Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic

I've taken some quotes from Daniel Harris's Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism. This book is far from a study in consumerism–I'd say it is more an anti-consumerist opinion piece. And while Harris makes some interesting connections, his ready-made hatred of anything popular or unrealistic turns any semblance of fact into a wordy rant. He goes so far as to compare teddy bears to adult sex dolls and the act of hugging a stuffed animal to necrophilia. He operates from as distorted a world view as those he demeans:

"The cute world view is one of massive human chauvinism, which rewrites the universe according to an iconographic agenda dominated by the pathetic fallacy... The cute vision of the natural world is a world without nature, one that annihilates "otherness," ruthlessly suppresses the non-human, and allows nothing, including our children, to be separate and distinct from us." (12)

While he completely skips over scientific explanations and evolutionary theories, he does make an important case for the social implications of cuteness, so it's included in my research. Read on for some more quotes:

"Cuteness suggests guilelessness, simplicity, and a refreshing lack of affectation." (2-3)

"Cuteness is not an aesthetic in an ordinary sense of the word and must by no means be mistaken for the physically appealing, the attractive. In fact, it is closely linked to the grotesque, the malformed." (3)

"The grotesque is cute because the grotesque is pitiable, and pity is the primary emotion of the seductive and manipulative aesthetic that arouses our sympathies... The aesthetic of cuteness creates a class of outcasts and mutations." (4)

"Something becomes cute not necessarily because of a quality it has but because of a quality it lacks, a certain neediness and inability to stand alone, as if it were an indigent starveling, lonely and rejected because of hideousness we find more touching than unsightly." (4)

"Cuteness has become essential to the marketplace, in that advertisers have learned that consumers will 'adopt' products that create, often in their packaging alone, an aura of motherlessness, ostracism, and melancholy." (5)

"Cuteness, in short, is not something we find in our children but something we do to them... it almost always involves an act of sadism on the part of its creator, who makes an unconscious attempt to maim, hobble, and embarrass the thing he seeks to idolize." (5)

"Adorable things are often most adorable when in the middle of a pratfall or a blunder." (6)

"Although the gaze we turn on the cute thing seems maternal and solicitous, it is in actuality transformative and will stop at nothing to appease its hunger for expressing pity and big-heartedness, even at the cost of mutilating the object of its affections." (6)

"If cuteness is the aesthetic of deformity and dejection, it is also the aesthetic of sleep." (7)

"The imitative nature of cuteness can also be seen in the relation of the aesthetic to precocity." Precocity is the development of certain capabilities at an earlier age than usual.

Overall, it's a good read, but rather depressing. Time for a kitten picture.

There. I'm better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

omg!!!! sooooooo cuuuuute!!!!