Awww... such a pwecious subversion of boundaries
August 7, 2019 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How to explain the pervasive power of cute? What accounts for the persistence of Pokemon, Minions, emojis, depressed egg characters, fingerless Japanese kitties as a phenomenon? Is it the cuteness response that draws out our natural tendency to protect and nuture? Or is it a bit darker, fudging familiar boundaries like childhood and adulthood, or a play to subvert our own sense of power?
posted by cross_impact (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Or is it a bit darker, fudging familiar boundaries like childhood and adulthood, or a play to subvert our own sense of power?

Narrator: It wasn't.

I can't express how much I do not like this article. It's everything I cringe at from academic circles.

"Cute is above all a teasing expression of the unclarity, uncertainty, uncanniness and the continuous flux or ‘becoming’ that our era detects at the heart of all existence, living and nonliving."

No.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:40 AM on August 7, 2019 [15 favorites]


I've heard a theory that since human babies are rather ugly, to prevent us from abandoning them at the roadside in horror, the "find the cuteness" factor in our brains is turned up very, very high, with the result that we find not only human babies cute but anything remotely babylike, ranging from animations to nonspecies babies such as kittens.

Personally, I think this has it backwards. I believe that we were genetically engineered as a servitor species for cats, and we find our own young pleasing because of their vague resemblance to kittens.
posted by kyrademon at 12:30 PM on August 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


we find not only human babies cute

who’s this “we” character you’re talking about
posted by invitapriore at 12:51 PM on August 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure I buy the speculations in the last Aeon article either. I'm more in the "cuteness inspires a caring response and that's why it endures" camp.

I also never considered the Koons Balloon Dogs as an exemplar of "cute."
posted by cross_impact at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


In the spring I co-taught an architecture honors studio that dealt (in part) with the issue of cuteness. We relied on the wonderful book "Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting" by Sianne Ngai. It's great if you're curious.
posted by hilberseimer at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


I can't express how much I do not like this article. It's everything I cringe at from academic circles.

"Cute is above all a teasing expression of the unclarity, uncertainty, uncanniness and the continuous flux or ‘becoming’ that our era detects at the heart of all existence, living and nonliving."


It gets a lot better if you imagine Werner Herzog saying it.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:54 PM on August 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


"I also never considered the Koons Balloon Dogs as an exemplar of "cute."

That's a weird take. His Balloons are like a monument to gross excess. Nothin' cute about him or his work, if it were a movie it'd be horror.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:14 AM on August 8, 2019


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