Created By: komodosp on January 4, 2013

Personified Animal Paradox

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When animals are personified or depicted as humans or sentient beings, it presents a problem. How do you distinguish between the appropriate behaviour and morals of humans and animals? Should all carnivores or omnivores be considered evil (therefore to include humans)? Are there any actual "animal" animals - i.e. ones that would be kept as pets? Should animals have to live like their unintelligent real life counterparts?

For example in Maus, Jews are depicted as Mice, while Nazis are depicted as Cats. However, one panel has one of the Jews with a photograph of his pet cat!

In The Lion King, lions are (with one exception) are the good guys, but carnivores. And while there are vague references to hunting and the food chain, the only lion shown actually attempting to eat another animal is Scar, the bad guy.

In Chicken Run, chickens are sentient beings, yet it seems perfectly acceptable to the outside world to harvest them for food.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • January 4, 2013
    Some of the issues raised here are already discussed under Carnivore Confusion
  • January 4, 2013
    See Furry Confusion first.
  • January 4, 2013
    It's become common in comic strips in recent years for sentient animals to meet the following criteria: they're able to speak, use their front paws as hands, be at least partially bipedal and to have roughly a human child's intelligence; but otherwise they still have the mental characteristics of animals, and their status is that of dependents living under a caretaker. Basically imagine a monkey that can speak but isn't actually any smarter than a real monkey. Get Fuzzy and Buckles are two good examples.
  • January 6, 2013
    Sapient Pets are often subject to this trope.
  • January 11, 2013
    • Many, if not most of the animals Looney Tunes are able to speak, use their front paws or wings as hands, are largely or totally bipedal, and have human-level intelligence, but they deal with many of the things their species normally deals with in real life. For example, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck get hunted by Elmer Fudd and Sylvester and Tweety are Sapient Pets owned by Granny.
  • January 14, 2013
    • Like the Looney Tunes example, most of the animals In Tom And Jerry are able to speak (except the titular characters), use their front paws or wings as hands, are largely or totally bipedal, and have human-level intelligence, but they deal with many of the things their species normally deals with in real life. Many cartoons have Tom, Spike, and even Jerry be Sapient Pets, but many also have them be full-fledged Funny Animals
  • January 16, 2013
    Western Animation

    The dog Brian on Family Guy is played for laughs by having some human traits (talking intelligently, driving a car, dating and having casual sex with human women, etc.), and some dog traits (being afraid of running vaccuum cleaners, barking at his mirror reflection or other dogs, rubbing his butt on the floor, eating garbage or vomit, etc.).
  • January 16, 2013
    ^ okay, how do you do the bracket-link thing with single-word tropes?
  • January 16, 2013
    Just put double curly brackets around the word Squick: Squick
  • January 16, 2013
    Ah, there we go. Thanks.
  • February 13, 2013
    This trope occurs a lot to anthropomorphic animals that talk, walk on two legs, and act like humans play either mostly "animal" roles or a mix of "animal" and "human" roles. For an example of the latter, if an animal character holds a job or career like a human, but still plays its species' role in the ecosystem. Another example is a chicken that lives in a chicken coop, but one that has "human" home amenities.
  • February 14, 2013
    As pointed out, there are already several tropes that deal with various paradoxes related to sapient animals:

    I don't see why a new trope page would be needed, unless it's simply an index page for the various paradoxes.
  • May 15, 2013

    In the Nick TV show based on Beatrix Potter's stories, Peter Rabbit, many of the animals wear varying levels of clothing, and all the animals except Mr. McGregor's cat talk, but the animals still keep their species role in the food chain and ecosystem. Mr. Tod the fox is a nicely dressed Barefoot Cartoon Animal and runs on two legs, but he is still chased out of Mr. McGregor's vegetable garden in the same way an ordinary fox would.
  • June 15, 2013
    Also, all the animals in Peter Rabbit except for Old Brown the owl (who lives in a nest), Jemima Puddleduck (who lives in a chicken coop), and Mr. MGregor's cat live in houses sized for their species. Ginger the cat and Pickles the dog own a shop together. Old Brown is no more anthropomorphic than Mr. MGregor's cat, but the owl is at least able to talk. Peter, Benjamin, Lily the rabbits, Mr. Tod the fox, and Tommy Brock the badger are shown to like foods that their species in real life would like. For example, Tommy Brock collets earthworms to eat and Mr. Tod tries relentlessly to catch the three main rabbit characters for food.

    This trope could be for personified animal paradoxes that don't fit in either Furry Confusion, Lets Meet The Meat, Carnivore Confusion, or Furry Denial.
  • June 15, 2013
    I agree with Tuomas: There isn't really anything new in this "trope" of yours.