Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
November 11, 2009 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Vanity Fair explores the rise of cuteness and why we love it so very much.
posted by Lutoslawski (48 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
^_^
posted by fleetmouse at 3:26 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are we going to end up like the Japanese? Extreme cuteness and extreme porn?
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:29 PM on November 11, 2009


Oh my god, how have I never noticed this totally made-up non-phenomenon before???
posted by Sys Rq at 3:34 PM on November 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


It's a good thing Vanity Fair pointed this out. Nothing was cute before you were born.

And nothing will be cute after you die.
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on November 11, 2009


we’re drowning in puppies and kittens and bunnies and cupcakes

I can't think of a more adorable way to die.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:37 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


:(...

That’s me crying over the depressing rise of cuteness


Poor Jim Windolf. Did him have him a bad day and wake up with the cranky wankies?
posted by bearwife at 3:42 PM on November 11, 2009


Are we going to end up like the Japanese? Extreme cuteness and extreme porn?

Japan's like Max Headroom, always 20 minutes into the future.
posted by PsychoKick at 3:43 PM on November 11, 2009


Are we going to end up like the Japanese?

Yes, only ten years later. Cute Inc., Wired, Dec 1999.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 3:45 PM on November 11, 2009


Less kittens, please. Fill the void with puppies, bunnies, hamsters and an occasional cute-but-prickly hedgehog. And red pandas and slow lorises, they are the Future of Cute... and cupcakes are okay (real whipped cream, not Cool Whip, please), but most 'cute candy' is pretty much inedible.

Extreme cuteness and extreme porn?
Rule of thumb: really big eyes OR really big boobs, NOT BOTH.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:47 PM on November 11, 2009


For generations, kids couldn’t wait until they reached adulthood so they could smoke, drink, eat four-course meals, make money, drive cars, have sex, and, if they were the type to join the military, legally kill other human beings. Now we would rather log on and tune out, preferably in the womb-like comfort of a Snuggie, which is the perfect thing to wear as we gaze at photos of kittens while gnawing on delicious cupcakes.

How in the known universe could this possibly be deemed a bad development?

legally kill other human beings... Jesus on a pogo stick. I want to to talk about the health consequences of smoking/drinking, the environmental and traffic consequences of driving, and since when did kids look forward to four-course meals. But no, the author included killing in the list of valiant pursuits/desires kids today forgo in favor of cuteness, and I can't get past the lunacy.
posted by fatehunter at 3:48 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


The same guy also calls out animation being influenced by Hayao fucking Miyazaki as a bad thing.

Okay, the killing thing is probably worse, but still. WTF.
posted by darksasami at 3:53 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: ~*~*~*we’re drowning in puppies and kittens and bunnies and cupcakes! *~*~*~*~*~*~
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:55 PM on November 11, 2009


But we used to kill each other softly with our songs. Whatever happened to that!?
posted by Dumsnill at 3:57 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


But we used to kill each other softly with our songs. Whatever happened to that!?

This.


MY NAME IS A KILLING WORD. DO NOT USE IT IN YOUR NAME-GAME SONG FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
posted by The Whelk at 4:07 PM on November 11, 2009


The same guy also calls out animation being influenced by Hayao fucking Miyazaki as a bad thing.

He also named South Park as a champion against the reign of cuteness. I have no problem against South Park, but between a (sub-)culture that values SP and one that adores Miyazaki and Up, I choose the latter by instinct principle judgment and everything else that defines me.

Otoh, I approve of namechecking Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go is very good.
posted by fatehunter at 4:08 PM on November 11, 2009


It's weirdly comforting to read a big, angry article about everything you love.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:21 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this was a Slate article it would have been "You may think you like cute things but a recent study says ..."
posted by The Whelk at 4:22 PM on November 11, 2009


I have slowly become acutely allergic to cuteness. There's just something a little too desperate about it all. Everybody loves the kitten, but many lose interest by the time that kitten grows up to become an old tomcat with bad breath and a shredded ear. Then it's Out to the alley with you, you ghastly wreck of a feline.

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww shit.
posted by metagnathous at 4:27 PM on November 11, 2009


Good grief, this woman is more grumpy than me.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:29 PM on November 11, 2009


This, of course, was posted to Metafilter on the same day as "Soldiers return home after months abroad and are greeted by their very excited dogs."
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:32 PM on November 11, 2009


Are we going to end up like the Japanese? Extreme cuteness and extreme porn?

I am not opposed to this.
posted by strixus at 4:41 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is the one part of this that I actually found kind of enlightening. I probably should look up that book.
There is probably no such thing as an uncomplicated cute image. As the essayist Daniel Harris argued persuasively in his 2000 book, Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic, our enjoyment of adorable stuff has a hidden dark side.

“The process of conveying cuteness to the viewer disempowers its objects, forcing them into ridiculous situations and making them appear more ignorant and vulnerable than they really are,” Harris writes. “Adorable things are often most adorable in the middle of a pratfall or a blunder.” He mentions Winnie-the-Pooh’s getting his head stuck in a beehive as an example and goes on to argue that children themselves are not really so cute; cuteness, instead, is something we do to them. (Think of the Zach Galifianakis character in The Hangover outfitting the little baby with sunglasses.)

Like everybody else, Harris has a family member who sends him cute images via e-mail. “My sister sends me things that are practically sadistic,” he says. “What was the thing she sent me? Accidents of cats! Jumping through things and not quite making it. It was very much in keeping with my point about the sadism of cuteness.” In his view, the Internet has not changed what we find cute. “But there is a change in the availability of these images,” he says. “The medium has made us hungrier for this stuff.”

Harris’s linking of cuteness and sadism applies to the famous “Hahaha” video: the baby may be cute on his own, but the clip heightens his vulnerability by presenting him more or less trapped in a high chair and reduced to a hysterical powerlessness by his father’s sly utterances of “Bing” and “Dong.” “There is something dark about using children for the pleasure of our maternal needs,” Harris says. “We enjoy being caretakers so much that we will create situations in which they need our care.”
The author of this essay kind of angrily doddles "I AGREE" around the quotes from the book, but still, this is interesting. He goes on to mention how every character in Up is in need of care, and now like that film slightly less. Slightly.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:43 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


“We enjoy being caretakers so much that we will create situations in which they need our care.”

But my fainting goat is so cuuuuuuuute.
posted by The Whelk at 4:46 PM on November 11, 2009


It’s not just a digital thing. In this cuteness-crazed environment, Time Warner’s People magazine decided it was good business to shell out an estimated $6 million for photos of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s newborn twins.

Then could I get ten bucks for this?
posted by metagnathous at 4:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article refers to the Geico gecko as emblematic of the use of cute in marketing. However, it doesn't point out those Windows 7 commercials featuring Kylie. The level of cuteness is so obvious and overdone as to be farcical, even by Cute Overload standards. Why would an 8-year-old score her presentations with "The Final Countdown" and the theme from The A-Team? Did she photoshop that kitten into that pile of marshmallows herself? And why is she making Powerpoints about Windows 7 anyways?
posted by mhum at 4:51 PM on November 11, 2009


BEHOLD THE SISSIFYING EFFECTS OF CUTE MARKETING IN OUR DEPRAVED MODERN WORLD!
posted by The Whelk at 5:00 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the Geico gecko is annoying, not cute.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2009


Japan's like Max Hardcore, always 20 minutes into the future.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2009


I know cupcakes are like so 2007? But I still really like cupcakes. Also, I get kind of a happysad frisson watching the terminal convulsions of Condé Nast properties.
posted by everichon at 5:15 PM on November 11, 2009


Yeah, Cupcakes are good. No homo.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:50 PM on November 11, 2009


The Whelk: "It's a good thing Vanity Fair pointed this out. Nothing was cute before you were born.

And nothing will be cute after you die.
"

Speak for yourself. I plan on being an adorable corpsy-worpsy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:10 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Harris’s linking of cuteness and sadism applies to the famous “Hahaha” video: the baby may be cute on his own, but the clip heightens his vulnerability by presenting him more or less trapped in a high chair and reduced to a hysterical powerlessness by his father’s sly utterances of “Bing” and “Dong.” “There is something dark about using children for the pleasure of our maternal needs,” Harris says. “We enjoy being caretakers so much that we will create situations in which they need our care.”
That is interesting. It strikes me that the rising tide of Cute coincides with a spate of "creepy child" movies: Joshua, the Omen remake, Orphan, Birth, Godsend - horror stories about children who do not need our care and reduce us to hysterical powerlessness.

Not that that sort of story hasn't been around for awhile. Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos proposed evil, omnicompetent children in 1957, and Bradbury's "The Small Assassin" birthed an evil, improbably competent baby five years later. These stories keep getting told because they play off an occasional, uneasy feeling that the order reinforced by quasi-sadistic/cute Youtube videos is a lie.

Which, from a certain point of view, it is. Small children, able to construct epistemic gestalts from vanishingly little experience, are improbably intelligent. And adults are as much in the power of children as the other way around. Isn't the whole concept of Cute, of an emotional response to big eyes and short stature, a biological imposition?

So as an aesthetic celebrating adult condescension toward juvenile weakness takes hold, more and more movies appear in which the juvenile, having held the true power all along, take their revenge - as the thief dreams more vividly of the noose with every crime he commits.

Of course, if all this rumination was true, then we'd be seeing a lot more movies in which border collie pups stuffed into bumblebee costumes turn on their owners. I...huh.

[Calls agent.]
posted by Iridic at 6:10 PM on November 11, 2009


(By the way: "cute" is an American neologism, clipped from "acute" in the early 1800s. It originally meant shrewdness, intelligence, and discernment.)
posted by Iridic at 6:12 PM on November 11, 2009


(By the way: "cute" is an American neologism, clipped from "acute" in the early 1800s. It originally meant shrewdness, intelligence, and discernment.)

If the meaning moved to its current form in the 1800's, it ain't a neologism. It's darn near a paleologism.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:19 PM on November 11, 2009


Man, considering the research I've been doing on early 20th century comics by women, this article is a crock of shit.

Americans have been infatuated with cute babies in awkward situations for at least one hundred damn years--the Kewpies were invented about that long ago, and were not the first in a huge genre of comics and stories about children and puppies getting into trouble, sometimes in a troublingly violent way, often accompanied by verse.

This, then, is the difference--lolcats and the Windows 7 girl and the hahahahaha baby are not accompanied by crappy poetry. And thank God for that.
posted by Tesseractive at 6:41 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The whole stylized ultra-cute thing is a refining and reification of the instincts behind child rearing to mirror the refining and reification of the instincts behind procreation exemplified in pornography. Some day every single one of our instincts will be pandered to by a purified and exaggerated-to-the-point-of-meaningless-absurdity stylization.

Want to get horny and get off? Here is some porn. Want to get sad, and cry even though you are emotionally dead in your own personal life? Here is a tragic movie about relationships. Want to feel motherly/fatherly like you have taken care of a child? Here are cutesy pictures of baby animals. Want to feel cultured and intelligent? Here is virtualMefi where YOUR comments are the wittiest, the ones that get talked about and get the most favorites. Want to feel like you defended your tribe from competitors trying to access the same resources? Here is a shootemup ultraviolent video game. The medium incites you to the extreme of the emotion you want, and helps you resolve the emotion to a contented stupor, without engaging in any of the risks or commitments or learning experiences necessary in real life.
posted by idiopath at 7:46 PM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Aww. Baby Hitler's marching into Russia. Don't forget your hat, Baby Hitler, it's cold in Russia!
posted by klangklangston at 7:48 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


In an earlier thread about stock Asian girl photo poses I made a comment about these tropes that have transferred over to social networking sites in posted photos: Pursed lips, the rock and roll scream, the look up and to the side with wide eyes. I called it a skill of the newer generation, a type of self marketing. This is all an extension of The Pursuit Of Cute.

I hesitate to share this. After playing a show a couple of weeks ago, I was in a car making out with a girl 15 years my junior (still legal drinking age, pervs). During caesuras in kissing, when those little snippets of conversation happen, she would react with THOSE faces. Call it generational--they were off-putting. Cute, I admit, but I could sense the practiced mechanism in play.
posted by sourwookie at 11:39 PM on November 11, 2009


I called it a skill of the newer generation, a type of self marketing. This is all an extension of The Pursuit Of Cute.

I had a related bunch of thoughts a couple of years back, too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:23 AM on November 12, 2009


Aww. Baby Hitler's marching into Russia. Don't forget your hat, Baby Hitler, it's cold in Russia!

It's been done.

(Well, kinda. Sorta? Almost?)
posted by The Shiny Thing at 3:44 AM on November 12, 2009


I was sort of with her until she started mentioning suicide stats. Then I lost her train of thought. Are people killing themselves to avoid seeing one more puppy? Or are we, perhaps, snuggling puppehs to suppress the incredible urge to just end it all? Either way, I just don't see it. Correlation =/ causation and all that.

Methinks the author could use another cupcake.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:12 AM on November 12, 2009


Wow. My company hates cute. It's blocked.
posted by stormpooper at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2009


Harris’s linking of cuteness and sadism applies to the famous “Hahaha” video: the baby may be cute on his own, but the clip heightens his vulnerability by presenting him more or less trapped in a high chair and reduced to a hysterical powerlessness by his father’s sly utterances of “Bing” and “Dong.” “There is something dark about using children for the pleasure of our maternal needs,” Harris says. “We enjoy being caretakers so much that we will create situations in which they need our care.”

Okay, this guy has it alllll over MeFi in the overthinking plate of beans thing.
posted by Zinger at 6:50 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Zinger: "this guy has it alllll over MeFi in the overthinking plate of beans thing"

How well do you remember being a child? The whole "awww how cute" thing is full of sublimated sadism. Hell, even Looney-Tunes cartoons made jokes about it, it is hardly controversial.
posted by idiopath at 7:18 AM on November 12, 2009


Not terribly surprised to see this coming from Vanity Fair, even though the exaggerating/distorting/homing-in-on-a-trend-years-after-most-of-us-got-sick-of-it trope is usually found in the NYT Style section. They've almost cornered the market for making flavor-of-the-month celebrities seem much deeper and more interesting than they are or ever could be, often assisted by one of those weirdly solemn photos that Annie Liebovitz cranks out for them. The idea that someone in Iowa can get a bigger reaction from many more people by slapping a caption on a picture of a kitten must seem to Graydon Carter like some unbearable itch that he can't scratch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:36 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously? I think I read this whole line of reasoning way back in the 80s, only it was in Spy Magazine, and it was an article on "Waifs and Naifs," about the trend of adults infantilizing themselves as (the writer theorized) a way of escaping the need to be a grownup who is responsible for one's own actions/makes grownup decisions/considers consequences, etc.

Only it being the eighties, the signifiers were things like David Byrne's giant suit, Michael Jackson's wispy voice, etc., though modern signifiers of extended childhood such as oversized sweaters and doodled-on notebooks were also mentioned.

The premise that hard/threatening circumstances can correlate with a trend toward escapism in popular media is fine, sure. But I find puerile the a) exoticising/exceptionalist rhetoric about Japanese culture/WWII and b) suggestion that cuteness is a modern phenomenon.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2009


How well do you remember being a child? The whole "awww how cute" thing is full of sublimated sadism. Hell, even Looney-Tunes cartoons made jokes about it, it is hardly controversial.

I remember it quite well, and I also have three children under five. Buddy is reading waaay to much into that. Trapped? Powerlessness? Use loaded words much? C'mon. Dad found out that the sound BING! made junior laugh and grabbed the video camera.

At worst, parents are guilty of doing things to make their kids laugh because they enjoy the sound of their own children laughing and it makes them feel good.

Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.
posted by Zinger at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2009


the camera - it burns!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 3:04 PM on November 12, 2009


« Older "Dollhouse" is dead. Joss Whedon falls victim to ...  |  Phyllis Galembo: 100 Years of ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments