Animal Watching: Is Cute On The Way Out?


In case you haven’t been to Google yet, now is a good time to mention that it’s Earth Day. Not into recycling or picking up trash? Celebrate with some Animal Planet. Or Cute Overload. Animals are so big right now.

Before you kick back and listen to the soothing sounds of David Attenborough discuss the lives of mammals, the New York Times wants you to take a moment to think about the animal kingdom and all its various glory. Despite the continuing presence of unsuspecting animals on our television sets, desktops, and Firefox tabs, most of us probably don’t stop to consider why we love the critters so much. Thankfully, the NYT breaks our viewing habits into several groups, from Animals Are Weird to Animals Want To Kill Us. Although the number one category is Animals Are Adorable, for many of us, the Puppy Bowl just doesn’t cut it. And this is probably why there are so many shows that focus not on puppies and kitties, but poisonous snakes and vicious sharks. Neil Genzlinger concludes:

Sure, you could argue that we humans have abused nature far more than nature has abused us. You could also argue that these portentous nature shows are merely playing on the secret desire we all have to feel that there is still some danger, some life-or-death excitement, left in this sterilized, seat-belted, stay-on-marked-trails world.
But while you’re making these arguments, a bear may be breaking into your garage, your neighbor’s pet boa is probably making its way into your closet, and a flatworm could be laying eggs in your blood vessels. So sure, on Earth Day, all hail nature for its beauty and wonder. But remember that, as that volcano in Iceland reminds us, it’s also violent, and hungry. Very hungry.

Television has already made the switch, more or less, from awww to awe. This shift is clearly seen in the newly launched channel National Geographic WILD, which is basically Animal Planet with a decidedly lowbrow bent. Instead of airing sedate but educational shows, NGW highlights the bizarre, traffics in the dangerous. Similarly, Isabella Rossellini’s new show on the Sundance Channel sounds positively surreal. Like in her earlier series, Green Porno, Seduce Me turns its lens on the sex lives of animals, which breeds fittingly strange results. One would never describe a horny anchovy as “cute,” and Rossellini doesn’t even try. Instead, she allows herself to get lost in the weirdness: “If were an anchovy, I would live in a group, a school, of anchovies. The best position is to be in the middle of the group,” she says dreamily.

And it seems the internet is following suit, albeit rather slowly. As we mentioned earlier this month, there has been an animal backlash. Fuck You, Penguin was the first website to take on adorable animals, simply on the grounds that they were too gosh darn cute. Sick of Cute Overload and the like, cranky creator Matthew Gasteier went the opposite direction, and made mocking animals into an art form. There was also a movement to ban cats from the interwebs, at least for one day. More recently we’ve seen the rise of the Animal Review, which fails pandas on the grounds that they are absolutely useless and celebrates the king cobra for their nests and venom. Is this a trend, one which turns away from fuzzy bunnies and toward nature, red in tooth and claw? Despite our love for baby roos, we sort of hope so. Because there are only so many ways to squee, but we’ve got an almost infinite number of words for awesome.

All Creatures Great And Repulsive [NYT]
Animals Are So Entertaining [Slate]
Fuck You, Penguin [Official Site]
Animal Review [Official Site]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin