What is cuteness? It seems to be a form of beauty, but there's much more to it. And this isn't about the occasional romantic usage of "cute" as something like "sexy", this is about the general usage of the word, applied to children and childish things, to small animals (but never to big ones? hmm), and especially cats. Considering that the epitome of cuteness, in the mind of almost everyone, seems to be kittens, what can we infer about the nature of this feeling?

Two of its core factors seem to be an intense power relationship and a lack of sincere rapport.

The epitome example, cats, are small, weak and dependent on us, and are unable to speak to us at all (and nor do most of us imagine that they have anything similar to our thoughts). Their primary interaction is... cuddling and exchanging meaningless sounds, and nothing more. The next example, children, are small and weak and dependent on adults, and while we acknowledge they have the same type of consciousness as us, their thoughts and communication are so much less sophisticated than ours that our interaction is generally devoid of sincere rapport.

I cannot imagine that I would experience this feeling toward a creature with as much power over me as I had over it, or physically weak but with a mind similar to mine.

Finally note how it never applies to dead or unanthropomorphic things. Inanimate objects such as stuffed animals and drawings are only cute because of their resemblance to alive things. A dead cat is not cute, and I'm not convinced that that's only because it's tragic. An inanimate and easily controllable object is not cute.

Cuteness is most accurately characterized by the reduction of a conscious being to a helpless toy, something valued for its body and occasionally its primitive, ignorant behavior, but having no agency. Isn't this quite disturbing?



This page was last modified 2021-12-03 00:10 (UTC).

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