Animals on Screen

Today’s blogging question is how animals have been represented in various media. These have been perhaps represented as human beings. Cambridge Dictionary (2017) defines anthropomorphism as that, “the showing or treating of animals, gods, and objects as if they are human in appearance, character, or behaviour”. For instance, the famous story books ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Peter Rabbit’, and ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ are representatives of the examples of anthropomorphism (Cambridge Dictionary 2017).

As stated above, animals have been used to represent human beings. Especially animations for kids – such as ‘Zootopia’, ‘Ratatouille’ – have used animals in that way. Interestingly, USA Today (2016) argues that the animation ‘Zootopia’ reflects real-world issues. USA Today (2016) claims that one of the issued picturised by the animation is racial profiling.

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Picture 1.0. Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ (image credits: Disney)

Unlike adorable- and cute animals in ‘Zootopia’, some animals are often perceived as one that scares and slaughters humans. This is often used in films, such as ‘Jaws’ series, and ‘Jurassic Park’ series. As such movies reflect some kinds of animals as dangerous species, publics often perceive that sharks and wild bears are dangerous. However, an interesting fact is that, based on National Geographic’s Shark Attack Facts (2017), the number of people killed by sharks in 1996 was 13 while toilets injured around 43,000 Americans in the same year. According to this statistic, entering toilets should have been prohibited as these things killed numerous people. But who cares about this? Another interesting face is that, National Geographic (2017) states that, “for every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately two million sharks”. I believe that some animals – especially sharks – have been very mispresented by mainstream movies.

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Picture 2.0. JAWS Movie Poster (image credits: Universal Pictures)

Furthermore, each different animal is often represented as a good, or villain in some media. As mentioned previously, sharks are badly represented in Hollywood movies. What about animal documentaries? According to an online video uploaded by Howard (2016), a tiger that chases a deer is shown as a predator, and the deer is represented as a prey animal. I believe many people may think that the tiger is a bad creature as this thing chases and consumes the innocent- and poor prey.

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Picture 3.0. ‘National Geographic Documentary’ YouTube Video Uploaded by Gregory Howard

Like ‘Zootopia’, rabbit is often represented as a friendly- and harmless creature. ‘Cat Shit One’ is an animation that two rabbit special forces soldiers fight in battlefields. Apparently, based on the online video uploaded by IDAmovie (2011), these ‘cute’ rabbits are shown as goods, and ‘ugly’ donkeys in this animation are represented as villains holding AKM assault rifle, and RPG-7 rocket launcher.

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Picture 4.0. ‘Cat Shit One’ YouTube Video Uploaded by IDAmovie

The representations of such animals have been intended by humans, not animals. However, do you believe that we have such privileges of choosing whether or not specific kinds of animals are good or evil? Perhaps this phenomenon is relevant to speciesism. Regarding the definition of speciesism, English Oxford Living Dictionaries (2017) states that, “the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals”.

I hereby argue that such representations of animals are wrong. We know that humans have been the most dominant species on the Earth. However, does it mean that we are superior to other creatures? I do not think so. Animals also have egos that must be respected. Accordingly, I would like to say that we should respect their egos.

References

‘Anthropomorphism’ 2017, in the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, Cambridge University Press, viewed 30 March 2017, <http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/anthropomorphism>.

Howard, G 2016, Documentary National Geographic – TIGER HUNTING its FATE [Full Tiger Documentary HD], online video, 3 September, viewed 30 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd-qPUL3ND0>.

IDAmovie 2011, Cat Shit One Campaign movie, online video, 9 February, viewed 30 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8rCfB8pgKc>.

National Geographic 2017, National Geographic, viewed 30 March 2017, <http://natgeotv.com/ca/human-shark-bait/facts>.

‘Speciesism’ 2017, in English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, viewed 30 March 2017, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/speciesism>.

Truitt, B 2016, ‘’Zootopia’ animal world reflects human issues’, USA Today, 3 March, viewed 30 March, <http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/03/03/zootopia-animal-world-reflects-human-issues/81222288/>.

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Poverty Pornography

I believe that media are thirsting for public attention, and are thirsting over the pornography of poverty. Before I begin, let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard of poverty pornography? According to MATT (2009), the poverty pornography, also known as development porn, is defined as filmed- or photographed media, which exploit poverty. These are often used to create public sympathy and empathy, which are helpful in increasing charitable donations, or selling more newspapers (MATT 2009).

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Picture 1.0 – Starving boy and a missionary (image credits: Maria Teresa Santos)

This is not a new thing as there are many identifiable poverty pornographies. First, I would like to discuss about the napalm girl. I believe that this photo is one of the most famous photographs in the history of war photography. This Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, that was taken by an AP photographer Nick Ut, contains the terror of war (AP 2017). This promoted anti-Vietnam war movements in the United States during the period from 1964 to 1973.

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Picture 2.0 – Vietnam Napalm 1972 (image credits: AP Images)

Rural poverty in Africa is also often used by numerous media. Do you recognise this photograph? This photo was taken by Kevin Carter, and is also one of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs (The New York Time Company 2009). The photographer has been criticised for standing by and doing nothing. However, the truth is, he chased the vulture after taking some more photos (Rare Historical Photos 2013a). Rare Historical Photos (2013a) states that, “he took a few more photos before chasing the bird away”. Unfortunately, the South African photographer Kevin Carter committed suicide in the same year he won the Pulitzer Prize (Rare Historical Photos 2013a). Perhaps this has been criticised because not all photos tell background stories.

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Picture 3.0 – Starvation in Sudan (image credits: Kevin Carter)

And this photograph is perhaps the most well-known poverty pornography these days. The photograph is also known as the death of Aylan Kurdi (Fantz 2015). A Syrian refugee family Aylan Kurdi’s family was dreaming of a new life in a new land. Unfortunately, the dream has gone because of the miserable incident. A toddler was just two years old.

Even though the poverty pornography has been criticised, some say that the poverty pornography is necessary. The Highway of Death that was taken by Ken Jarecke during the Iraq War in 1991 is one that contains the terror of war. According to Rare Historical Photos (2013b), Ken Jarecke said that, “but if I don’t take pictures like these, people like my mom will think war is what they see in movies”. This showed very clearly why war was a terrible thing. However, according to Rare Historical Photos (2013b), the majority of American media declined to publish that photograph. This is perhaps because the American media learnt something during the Vietnam War.

As mentioned previously, some argue that the so-called poverty pornography is helpful in raising awareness about poverty, aiding poor- and miserable people, and ending poverty. However, some disagree with that. Young (1997) argues that publics would see problems rather than solutions, and they see the Third World as a place of misery. I completely agree with that. I believe that the first thought that comes to our mind when we see African countries is hunger, HIV/AIDS, and orphans instead of solutions, such as charitable donations.

How are poor- and miserable people portrayed on media? Perhaps they are misrepresented as lazy people, or terrorists. Who is identifying these people? Or is it made by themselves? Of course, I do not think so. This is created by someone looking for excessive public attention, including media, journalists, and non-government organisations (NGO). For instance, as monetary donations are somewhat important for NGOs, the organisations focus on publishing the so-called poverty pornography. Perhaps merchandising poverty is another name of the poverty pornography. What if an individual commercialises poverty so as to get any monetary benefit? I believe that Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a bad- and sick movie.

References

AP 2017, PHOTOGRAPHER NICK UT: THE NAPALM GIRL, viewed 25 March 2017, <http://www.apimages.com/Collection/Landing/Photographer-Nick-Ut-The-Napalm-Girl-/ebfc0a860aa946ba9e77eb786d46207e>.

Fantz, A 2015, ‘Syrian toddler’s dad: ‘Everything I was dreaming of is gone’’, CNN, 4 September, viewed 25 March, <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/03/europe/migration-crisis-aylan-kurdi-turkey-canada/>.

MATT 2009, What is ‘poverty porn’ and why does it matter for development?, viewed 25 March 2017, <http://aidthoughts.org/?p=69>.

Rare Historical Photos 2013a, The vulture and the little girl, viewed 25 March 2017, <http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/vulture-little-girl/>.

Rare Historical Photos 2013b, The Death of an Iraqi soldier, Highway of Death, 1991, viewed 25 March 2017, <http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/dont-photograph-people-like-mom-will-think-war-see-tv-gulf-war-1991/>.

The New York Time Company 2009, why didn’t he help the little girl, they asked, viewed 25 March 2017, <http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/04/15/arts/15jaar_CA0.ready.html>.

Young, E 1997, ‘Strategies of Public Engagement’, in Strategies of Public Engagement, McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp. 155-172.

Selfie

Before I begin, let me ask you some questions: How often do you take selfies? Are you a social network connoisseur? Personally, I do not like to take selfies. And I am not a big fan of social network service. I would prefer to use instant messengers (e.g. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp) rather than social network platforms.

As of today, almost everyone – especially Generation Y and Z – knows what selfie is. According to English Oxford Living Dictionaries (2017), selfie, also known as Selfy, is defined as a photography that a person has taken of himself or herself with media devices (especially a digital camera, smartphone, or webcam), and is usually posted on various social network platforms (SNS), including Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Other than the definition of selfie mentioned above, I define selfie as one that portrays one’s physical attractiveness.

As shown in Picture 1.0, according to the state of this picture, this photo seems to have gone through countless years. Since the invention of camera (for your information, the first camera was designed by Johann Zahn in 1685), the first selfie has known to be ‘Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait’ (The Public Domain Review 2017). According to the Public Domain Review (2017), this first selfie was taken by Robert Cornelius in 1839.

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Picture 1.0 – The First Selfie in the World (a copyright has expired – the public domain)

Of course, many selfie connoisseurs are interested in taking pictures of themselves. Over the last few years, selfie has become a global phenomenon, especially in the digital context. As this has become one of the today’s hottest trends, we can easily see other’s selfies on many social network platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and dating applications (e.g. Tinder). But one thing I am concerned about is an act of distorting reality. Undoubtedly, everyone wants to be seen as attractive (cute, beautiful, or handsome). For instance, using Photoshop tools or Snapchat filters. However, can one argue that a person portrayed in a selfie is him or her? Perhaps when one’s reality is portrayed differently in a photography, that one in the selfie may not be the same one.

I believe selfie culture is somewhat related to digital narcissism. According to Back et al. (2010), a narcissist prefers to be exhibitionistic, and is highly concerned with his or her physical appearance. Keen (2012) defines digital narcissism as a self-promotional obsession driven by one’s needs to generate his or her own fame to the digital context. Like I said, an act of posting selfies on SNSs is related to narcissism – Sorokowski et al. (2015) argue that such selfie posting behaviour is related to narcissism, especially amongst men. For instance, uploading a handsome looking photo as one’s Facebook- or Instagram profile picture.

Another interesting fact is that selfies could cause mental health problems. Donnelly (2016) states that taking selfies may trigger mental illness, such as anxiety and depression, as selfie culture puts massive pressures on girls (especially young women), according to a research on mental illness. I assume that this problem is caused by superficialism. Perhaps this is a result of peer pressure (or social pressure) amongst women.

As written above, I personally agree with those arguments: people taking selfies seemed to be narcissistic. Of course, loving oneself is not a bad thing. However, I really cannot understand those who exaggerates his or her portrayal identity by using image editing utilities, such as Adobe Photoshop. This so-called behaviour is, perhaps, ‘selfie addiction’. People do better consider #Shameless_Selfie.

References

Back, MD, Stopfer, JM, Vazire, S, Gaddis, S, Schmukle, SC, Egloff, B & Gosling, SD 2010, ‘Facebook Profiles Reflect Actual Personality, Not Self-Idealization’, Psychological Science, no. 3, p. 372.

Donnelly, L 2016, ‘Young women ‘highest mental health risk’ as ‘selfie’ culture heaps pressure’, The Telegraph, 29 September, viewed 17 March, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/29/one-in-four-young-women-suffering-from-mental-health-problems-as/>.

Keen, A 2012, Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us, St. Martin’s Press, NY.

Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait: The First Ever “Selfie” 2017, The Public Domain Review, viewed 16 March 2017, <https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/robert-cornelius-self-portrait-the-first-ever-selfie-1839/>.

‘Selfie’ 2017, in English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, viewed 16 March 2017, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/selfie>.

Sorokowski, P, Sorokowska, A, Oleszkiewicz, A, Frackowiak, T, Huk, A & Pisanski, K 2015, ‘Selfie posting behaviors are associated with narcissism among men’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 85, pp. 123-127.