Sometimes there are things (living and inanimate) that are cute, preternaturally so, but which also have some aspect that is perturbing, or to use the popular vernacular, an aspect that will cause you to, like, freak out.
One good example of this phenomenon is a little episode which occurred recently, where an initially adorable scene was, upon closer inspection, revealed to be horrifying, in a kind of “Twilight Zone” -esque twist. I was in my backyard around dusk when I heard the cry of a baby animal. I knew that it must have been coming from the attic of a small shed that sits in a neighbour’s yard, which backs up right against our fence. The attic area has a large hole in the back wall that various animals have chewed away, so that the inside of the shed, between a platform and the roof, is visible, giving us a view into what has become a favored living quarters for different species of mamas and their new litters. The heartbreaking cry turned my attention towards the shed where I noticed there was a cute little baby raccoon, probably crying out for its absent mother, dusk being a natural time for raccoons to seek food. I walked over to the shed to get a closer look at the little guy when the horror suddenly dawned on me; the baby raccoon had no eyes! Nothing, not even closed eyelids or injured eyes. Blindy, (as I dubbed him) just had smooth, unblemished fur across his face, with not even a hint of of a mark or indent where the eyes should have been. The title of the post should give you a good idea what happened next; I kind of freaked out. I felt so helpless and sad for Blindy. Fortunately, its mother soon returned and they cooed and chattered happily upon their reunion. I never saw Blindy again. But I’m still kind of freaked, though.
And so it is with that in mind that I present to you, my dear reader, a few things Ive purchased recently, that have had the same sort of effect. These darling little objects reveal, upon closer examination, an aspect that is somehow off , like a sweet candy with an aftertaste of..the flavor is…it tastes like freaking out.
The first object is another cute animal that is freaky because of its eyes. Only in this case, the odd part is not that the eyes are missing, but rather what their presence tells us. It is a small vintage, ceramic figure of a dog, a dog that takes the expression “puppy eyes” to an almost uncomfortable level:
Its cute, adorable even, but why is this dog so sad? The look in its eyes is so heartbreaking as to suggest something terribly wrong, am I right here? Is this some sort of a tchotchke of an abused dog? What kind of a person would want a figurine around that is this depressing? Is it cold? Hungry? Scared? Neglected? Is this pitiful and pathetic expression just a cheap excuse for sentiment, the kind of pull at the old heartstrings, “Precious Memories” , “Hang in there Baby” ploy that guilts you into buying some trifle? Because if it is, it worked on me, and this little guy sits joylessly on my shelf, making me sad, every time I look at it.
Keeping with the theme of freaky eyes, we will turn to another “cutesy” image with a dark side, only this time it involves that other category of little critters that will pee on your rug: children! This is a sweet little set of pencil leads I purchased at Value Village:
I picked these up because of the great graphics and colours on the package; I love the peach background bordered by white dots, and the rosy-cheeked children holding a banner that says “pencil leads” is, to me, a marvel of graphic design. But, look closer at the kids faces. Was the artist that created these trying to make a comment on the dangers of lead exposure to young children? Or am I grasping at straws here to try to create some esoteric connection between a bunch of crazy crap I bought? Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, lets take a closer look at what I’m blathering on about here:
They are pretty sweet, with their little bows at hat, but why are their eyes going lizard-like in two directions? According to the internet, mental retardation is one of the effects of lead poisoning in children. This package seems to be covertly disseminating anti lead messages. But this is one piece of propaganda those fat cats over at ” Big Lead” wont be able to suppress…because I’m hanging this little graphic masterpiece on my wall.
That last paragraph is a perfect segue into another item containing a cute representation of a deformed child. The girl on the package for this “Bath Glove” seems a rather cruel choice of subject, considering her anatomy would preclude her from even using this particular product. In fact, the girl illustrated seems to be wearing a modified version of the product in question. Also, although she is illustrated in a demure pose with her hands across her chest, she still somehow fails to preserve her modesty. The sophisticated colour scheme and cute illustration will distract you at first from what I’m talking about:
The rest of the drawing was going so good, but it seems like whoever made this just gave up when it came time to do the hands, and just put a blob of a mitt on the end of one arm (remember, this is supposed to be a bath glove) and some weird flipper thing on the other. Now, I don’t mean to be pedantic, and granted, there are five appendages there, but just scribbling them all in there does not make a hand. But I guess the makers of this cheap “Bath Glove” did something right, considering I bought it, wrote about it, and will probably keep it for the rest of my life.
And so, to bring this post full circle, back to where we started, on the topic of raccoons, I present this last item, a photograph from a Snow White on ice performance, circa 1950s. This was part of a set of publicity photos depicting a revue containing a medley of popular stories, performed on ice. This particular photo shows Snow White, surrounded by some performers in animal costumes, including a raccoon.
And perhaps this is just some sort of psychological projection that reveals more about my paranoia than anything, but if you ask me, those animals look pretty sinister:
It’s no wonder that children are often seen crying in pictures next to costumed characters like this. And for us adults, I think the movie Donny Darko has probably ruined us for ever again seeing people dressed in giant animal costumes as cute , especially rabbits.
Well I hope you have enjoyed another episode of picking apart commercial products and old ephemera down to the minutest of detail, Miss Lady Heart style. Next time you see something cute, take a closer look, and if you think about it too much, you can probably freak yourself out with it too!
Dog Figurine, Pencil Leads and Bath Glove purchased at Value Village, 6415 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC