An infant chimpanzee, dressed in riotous checks, bowtie and braces, cradled in human arms while it regards a camera, is perhaps further from us than a tiger lurking in the deepest jungle. Anthropomorphic sentiment negates empathy, blinding us to the real animal behind the “character.” The engaging creature we imagine we’d like to hold and protect is the product, most likely, of violent separation and trauma, stolen in order to bring us this enjoyment. We read the comical face, celebrating what appear to be traces of commonality; but the eyes of the small creature are windows to a realm we cannot comprehend. By following the life of a single chimpanzee, Cobby, the oldest chimp in captivity in the USA, this paper will explore our attraction to cuteness via the lens of chimpanzees in entertainment, regarding it as an intersection of emotion and metaphor that is potentially devastating to animals. We will argue that anthropomorphic sentiment and construction misdirects empathy away from the plight of real animals, and that every animal has the right to be acknowledged as a unique individual, rather than a generic entity. Animals that have been born in captivity and, to a lesser extent, those that have been extracted from the wild in infancy, can be seen as trapped between worlds. There exists, therefore, a hybrid population of animals that lives amongst us, amnesiacs dependent upon human compassion, or conversely, prey to its absence.
Field of Research
190204 Film and Television
Socio Economic Objective
950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft)
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