Analysis: Good Animals, Evil Animals
Species Morality Coding
Many predators (whether omnivorous or carnivorous) are usually pegged as bad, mean, or evil even though most are not especially mean or aggressive in Real Life
. Most herbivores are pegged as good, friendly, or nice even though many large herbivorous mammals are especially mean and aggressive in Real Life
Sometimes, there are differences with the species' moral coding across different cultures. For example, in Western cultures, ravens are generally portrayed negatively morality coding wise, but in Pacific Northwest Native American folklore, they are Guile Hero
Sometimes, some types of animals within a larger group of animals are portrayed either more negatively or more positively morality coding wise. For example, turtles and tortoises are pegged as good guys whereas other reptiles are generally pegged as bad guys. Ravens and crows
are technically songbirds, but unlike other songbirds, they are generally pegged as bad.
Sometimes, there are differences in the moral coding of a species across different time periods. For the longest time, wolves were among the most demonized animal species, but in modern times, they can be either good or bad. Also, sperm whales were generally pegged as bad guys in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but that portrayal of sperm whales has faded away as whaling became discredited. Before people knew that gorillas were gentle animals, they were generally cast as pugnacious bad guys
Some animals are usually pegged as good despite the negative expressions and associations attributed to them. For example, skunks are usually portrayed as good despite being associated with sneakiness and the expression, "drunk as a skunk." Also, when a person is called a "dog," the label usually refers to their disloyalty, even though real dogs are loyal and fictional dogs are usually heroic or otherwise good.
With some animals that are often pegged as bad or evil, the young of the species doesn't normally follow the moral pegging often attributed to the species' adult form. For example, when humans are cast as bad guys, it is usually adults that are cast as such. Children can be cast as villains, but it's usually done as a subversion. Teens can be either/or in moral pegging. Also, adult cats are often cast as bad or mean, but kittens are usually not cast with that moral pegging. If a kitten is cast as evil, it's usually Cute Is Evil
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Species Morality Coding List
Bad Guy Species
- Alligators and especially Crocodiles (May double as Predators Are Mean)
- Birds in some cases
- Cats (though they can be good as well as nice, Good Is Not Nice, or Jerks With A Heart Of Gold as well)
- Crows (though ravens are Guile Heroes in Pacific Northwest Native American folklore).
- Ducks (though they can be either good and nice, Good Is Not Nice, Jerks With A Heart Of Gold as well, not just evil, mean, or bad)
- Gorillas (traditionally, before The Nineties)
- Humans (Like it or not, we're nearly always the villains, though children and teens are often exceptions)
- Moths, when compared to butterflies.
- Parrots (though parrots are often portrayed as either good as well as nice, Good Is Not Nice, or Jerks With A Heart Of Gold as well)
- Many Predators
- Reptiles, especially Snakes
- Sperm Whales (in the 19th and early 20th centuries)
- Weasels (ferrets aren't portrayed so negatively though)
Good Guy Species
- Rabbits and Hares
- Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons
- Big cats.
- Humans, cats, parrots, and ducks, as noted above, can be either/or as well.
- Alligators can be either/or, especially in children's books and preschool age children's TV shows.