Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quick Takes - Anthropomorphism

No, I don't know why you have a sword.

I always cringe for overblown anthropomorphism. I don't mind it when it's clever, like in "Toy Story," or when it's intentionally ironic and meant to show us how absurd our behavior really is sometimes, or even when it's subtle but still from an animal's perspective, like in "A Bug's Life," but when humans make movies about themselves using animals that have human behavior, human culture, and human evolutionary priorities, prickly hives start forming on my brain that can only be cured with a heavy dose of David Attenborough.

I watched two movies recently that were especially overblown in their rampant use of anthropomorphism: One, a cheap, trashy Hollywood exploiter ("Puss in Boots"), and the other a revered part of the cinema canon ("The Lion King"), were filled with so many instances of our own behavioral projections that they might as well have been live-action clunkers made for teenage girls and 40-something singles.

"Puss in Boots" was almost offensively anthropomorphized, and I get that it's just supposed to be cute and fun, but dammit, it's not fun to see cats behaving like humans! They should behave like cats. Period. Make an animated movie about cats, not sword-fighting, sex-dripping stereotypes that make me very uncomfortable in the theatre surrounded by little kids who don't have a clue what they're watching. The movie opens with Puss telling a decadent white cat that he just had sex with that she meant the world to him as he leaves her owner's house in a hurry. They made a kid's movie about a cat nailing another cat and making up bullshit about how much he meant to her. Later in the movie, Puss and obvious-female-cat-character dance together, not once, but twice! And they don't dance like how a cat might dance (not that I know what that would look like), they dance like humans, with sexy swinging hips and pelvises thrusting together. I'm sorry. I know nobody else cares about this. I know everyone just thinks it's adorable and clever. But not me! NOT ME! If you're going to make a movie about animals that talk, make it about their behavioral ecology, not ours.

As for "The Lion King," I truly love this movie, and it's such an amazing piece of story-telling and animation, and it certainly is a marvelous moral story and teaching device for kids, but I could've done without some of the more painful instances of anthropomorphism. "The Lion King" is about one lion's quest to recapture his pride (good pun, eh?!) and avenge his father's death to bring prosperity back to the kingdom. Not only are the lions vaunted into some monarchical system above all the "common" animals, but they even discuss things like marriage! Mufasa tells Simba, as they're casually walking through the plains, that he and his young female counterpart Nala are already promised to one another. They're like ... 1 year old cubs! And they're lions. If Simba really is meant to be "king," he will do his best to impregnate as many female lions as possible when he reaches sexual maturity, not just Nala.

I can't comprehend why an arranged marriage trope showed up in that movie, but I guess that's every man's dream, to be promised the hottest lion in the pride when you're a little kid so you can focus on more important stuff and stop worrying about finding a mate. Here you go, Erik, it's young (insert female pop culture reference here), she's yours forever, so go ahead and go back to coloring and building LEGOs. Your job is done.


  • Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis doesn't appear to be the biggest fan of Tim Tebow's style of quarterbacking. Leading up to this Sunday's game against the Broncos, Revis told reporters that the secondary's biggest concern is "for us not to fall asleep" while the Broncos run the ball to death. You and me both, Darrelle.
  • In more Tim Tebow news, the Jets are using 41-year-old quarterback Mark Brunell to simulate Tebow in practice. Brunell says it best, "I'm left-handed and he's left-handed. And that's about it right there." You guys are both white too? And ... uh ... you both play quarterback? No wait, that last one isn't right.
  • New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters he wasn't sure Alex Rodriguez was the right choice to play 3B in the ALDS, as A-Rod was still not fully recovered from injury. Hindsight sure is nice, especially when Rodriguez went 2-18 in the series, but in the playoffs you always have to send out your big guns, and the alternative of Eric Chavez is no longer a big gun in any way, shape, or form. That'd be like going to war with NERF guns because your tank wouldn't always fire on target.
  • Tiger Woods has drawn Adam Scott to open the Presidents Cup, pitting Woods, once again, against his bitter former caddy, the obnoxious Steve Williams. I smell a Golfpunk episode!
  • A 12-year-old footballer has turned down the opportunity to join Chelsea FC, opting to stay with his hometown club Swindon Town after the London giants approached for his services. The boy recently signed a contract with Swindon that will keep him at the club until 2015. Let's see, when I was 12 years old, I was playing little league baseball and riding my bike around the neighborhood with an arsenal of NERF guns strapped to every inch of my body for our neighborhood game "Guns" (a complex game of armed combat, prison riots, tag, and dodgeball). Hmm, I feel like I could've spent my youth better.
  • With a rash of racism allegations between players flooding the international football world, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said that racism isn't a problem in the sport and any disputes should be handled between players with a handshake. If only Sepp Blatter were around for World War II!

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