Anthropomorphism: The life you save could be your own

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 4.01.39 PMIt’s certainly not a new trend. Humans have been anthropomorphizing the world around them as long as there have been humans. Early man used anthropomorphism in an attempt to explain things beyond his ability to understand and comprehend them. The term anthropomorphism was first used by the Greek philosopher Xenophanes when describing the similarity between religious believers and their gods.

I think we tend to assign human characteristics to animals we feel strong bonds with, particularly our pets. This would explain a multi-billion dollar industry devoted exclusively to dog clothing. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if your dog could talk, he would most likely tell you that while he appreciates the irony, he doesn’t really appreciate being dressed up like a hot dog.Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.33.47 AM He’s only been humoring you. And while this practice is relatively harmless save for the dignity of your canine companion, other forms are not.

Most of us remember the tragic death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum, the oldest and largest killer whale at the park. People were understandably horrified, but no one should have been particularly surprised.

As it turns out, the “normally docile” orca had killed twice before. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.58.45 AMMost of us are accustomed to seeing killer whales jumping out of giant swimming pools and allowing trainers to ride them like giant water horses, but they’re not called killer whales for nothing.Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 12.04.15 PM

I’m fairly certain that whale in the second picture isn’t jumping up to give that penguin a kiss. The anthropomorphisation of killer whales has a logical explanation. Sea World parks are profit driven. Kids want to see Shamu jumping out of the water and kicking giant footballs with their tails, not what they typically do in the wild like, say, dragging seals off of rocks and eating them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 2.02.13 PMOther examples of anthropomorphisation are more difficult for me. While I suppose I can understand the popularity of the teddy bear based upon President Theodore Roosevelt’s encounter with a black bear on a hunting trip, I don’t think anyone in the early 20th century would have mistakenly assumed a bear in the woods to be cuddly and/or friendly. No, that ill-fated assumption only came to pass in the late 20th century courtesy of Hanna-Barbara Studio’s Yogi Bear. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 2.07.51 PM Since then, people have been happily feeding bears in state parks resulting in the death both campers and bears. Seriously, people. Unless a bear approaches you wearing a green tie and a fedora, it’s best to keep a safe distance.

I’m sure you can think of dozens of other examples. The Coca-Cola polar bears are fun loving and family friendly. Actual polar bears are one of the few mammals who will kill for the sake of killing. Fantasia’s dancing hippos? Hilarious. Real hippos kill more people in Africa than crocodiles. Sock monkeys? Adorable. Real monkeys? Disgusting, stinky, vile animals.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.28.23 PMI will make one exception because I’m rather fond of rabbits due in large part to Watership Down by Richard Adams. I love that book, and I see rabbits all the time. They’ve never once attempted to attack me. Rabbits are wholly fantastic and wonderful. But don’t watch the movie based on the book. It’s horrible.

I am certain that real rabbits are mostly good and true and would be befriend you if they weren’t completely terrified of human beings.

I know that all the aforementioned is simply restating facts that you are probably already aware of. But of late, I have observed a disturbing trend in anthropomorphism. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.44.25 PM

Namely, the cute-tification of owls. Owls are certainly not a new phenomenon to literature or home decor. Who can forget Owl of Winnie the Pooh fame? But he wasn’t portrayed as cute, only wise and a bit on snooty side. Home decor? Need I remind any of you of the tragedy which befell almost every 1970’s household: the macrame owl? Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.51.00 PM

Again, these could not be described as cute by any stretch of the imagination. But today? Owls are everywhere. In home decor and in fashion, almost always portrayed as cute.

They’re not cute, people! They’re predatory killing machines. I’m convinced that the only reason the large owl which frequents the telephone line behind my house hasn’t attempted to kill me is because I’m simply too heavy to carry off. But they’re getting more confidently aggressive every day as we are lulled into a false sense of security.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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5 Responses to “Anthropomorphism: The life you save could be your own”

  1. Jason Stasyszen January 7, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    All I could think of with the rabbits was Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s killer bunny. Of course, part of it could be my contrarian nature coming out. 🙂 Also, I don’t see why people think owls are cute either. The babies are fluffy and cute, but what babies aren’t (cute, I mean)? The other thing I kept thinking as I read this was the girl who recently got attacked by a bear and she lay in the hospital, she received a letter from PETA asking her to consider the bear’s point of view. Although… I don’t know if she was trying to give it a picnic basket at the time. That would be a different story, of course.

    • katdish January 7, 2014 at 9:28 am #

      Snort! I had completely forgotten about that scene. Serves them right, I say.

  2. SimplyDarlene January 7, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Pony tails and headphones, huh? Weird. They didn’t say anything about rabbit hats so I guess I’m safe.

  3. jake January 13, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    Ugh, this made me think of a not so abandoned but earnestly needing my attention project. YOU KNOW WHAT I”M TALKING ABOUT. I was once attacked by a macrame owl. It smelled of dust and cigarettes and was terrifying. Turns out that it was distracting me while David Bowie’s owl from Labyrinth was planning on abducting me. Joke was on that wretched beast, though. I was a small child, but too large for him to carry me off! I WAS NOT AN INFANT!

    I was chased by an elephant and monkeys in Kenya. Not at the same time. But please picture small primates (vervet monkeys– please google them- they have some very distinct traits that make everyone laugh) riding an angry bull elephant as it chased a dozen white people through the jungle. STORY OF MY LIFE.

    And I hope I never own another pet ever again.

    Kathy, your posts are always great for a smile.

  4. Shark Bait February 26, 2014 at 5:45 am #

    True story. The only animals you can trust are the fish.

    Fish are awesome!


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