Daschund in Top Hat

Daschund in Top Hat480
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One Essay Response

  1. Eemeli_H says:

    From deep-rooted practice to Disneyfication

    ”I didn’t mourn my wife as much as this dog.” The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (13.1.2018) tells about the work in pet crematorium: undertaker says that most difficult part of the job is to comfort the owners – or the family – of the deceased pet. For many people the pet’s death can be more hurtful than the death of a spouse.

    Rachel Tanure’s photograph depicting a dog who is dressed in a tailcoat and a top hat demonstrates humanization of animals: it is typical to give a name to a pet, speak for it as it was an individual person and a member of the family, buy it gifts and to dress it like a small human. Steve Baker (1993) calls these practices as a disneyfication: in the animated movies, animals are given a human voice and human character. Giving a personality to animal is then transferred from fiction to a real life.

    Animals wearing clothes are cute as children are. The problem might be, as Baker (1993) argues, that if an animal becomes only a skin that hides human features we may see the animal itself as worthless and uninteresting. In other words, adorning pets through humanization can lead to an un-ethical situation in which the value of animals is dependent on how sympathetic they are. Internet is full of funny lists of the ugliest animals in the world. They do not have cute names and some of them are at the brink of extinction but the resources are preferably used to rescue adorable, human-like species.

    It is easy to say that disneyfication is just a result of urbanization and a proof of distortion of our relationship with the nature. The phenomenon may have something to do with these issues: in the cities, contacts with wild or domestic animals has become rare. At the same time the relationship between owners and pets has become closer: in the small city apartments sofas, living rooms and beds have become a new habitat to cats and dogs.

    However, also in other areas than in urbanized Western countries animals are treated like family members. Loretta Cormier (2003) describes how in Guajá-tribe of Eastern Amazonia monkey cubs are nurtured and even breastfed like human children. This practice is interpreted as a sign of empathy and anthropomorphism – seeing human-like features in other species or objects. These processes have their roots far beyond urban cities and pet shops (Guthrie, 1993).

    Humanization may lead to ethical problems if the animals and their needs are seen only from the human point of view – for example if it leads to taking care of only those animals that are seen the most sympathetic. In the end we know only a little about animals’ inner life. Maybe the old phenomena of humanization and anthropomorphism are made visual and more visible today than before by marketing forces who have noticed their opportunities in the production of clothes, presents and tombstones to new four-legged family members.


    Baker, S. (1993). Picturing the beast: Animals, identity, and representation. Manchester : Manchester University Press.

    Cormier, L. A. (2003). Animism, canni¬balism, and pet-keeping among the Guajá of Eastern Amazonia. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthro¬pology of Lowland South America, 1, 79–98.

    Guthrie, S. E. (1993). Introduction, anthropomorphism in perception. In S. E. Guthrie (Ed.), Faces in the clouds: A new theory of religion, (pp.1–7). New York: Oxford Univer¬sity Press.

    Helsingin Sanomat, 13.1.2018. Viimeinen palvelus [The last service]