i have never even thought about winged whales before and now that i’m thinking about it i like it
Smallpox inoculation usage throughout history:
- India: BC
- China: 1000s
- Middle East and Africa: 1200s
- Europe and Euro-America: 1700s. And even then, they learned it from the Turks and African slaves, respectively.
- 1798: Edward Jenner formally “discovers” smallpox vaccination, according to many histories.
Fair warning: there is some slight language in this post.
My name is Jonathan Ponikvar. I’m the creator of Peter & Company and an avid cartoon fan; I have been trying (successfully or not) to draw them since I first discovered the magic of crayons and markers. Like most kids in the 80’s I grew up watching a crazy amount of cartoons. My favorites were the cartoons and films of Warner Brothers, Disney, and Don Bluth, so my earliest and crappiest of doodles always revolved around those characters in some way.
As I grew older and began seriously getting into cartooning, I noticed something odd going on around me: the cartoon animal was quickly becoming an endangered species. The animal designs of the 80’s and 90’s TV cartoons were being seen less and less in modern times within the industries that they helped create.
How could this happen? Are people just no longer interested in funny talking animals?
Alfred Knopf rejected George Orwell’s Animal Farm, saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” But back then it was probably due to the (still-extant) association of animals with childishness; think of how often Noah’s Ark, for example, is still used for toys of juvenile-age decorations.
I believe, however, that this juvenilization of anthropomorphism contributes significantly, though indirectly, to the present-day taboo against animal characters. Besides the media’s sensationalism attendant to everything remotely sexual, those who see “furry” as a fetish get particular attention because they are transgressing norms of age, combining something “juvenile” (cartoons, animals) with something not (sex). These thoughts might actually be a feedback loop, too: ideas of sex can contribute to the juvenilization of animals, as only prepubescent characters are believed to possibly be interested in something other than sex, like animals. To be interested in animals after puberty is, therefore, interpreted to be interested in sex with animals—a terrible presumption. And this isn’t even getting into the complexities of whether we read anthropomorphic characters as mere human stand-ins or as characters who are actually other-than-human, an important distinction…
But I’m getting sidetracked by the interaction of social norms. To make a long story short: to interpret anthropomorphism as a fetish is to reductively sexualize it. On the contrary, anthropomorphism can be an incredibly useful storytelling device. Like the use of the future, aliens, and other worlds in science fiction, anthropomorphism can help you tell stories that people would reject were they about humans. Think about Animal Farm—a morality play about the decline of the Soviet Union from its (in Orwell’s eyes) purer founding principles— or this song from The Brave Little Toaster, which makes powerful points about life, death, and the fear of obsoletion in a way that would be much more horrifying were human bodies involved. On the other hand, using animals (or vehicles, or aliens) can merely provide visual variety and interest!
Then again, if you just like drawing animal people, that’s fine! I like mixing anatomies for fun, and that’s okay. :)
(Disclaimer: I present this as a defense of anthropomorphism and not necessarily the amorphous “furry fandom,” which is a very complicated thing about which I feel very ambivalent.)