For countless generations, people have found it entertaining to give non-humans human traits. This practice, known as anthropomorphism, has deep roots in human civilization. The notion of anthropomorphism has attracted and interested people of all ages and cultures, from ancient gods and goddesses to current children’s movies and literature. Latest years have seen a rise in the prevalence of anthropomorphic figures in media and advertising due to their success in connecting with target demographics.
In this article, we’ll learn about the background of anthropomorphism, discuss its relevance, and analyze its many media applications. Using anthropomorphism can blur the border between reality and a work of fiction.
Anthropomorphism: A Brief History
The practice of anthropomorphism, or attributing human traits to things that are not human, is deeply rooted in human society. Humanoid bodies with animal heads were common in ancient Egyptian depictions of their gods. On the other hand, Greeks and Romans had Zeus, Athena, and Mars, among other anthropomorphic deities. Animals in fables and folklore are often endowed with human traits and used to illustrate moral teachings, an example of an anthropomorphic device.
During the Middle Ages, anthropomorphism flourished in literature, most notably in the bestiary genre. Most bestiaries also offered a moral or religious message in addition to their animal descriptions. Animals were given human characteristics and actions to represent good and evil in these texts. Aesop’s Fables and the Brothers Grimm’s stories are two examples of Renaissance and later literature that maintain this tradition of giving animals human traits.
Anthropomorphism also contributed to the growth of contemporary scientific understanding. Naturalists were among the first to examine animals and create taxonomies based on their appearance during the Enlightenment. Yet by giving these creatures human-like traits and feelings, they made zoology more appealing to the general people and completed the study of animals more widely known.
Anthropomorphism flourished throughout the 20th century’s media, especially animation and children’s literature. Example: Walt Disney’s anthropomorphic creatures Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Winnie the Pooh have all achieved iconic status in popular culture.
Several media types, from movies and books for kids to commercials and consumer goods, still use anthropomorphism today. It’s still an effective tool for developing believable protagonists and antagonists and breaking difficult concepts into easily digestible chunks.
Use of Anthropomorphism in Movies
Characteristics often associated with humans are ascribed to things that aren’t human. It’s a common method filmmakers employ to make their characters more approachable and interesting to the audience. These are a few instances of anthropomorphism from various films:
Toy Story (1995)
This film depicts a world where toys come to life and play with one another while people are not around. The toys have complex identities, feelings, and interpersonal dynamics that mirror those of real people. Woody, a cowboy toy, and Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger action figure, play the lead roles.
The Lion King (1994)
Characters in this film are based on real-life African creatures, such as lions, zebras, meerkats, and more. They interact with one another, have emotions, and have distinct personalities, much like people. The protagonist, Simba, matures through the story’s events and gains wisdom from his father and the other animals.
WALL-E is the name of the primary robot in this film; he lives on a desolate Earth after some catastrophe. WALL-E may be a machine, but he has feelings and a character of his own. He meets and falls for EVE, another robot, and together they go on a mission to preserve humanity.
In this film’s other reality, animals have developed the capacity to participate fully in human civilization. Among other anthropomorphized animals, rabbits, foxes, and lions portray law enforcement officials, criminals, and other professionals. Everything in their actions, expressions, and words is very human-like.
Finding Nemo (2003)
In this film, characters like Nemo, a youthful clownfish, and Dory, a prim blue tang fish, are anthropomorphized fish. They act and behave in ways familiar to us as humans, and their personalities are similar to ours. They interact socially by, among other things, talking to one another and displaying feelings.
The usage of anthropomorphism in the film is widespread, and here are just a few examples of how it’s done.
To summarize, anthropomorphism has a long and illustrious history encompassing many different civilizations, faiths, and creative practices. Even from the time of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and up to the present day in children’s novels and movies, people have been interested in the concept of supernatural beings who share many of our human characteristics and feelings. In literature, art, and popular culture, anthropomorphism has been used to teach moral and theological teachings, increase interest in studying zoology, and develop interesting protagonists and antagonists. It is an effective means of conveying information since it simplifies otherwise difficult concepts for a wide audience. That’s why it’s so integral to the human experience that it’s likely to last for generations.
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