If I’m not mistaken, there is such a quote by Nicky in the lecture: “We tend to embrace animals that act like human.” Well, can’t be more accurate. We love penguins not only because of their lovely feather but I guess, because they can stand straight and walk like us? As a child, I enjoy watching animal circus, because I believed they do that because they want to be a friend to human. And I once believed that was harmony between human and animals’ soul. And I loved how smart they are (because they acted like human). I mean, without knowing the truth about how animals are trained to entertain us, who doesn’t want to see big bears, who suppose to be (some sort of) scary predators, wearing colourful dresses and dance, or to see monkey riding bike and doing math?
Most of us gain knowledge about wildlife via documentaries, which is so convenient, but dangerous at the same time, because only few research further about it. We can be affected by the stereotypes and misrepresentation, which lead to misunderstanding. Chimpanzees, for example. Chimpanzees are considered to be less likely as endangered compared to other great ape species despite the fact that they are an endangered species across their native range in equatorial Africa. This phenomenon was linked to the prevalent use of chimpanzees in movies, television, advertisement where chimpanzees are often inaccurately displayed (Ross, 2008). Chimpanzees as pets, can you imagine?
Wrong stereotypes of nonhuman animals can be found in several shows and channels, take for example, one of the world’s biggest transnational media company, Disney. Studies find that there are there major themes in portraying nonhuman animals (NHAs) in Disney’s original animated features: NHAs are portrayed as stereotypes, according to their species and as human stereotypes; the family unit reflects anthropocentric principles; and human and NHA realms are fundamentally divided, domestication and NHAs as pedagogical (Leventi-Perez, 2011).
- Stereotypes according to species: Common stereotypes associated with NHAs in pop culture. Different species such as pigs, spiders or fish are pictured through highlighting one stereotype to enhance the comic appeal of the films. Take spiders (and spider-like creatures) for example, who are constantly described as negative and dangerous. Meet the Robinson’s Doris, the most dangerous character in the movie, is a bowler hat that transforms into a bionic spider. Though its master/ partner Goob (Bowler Hat Guy) is not so smart, Doris often guides his actions and acts as the mastermind. As they manage to change the past and Groob mass-produces Doris, the hats take control of their wearers and end up conquering the world. And you know how it’s like in dystopian future, where machines dominate our world. Similar representation of spider-like creatures can be found in Treasure Planet or Chicken Little. While in fact, only one percent of spider species have been responsible for human deaths.
- The division of human and NHA realms: this division can be found in several movies, The Princess and the Frog (2009), for instance. Tina and Navene was in a quest to regain their human status after being turned into frogs by Dr. Facillier. Though they accept their fates as frogs, true happiness only happen when they become human again, ending a festival wedding, and Tiana opens her restaurant. They fulfil their destiny by living a fairy tale life as royal humans and successful entrepreneurs. Human are separating themselves from animals species, forgetting the fact that we are just a part of it.
Misportrayal to create financial profits is understandable. Knowing that misportrayal is based on social belief, but it will first leave misconception of animals in children’s mind, later the whole society. The consequence is visible: the extinction of endangered species due to human’s pride so they can do whatever they want to do to nature, the death of SeaWorld trainer due to a delusion that human totally master those killer whale, treating them bad to make them human-like (animal circus), so on and so on. The more I research, the more I see that NHAs are no what I learnt from movies. So when will NHAs get their right to be themselves back?
- Anon, (2017), “9 of the World’s Deadliest Spiders”, Encyclopaedia Britannica, [online] Available at <https://www.britannica.com/list/9-of-the-worlds-deadliest-spiders> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2017].
- Ross, S., Lukas, K., Lonsdorf, E., Stoinski, T., Hare, B., Shumaker, R. and Goodall, J. (2008), “SCIENCE PRIORITIES: Inappropriate Use and Portrayal of Chimpanzees“, Policy Forum, vol 319, pp.1487-1487.
- Ross, S., Vreeman, V. and Lonsdorf, E. (2017). “Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets”, PLOS One, <http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022050#pone.0022050-Ross1>