Cute things most definitely have an inherent quality or power which makes them enticing and captivating to humans. Beatrice Marovich’s article, “The Powerful Authority of Cute Animals” suggests “that there’s something in this alleged power that seems to leave animals vulnerable to becoming talismanic”(Marovich 4). Society’s domestication and reliance on animals has moved us to associate positive, cheerful, and safe thoughts with our pets—making them forever cuddly and cute. I believe part of our human attraction to cuteness can be contributed to the instinctive human desire to nurture and protect the innocent. When encountering something which is young, harmless, and pure, we as humans are instantaneously transferred to a state of guardianship and delight. We are sensitive to cute things because they invoke our own sensitive feelings. In this way, our designation of an object as cute is could exist as a result of propelling of our own identity and desires outward.
In Gergana Y. Nenkov and Maura L. Scott’s article, “’So Cute I Could Eat it Up’: Priming Effects of Cute Products on Indulgent Consumption” they state that “cuteness leads to behavioral carefulness , as one is primed to protect and care for a vulnerable and innocent entity”(Nenkov and Scott 3). But, why is it also possible for us to ascribe qualities of cuteness to inanimate objects as well? We cannot fully protect a stuffed representation of an elephant, because it is not alive and never has been. Yet a stuffed animal may be deemed as a cute child’s toy, perhaps because it is a representation of something that is a live, and has been anthropomorphized.
As humans it is easy for us to associate cute things with giggles and pleasure, yet the grotesque can appear automatically averse to us and is associated with negative things like gagging or fear. This could be due in part to the conventionally shallow ideal that the exterior of an object is bound to match the interior. Eerie creatures may give us the creeps because we assume them to be evil or threatening, due to their repugnant looks. We can internally designate things as cute or not cute depending on our own needs and fears, so “cute stimuli prime mental representations of fun, which leads to an enhanced focus on approaching self-rewards…”(Nenkov and Scott 4). Cute things are captivating in that they represent charm and gratification for us; unattractive things are unsightly for us—visually and also emotionally due to their links to unpleasantness.
2 thoughts on “Blog Post #2: Why Cute is Captivating and Unnattractive is Unpleasant”
I really enjoyed reading your blog post. It presents interesting theories that I have always believed to be true, but never analyzed in full detail. The first thing that attracted me in your post is the title: “Why cute is captivating and unattractive is unpleasant.” I find it very appealing, and it essentially summarizes your thesis in a few words. I also found myself nodding in assent several times as I was reading the rest of your post. First of all, it is true that people sometimes neglect animals’ needs as they tend to see them as objects of beauty, something to merely contemplate. I believe you support this theory by citing Marovich on p. 4, “there’s something in this alleged power that seems to leave animals vulnerable to becoming talismanic.” According to this reading, humans forget about animals’ primary necessities, like taking them on a walk or feeding them properly, and prefer dressing them up with useless items of clothes. Secondly, I like your connection between cuteness and human desire of nurturing: “attraction to cuteness can be attributed to the instinctive human desire to nurture and protect the innocent.” This is particularly interesting as Marovich does not investigate this connection in her article, and it is also intriguing as this attraction may be a reflection of the relationship between mother and child. For this reason, this theory can also be flawed if we consider the fact that not everyone is attracted to cuteness, as well as not every woman is attracted to the idea of maternity. Finally, as I was thinking about the reason why unattractive things are unconsciously rejected by people, I found the key to answer this question in something you claim towards the end of your post: “the exterior of an object is bound to match the interior.” Your statement reminds me of “The Beauty and the Beast:” the beast is rejected based on his physical appearance, while his inner being is not even taken into consideration. I guess the same concept can be applied to objects.
This was an interesting reading. I really liked the connection you made between the attraction to cuteness and the human desire to nurture and protect the innocent. Whenever I look at my baby cousin, that’s exactly how I feel. Because she is so young, pure and innocent, I feel protective, and whatever she does puts a smile on my face. The point you made about the unattractive things being unsightly-both visually and emotionally due to their links to the unpleasantness was also interesting. Of course the things we see as unpleasant may be different to some people due to the different things we fear and dislike. Overall, I really enjoyed reading your blog post.