Thinking back to when I was younger, I was petrified of any animal that came near me. However, watching animal documentaries was a favourite pastime of mine. I have always been fascinated by the animal world but was always scared of any animal that came in a 12km radius of me, maybe because I got chased by a dog up my street as a young child (?). Fast forward a few years and here I am, an animal lover who is obsessed with dogs and all marine life. The presence of the animal world is undoubtedly evident in our day to day lives, whether it be through pets or even online videos which we scroll past on social media and documentaries on youtube or Netflix. The animals portrayed in mainstream media always seem much more approachable and loving in comparison to images and videos which we can see in textbooks and in raw video footage. Does this somehow come down to how the media portrays and frames our favourite animals? Mankind influences every aspect of our world, including the portrayal of our furry and scaly friends.
Anthropomorphism can be explained as giving animals and other non-human beings human like characteristics, and the animal acts as if it is a human (Softschools). This trait is very common in films and literature in particular. It is through film and books that we experience anthropomorphism from an early age, and it seems almost impossible to not be exposed to anthropomorphic creatures in our present day and age. It is increasingly becoming more popular to feature animals in education devices which further exposes us to human-esque qualities found in the animals. Do they human characteristics actually harm our perception of animals in the wild? OR is it just giving these qualities to an animal when in reality, these animals have their own characteristics?
March of the Penguins (2005) won critical acclaim for its portrayal of penguins in the arctic. Watching this film made me realise that to an untrained eye, the penguins appeared human-like, or we were led to believe that. The monogamist characteristics which were portrayed by the male penguins highlighted the love stories between the penguin families. The movie could pass as a romantic film that fits the standard chick-flick stereotype. An argument surrounding the film was that the whole movie was too “lovey-dovey” which gives viewers false information about penguins and ultimately gives an unrealistic view on penguin life (Mayell, 2005). March of the Penguins emphasises on the ideal for a ‘nuclear family’. In the movie, the focus of love can be overturned by knowledge that penguins actually don’t spend much time together and that Emperor penguins are only monogamous for one season (Evans, 2017). It is an ego boost knowing that we are the supreme beings in comparison to animals, even though they are still like us. However, is this harmful to the creatures?
As children, we were heavily exposed to disney while growing up. Many Disney films incorporate animals throughout the films, and it is obvious that the use of anthropomorphism is heavily used in the creation of films. Bambi for example uses anthropomorphic characters in order to gain a response and relation to the characters from a human perspective. Bambi is a cute animal who has friends and a family, just like young children do. Through this, we experience the similar characteristics to a human which belong to an animal. Does giving these characters human-like characteristics make them harmful?
Below, we see how skunks really interact, in other words, a massive difference in comparison to the above clip from Bambi. It is evident that the distinction between both of these clips can confirm that animals are actually not anthropomorphic, but they are being used as devices to emphasise cultural and gendered ideals for humankind.
Watching raw videos of animals in their natural habitat just doesn’t appeal to the public as much as highly edited documentaries and films do. Even documentaries which show the animal being raw can often be heavily edited and don’t really portray how animals act in their environment (Boboltz, 2015). Perhaps we are just living in a world where our egos and ideals have taken over, and we simply only listen to animals when they are behaving like humans.