Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Anthropomorphized Pets

A new study conducted by Pertwee University, just outside of London, finds that house pets, once the most anthropomorphized set of living beings on Earth, are now running second. The last time P.U. studied this phenomenon was 1975. At that time, the top three looked like this (figures represent the percentage of 1,050 respondents who admitted to having engaged in at least two act related to the group in the preceding twelve months):

House pets: 67%
Zoo animals: 43%
Genitalia (own): 41%

The past thirty years, however, have seen a shift in these figures, and Dr. Jon McGann, the sociologist in charge of both studies, believes he has an explanation. "Fewer people keep pets in our increasingly urbanized society," he told a reporter from the Daily Mirror Guardian, "and owners are not spaying and neutering as frequently. The increase in wild births among pet breeds is only being kept in check by a corresponding increase in motor vehicles to run the strays over, and no one wants to see 'Fluffy' as anything but a random animal stuck in the roundabout."

The latest numbers show not only a change, but a startling shift:

On-camera talent: 87%
House pets: 34%
Sports figures: 33%

The increase in films such as Bend it Like Beckham and Miracle, many released by Disney, one of the original promoters of anthropomorphized animals in mass media, has contributed to the surge in the third-ranked group. Color commentators, of course, are still more often commenting on what "heart" or "intelligence" sports figures have, leading many unwary viewers to conclude that the comments refer to real people.

More disturbing is the idea that characters such as Tom Cruise, Giovanni Ribisi, Leah Remini, and Jenna Elfman are real people. Critics, in reviewing the film and television products containing these and others, refer to talent (or lack thereof, in some cases), interpretive skill, or other qualities rarely found among Scientologists, or indeed much of any being directly involved in the entertainment industry. McGann finds this disturbing: "Fewer and fewer people are able to distinguish fact from fiction anymore. Coming in a close fourth were Texans with the last name Bush." That's OK, Dr. Pertwee, few have ever claimed that anyone meeting those criteria qualifies as human, but with all the coverage a couple of them have had in the last couple decades, I can understand the confusion.

While I found this study disturbing (my wife and I do, in fact, refer to our cats as our "girls," even attributing human traits to their behavior), I will be interested in the results of the follow-up. McGann is preparing his assistant, Majorie Buckley, to take over care of the project, though he hopes that she will not need 30 years to find 1050 people willing to participate.


At 9:59 AM, Blogger academic coach said...

I find it sad that genitalia have fallen off the list.


Post a Comment

<< Home