The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

102° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    More human than humans?

    “”Bee Movie,”” Dreamworks’ latest digitally animated family movie, was released last November.

    Featuring animated bees voiced by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Renee Zellweger, it was destined to be a hit. Since the film’s debut, it has grossed nearly $300 million worldwide. Some would call this a terrific success. At a closer look, however, the movie immerses the casual viewer in a perverted distortion of humanity. It tethers the audience to illusion, and distracts them from confronting the blinding power of truth. This film might as well be projected on the walls of Plato’s allegorical cave.

    “”Bee Movie”” relies on an artistic technique called anthropomorphism, which is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “”an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics.”” Its roots can be traced back to centaurs, Aesop’s fables and Quetzalcoatls of cultures past. The popularity of humanized characters has flourished in the modern era with characters like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Alf and Kermit the Frog becoming household names. The cumulative effect of this trend has caught up with us: We have shifted our focus from our own species to others, wasting our opportunity to begin to unravel the mystery of being human.

    The trend toward anthropomorphism has bloomed and blossomed; it has now begun to decay and rot. Movies like “”A Bug’s Life,”” “”Happy Feet,”” “”Finding Nemo”” and “”Ratatouille”” show animal characters whose lifestyles and relationships mimic our own. The value of these animals rivals, if not exceeds, the value of human beings. If an animal approximates a human in behavior or appearance, who’s to say it is anything but completely human? We can even slip so far down this slope that we acknowledge animals’ spiritual parity with humans (as in the movie “”All Dogs Go to Heaven””).

    Anthropomorphism does not encourage a more perfect understanding of humanity; it leads us further away from the essence of human existence. In a pop culture obsessed with human-like animals, deep questions like “”Why am I here?,”” “”Who am I?”” and “”What is death?”” take a back seat to moral musings, emotional development and the social roles of mere insects and rodents. By humanizing a cute and cuddly deer like Bambi, we can confront important issues like death and abandonment without admitting their relevance to our own lives. It is junk-entertainment; it is a futile pastime paraded as introspective art.

    Denouncing anthropomorphism is not the same as denouncing animals. Animals of all species are useful, contributing members of Earth’s ecosystems. To push anthropomorphism’s blame on animals would be ignorant and far-fetched. The blame rests on entertainers for exploiting society’s fascination with anthropomorphism. The blame also rests on the consumers whose insatiable demand for furry and friendly critters makes it such a lucrative business.

    Make a statement that you prefer unadulterated humanity to its bastard child, anthropomorphism. Take a humanized stuffed animal or figurine – rip its head off. Deface posters showing these repulsive anthropomorphs. Avoid movies, shows and books that dote on humanized animals, and always choose entertainment featuring genuine human actors and characters. If you have children, make it blaringly clear to them that bugs cannot read or write, that fish do not weep and that rats do not cook food. Refuse to patronize any business that profits from pimping our species.

    By allowing non-humans to be misrepresented as human in expression, emotion and spirituality, we debase humanity’s greatest achievements. In doing so, we reject the real world in favor of a fantasy land where animals are literate, prosperous pseudo-humans who have hopes, dreams and aspirations whose depth rivals that of our own. We can’t deny that humans are a type of animal. We can and should, however, reject that animals are a type of human. We have bigger issues to address and solve with our own species before we give in to a fetid infatuation with talking bugs.

    Mike Hathaway is a senior majoring in geography and Spanish and Portuguese. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search