listens to the reading of a neighbor's will. The bored boy is overjoyed when he learns that he is to receive “the best thing,” a collie named Lassie. However, Lassie refuses to leave the house where she has lived since she was a puppy. When Jeff takes her away by force, she escapes and runs back “home.” As “Gramps” explains, “The Lord made animals free just like human beings and you can't force them to love you.”