Why is the movie Straw Dogs called like that? From Wikipedia:

The film's title derives from a discussion in the Tao Te Ching that likens people to the ancient Chinese ceremonial straw dog, being of ceremonial worth, but afterward discarded with indifference.

Does this mean that the main characters (an astrophysicist, played by Dustin Hoffman and his wife) are treated initially as being part of the community and then they are treated badly? What's the ceremonial worth in this case? Everybody acts nice, but you can feel the darkness behind the friendly talk and friendly faces. You feel something is about to happen with the newcomers to town, especially to the wife. I'm not getting the title completely.

1 Answer 1


This article proposes a different reason for the title:

A more likely provenance for the title comes from the simple colloquial American slang that a straw dog is a seemingly frightening thing that turns out to be not all that frightening – i.e., a dog whose proverbial bark is worse than its bite. This interpretation gives the title an added irony that seems more in keeping with Peckinpah’s temperament. After all, the film’s bespectacled lead character, the mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), ends up having a bite far worse than his almost nonexistent bark.

  • So everyone (David as well as the people in the village) is in fact the opposite of a straw dog? They all seem not frightening though David is the only one not to be afraid of really (well, depending who you are...). But then everything turns upside down. Jun 16, 2021 at 16:06
  • @Methadont This is of course merely a theory. I don't know if there is any "evidence" WRT the origins of the title coming from Tao Te Ching.
    – BCdotWEB
    Jun 16, 2021 at 20:31

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