Cuteness: Nature or Nurture?

Little by little, button nose by button nose, furry paw by furry paw, scientists are getting to the root of what it means to be cute, says the New York Times. Studies show that we are genetically predisposed for paedomorphism, that is “extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness and need.”

If scientists see our love for pandas or desire to lash stuffed animals to the front of garbage trucks as predetermined, Daniel Harris, in his Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic depicts cuteness as a vastly successful capitalist ploy to reframe life into the infantile and nonthreatening. To make toys for children, we amputate the paws of bears, extract their teeth, and sew their mouths shut. Children become docile cherubs and sex becomes innocent. In its dark vision of a society reduced to furry worship, Harris’s book is brilliant. The Times article above tempers it, allowing us to better grasp this complex phenomenon. See also the wikipedia entry for “cute” before you descend into cute overload.

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