You may remember last Sunday’s post was pretty cute. No, really, that was the subject of the post, cuteness. I had a few things I wanted to say on the subject, but when I finally sat down to type up my thoughts on cute, I realized the post was going to be far too long for the typical blog reader to plow through. I spent the majority of that post discussing our gender bias when it comes to appreciating cuteness, and how it’s unfair and unnatural to expect only girls to fawn over cute while boys must keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on in the face of adorableness.
To wrap up my discussion on the phenomenon of “cute”, I’d like to take a look at just what cuteness is in the first place. We all know cute when we see it, although we may not agree whether something is cute or not. The possums above look extremely cute to me, but there are some out there who might use more unflattering words for them. That’s fine, it’s a free country, and if you choose not to recognize the beauty of the possum, that’s your loss.
But why do we see something as being “cute” or not cute? Just what makes something cute? Can it be quantified and defined in a relatively universal way that would apply to most people? Apparently it can…
If you have free time on the computer and ever want to learn some interesting things while also being entertained, you have to check out Vsauce on YouTube. I’ve had a few people in the past recommend certain videos of his to watch, and I’ve checked out many more on my own. One of those videos delves into the question of just what “cute” is…
So it appears that some of the major attributes that make something cute are being round…
All of which are traits that can be found in this….
So apparently, we find things to be cute because they remind us of our young and trigger our parental instincts. According to the research cited by Vsauce in the video, when we see these characteristics in something, our brains release that all natural high-inducing chemical dopamine, which fills us with pleasure. This is why we smile and get all giddy over seeing something that looks cute.
And because the cute-triggering attributes are rather universal, they are latched onto by people who design cartoon characters. One of the best examples is in the series that dominated my first post, My Little Pony. Did you ever hear of a Brony back in the 80’s? Here’s a side by side comparison of the 80’s ponies alongside the 21st century ponies. Can you spot the “cute” attributes listed above in the current characters on the right that give us more of a dopamine overdose than their ancestors on the left?
I made a couple of interesting observations from this analysis on the physical properties that define cute. First of all, I think it is funny that the bushy tailed arboreal rodents that this blog is dedicated to, and that many people think are cute, really don’t fit most of these traits!
While these creatures are soft (I’d assume anyway, I’ve never gotten to touch one) and small, they most definitely don’t have the major result of most of these cutie traits put together, and that’s a disproportionately large head compared to the rest of their bodies! So these furry tree dwelling critters manage to be extremely cute despite defying the laws that govern it. it’s like squir…. um, those animals managed to radiate their own unique cute waves! They are cute in and of themselves, not because we are subconsciously adoring our young.
And that brings me to my second odd observation… and this one will likely cause a few shocked expressions. Despite the fact that I adore cuteness, the fact is that I don’t find the thing at the very heart of what apparently defines cute to be cute itself…
In other words… I don’t find babies to be cute. At all….
Now despite how horrifying you might think this to be, the fact is that I’m hardly alone in this belief. I know quite a few other people who don’t particularly care for babies, and feel as uncomfortable and annoyed as I am when confronted by some proud parent with a wallet full of damned baby pictures they want to show off. And you know what these people who turn up their noses to baby pics generally all have in common? They not only are childless, but they don’t have children by choice.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who just weren’t meant to be parents because they just don’t have a liking for kids. That’s perfectly fine, so long as that person is also wise enough to ensure they don’t end up having to care for one by adding to the population. Babies do nothing for my brain except tell it to get the hell as far away from the little, crying, poopy, aggravating little imp as I possibly can. So the fact that I am strongly attracted to the “cute” attributes despite rejecting the source subject is kinda weird.
But then again, there are some things other than babies that I don’t find cute that many others get all mushy over. Like for example…. this:
Those who inhabit my message board will not be the least bit surprised by my dislike of Sanrio’s creation of evil since Hello Kitty has been a running gag over there for years. But while it’s round, and big headed, and maybe soft… Hello Kitty still creeps me the hell out. Maybe if she had a fucking mouth. I take great pains to make my characters as expressive as possible, and one feature that is critical in conveying emotion is the mouth. I never have any idea what HK really has on her mind as she just stares at me like that. Sure, she might be thinking “Hello, how are you doing? Ain’t I so cute?” but she could just as easily be pondering how she is going to distribute my body parts in her pink, sparkly litter box after she’s done dismembering my body.
The picture above reminds me… you should also check out Vsauce’s companion piece to his exploration of cute, which looks at why we find things to be creepy.
And this ends my two part investigation about things being cute. I hope you learned something, laughed while being entertained, d’awwed a few times, and hopefully don’t think I’m less than human for having no interest in seeing your baby pictures. I hope I’ve established that bronies are people too, that looking at things that are cute triggers our biological reward system, that cuteness has definable traits which are based in parental instincts, and that the degree to which one possesses these instincts has a great affect on what they do find to be cute. The fact that we can’t all agree on cute is just another great example of our uniqueness as human beings.
And you can rest assured that along with my warped humor, radical flashbacks, remedial artwork, and those acorn-loving fuzzy things that I can’t refer to right now, that you will continue to get a huge heaping dose of cute here at The Nest. So let the dopamine take over your brain as we take yet another look at that awesome Sparkledonkicornipuppie!