Humans, being as prejudiced as we are, tend to only like certain animals. Oh, how our dog smiles and plays! Oh, how our cat rolls on the rug asking for a tummy rub! Oh, how the hamster stuffs his chubby little cheeks! Oh, how pretty the Mute Swan is as he glides across the pond! Oh, how the Coelacanth... is a boring old fish.
You may have noticed that only cute, cuddly, and cool animals are good guys while unpopular or unattractive animals are brought in to be the Designated Villains. This usually plays into the "Carnivores are Mean" subtrope of Carnivore Confusion. Wolves were cast as baddies for centuries. Owls and hawks and corvids basically exist to drop down on our cuter protagonists from the 'bove. Wasps and termites are mini villains and the evil twins of bees and ants. Rats and weasels are the go-to pocket-sized villains. Friendly sharks pretty much exist only as a subversion. Don't even ask about snakes. The heroes, on the other hand, will be cute or cool animals like doggies and kitties and bunnies and duckies and turtles and froggies and ladybugs and bees and ants and monkeys and friendly playful dolphins and Reticulated Chipmunks and blah. Wolves and Foxes, and Lions and other big cats can be heroes as well because their babies are cute and thus remind people of puppies and kittens, and the adults look Bad Ass. All butterflies are marked "Cute", even those you won't like to see in your garden. Spiders and bats are marked "Mean" even though they usually don't bother humans at all and even devour lots of annoying and dangerous insects. And if you'll encounter an Antlion in the role of horrible predator, its adult form is not likely to appear in next scenes (it looks like a cute, pretty dragonfly). For any animals not in this short list, it's usually divided into:
Some fiction goes even further, casting only cute, cuddly, and cool animals - ugly and unpopular animals tend to be non anthropomorphic or outright absent.
It should be noted that which animals get to be considered cute/cool or the opposite tends to vary by culture. For example, foxes are generally cute or roguish in America, mean in some parts of Europe and Magnificent Bastard types in others, magical tricksters in Japan, and Ax-Crazy evil in Korea. Rats are portrayed as vermin in the western world, but are revered in India and is the first of twelve animals that represent the years on the Chinese Zodiac.
Another factor may be the animal's size and/or place in human society. For example, both Mice and Rats can be cute, but they can get a bad rap because they're commonly household pests. Even then, the tiny Mice are likely to be portrayed more positivelythan the larger Rats. Consequently; if a Cat is chasing Mice, the Cat is often portrayed as the villain, but a Cat chasing rats is usually the hero.
Whatever the case may be, if you happen to think any of the animals in the "Designated Villains" list are cute and/or cool, you are a weirdo in the eyes of the Pop Culture Gods.
It is worth noting that there are some exceptions to this rule, because perceived slyness and/or cunning are often important determining factors along with cuteness. Rats and ferrets, for example, are almost always portrayed as mean and/or evil, even though they are small and fuzzy. However, mice, who appear nice or mostly harmless quite a bit, are commonly thought to be unable to think their way out of a wet paper bag. For this reason, though cats are indisputably adorable, they are often seen as mean or a villain's pet.
This trope is pervasive enough that simply associating a human character with a certain animal or, in fantastic fiction, giving him the features of an animal can immediately peg him as good or bad.
In extreme cases, this can start to look like the animal equivalent of Fantastic Racism. And if you know anything about actual animal behavior, it's a lot easier to say They Just Didn't Care most of the time. Where are the wise crows, easygoing iguanas, relentless, all-consuming caterpillars, mean, aggressive hippos, gentle gorillas, murderous doves, Ax-Crazy chimpanzees, bullying swans, suicidal deer, ad infinitum?
This trope is Truth in Television and a major problem in wildlife preservation, with animals that appeal to humans termed charismatic megafauna. It doesn't matter if, like the aforementioned Coelacanth, you've survived damn near everything else the world can throw at you; if you aren't generally thought of as cute by most people, you're in serious trouble. Few people really care about ugly or unpopular animals, regardless of their ecological importance.
The Coelacanth example can also lead us towards the subtrope Prehistoric Monster, about the whole extinct animal ensemble, which often receives in media the same treatment as modern-day non-cutes (if not worse).
The Uncanny Valley is somewhat related, as it was born from the scientific study of this trope. It often cross-pollinates with Beauty Equals Goodness, Animal Stereotypes, Carnivore Confusion, and What Measure Is a Non-Human?. See also Ugly Cute, Bat out of Hell, Bug War, Ominous Owl, Reptiles Are Abhorrent, You Dirty Rat, and Always Chaotic Evil. Contrast Dark Is Not Evil, Light Is Not Good, Tastes Like Diabetes, and Grotesque Cute. This trope also applies to humans and is often the deciding factor of who gets to be the Face of the Band. This trope is pervasive enough that the Killer Rabbit, Evil Duck, and some of the Bad Kitties exist to subvert it. Time period and location seem to affect public opinion of mustelids, as shown by the contrasting tropes Weasel Mascot and Wicked Weasel.
Incidentally, we are very happy to report that since this trope was launched, it turns out that many Tropers have a soft-spot for unpopular creatures. And do enjoy the blog Endangered Ugly Things.
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In what was probably a deliberate Viral Marketing campaign, Ford "accidentally" leaked two SportKa ads onto the Internet. One depicted a pigeon getting squashed by the car's hood, and the other depicted a cat being decapitated by the car's sun roof. Guess which one sparked protests. To be fair, getting whacked by a car's hood looked quick and painless compared to slow decapitation. So there might be reasons to protest the latter.
Anime and Manga
Applied uncomfortably in Bubblegum Crisis. In the first episode the Knight Sabers are sent after a man and a small girl. They go to some lengths trying to rescue the kid, but it turns out she and the man were both Boomers, and she was taken out by a Kill Sat. The Knight Sabers promptly tell the company not to make Boomers that look like kids. To be fair, the KidWasThe Remote Control for said Kill Sat, and called that strike on herself when she found that out. Considering the blast sank a floating arcology, the Sabers really couldn't do much about it other than get out of the firing line.
She didn't call it down, Frederick-Boomer did; that's what those closeups of the cables going into her ankles were supposed to mean, that he was using her fire control systems to try to take the Knight Sabers down with him. Hence her calling out 'Help me!' right before it fires; she couldn't stop him.
This is the point; the manga especially challenges viewers by making the characters sympathetic and cute, but then you have to contrast this with the fact that they are living weapons. The dichotomy even begins to take its toll on their handlers after a while.
A cyborg is a living creature with some mechanical parts, so they would look human regardless. Also, potentially dangerous things can still be cute. The fact that they could be really destructive doesn't mean it contradicts.
Watch the summons fighting in Naruto. Notice how animals like dogs and toads usually get beat up or, worst-case scenario, stabbed. Now notice how things like spiders, bees and centipedes get crushed, mutilated, or turned to pulp. If you consider that they all have at least some sapience since they can form contracts, then the Jiraya/Pain fight where the former snaps all the joints of the latter's giant crab is downright cringe-worthy.
This is actually not true for all summons. One of Tsunade's most prominent is a giant acid-spitting slug that splits off and forms smaller slugs Asteroids Monster style yet is apparently one of the quietest and most docile summons compared to Jiraiya's toad, Gamabunta, and Orochimaru's snake, Manda. In addition Anko, who was one of Orochimaru's test subjects, can also summon snakes which she used to help the protagonists a few times, and Temari once summoned a giant scythe carrying weasel to defeat one of Orochimaru's minions.
A few summons the bad guys use are animals you wouldn't normally consider evil or threatening. Danzo, one of the villains partly responsible for the Uchiha massacre, had a giant taper-like creature to increase his wind techniques.
Subverted in Paranoia Agent, where the cute cartoon dog Maromi turns out to be the villain of sorts, if he can be called that, precisely because he is cute, and people love him, causing their collective stress to turn into a blob monster that destroys Tokyo once he disappears.
Pokémon: In general, most remotely sinister-looking Pokémon, like Arbok and Murkrow, play antagonistic roles in the series, whereas all the "cute" ones are usually on the good side. This is deconstructed in "Island of the Giant Pokemon" where the Rocket trio's Pokemon tell their side of the story.
Averted in Fullmetal Alchemist. You have chimeras of humans crossed with lizards, dogs, bulls, snakes, porcupines, frogs, gorillas, and lions. Cuteness doesn't turn out to be a factor in goodness. Though, it may be argued none of the typically cute or cool animals are depicted as very cute in this form.
Averted with the Ohmu in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which despite being fearsome gargantuan bugs, are by peaceful by nature and only attack when provoked. They are also highly empathetic and caring beings. Despite their monstrous appearance, they still end up being cute. It helps that they are based on pill bugs.
Explicitly invoked in Hack Slash: Trailers'' #2, when Cassie and Vlad are overwhelmed by Hobs, furry little Gremlins-likeExplosive Breeders who multiply when wet and have a "violent allergy" to candy. When Chris reveals what they are and how to stop them from multiplying, they attack, and Cassie's unwilling to just take them out with her baseball bat because "We don't kill cute." So Chris tells her about their "allergy", which it turns out results in the creatures turning red and scaly, instantly eliminating Cassie's reluctance to slaughter them.
In Discworld, the fic Nature Studies deals with the Animal Management Unit at the Guild of Assassins, where an animal (or plant) species has to be seriously non-cute just to be considered for selection. The Assassins prize animals for other reasons than cute; they have to be professionally interesting. Although Johanna and the girl students are female enough to consider cute is a bonus. There are some definitely non-cute animals hiding in post boxes in Ankh-Morpork as a result of the Post Office mis-applying its enthusiasm... (see Making Money)
This is one of the main contentions about The Conversion Bureau: Readers who would stand against the Mind Rape, xenocide and assimilation of humanity were the perpetrators orcs or lizards or beastmen or other stereotypically ugly sorts instead support it because cute ponies are the ones doing the "conversion".
Films — Animated
Wall E averts this: Early on in the movie, WALL•E encounters a cockroach, which quickly becomes his pet. Strangely, however, the cockroach is stylized such that it has no visible head.
Averted in The Secret Of NIMH, where rats can be both villains and heroes. For instance, Justin is about as convincingly handsome and dashing a hero as you can ever make a rat (there is a reason why "Everyone is Furry for Justin"). The owl is frightening in appearance, but helpful. And is there anyone as adorable as Jeremy the crow?
Lampshaded in Ratatouille. Remy's major struggle is the fact that humans think rats are gross; the movie shows them as just mischievous. A bonus short on the DVD cheekily acknowledges the relationship between humans and rats throughout history; they do have a history of carrying fleas that spread disease, but rats in and of themselves are actually pretty fastidious.
Leave it to Shark Tale to get really confusing about this. To the fish population of the Reef, Lenny the Shark is scary as a shark, but cuddly and safe when he disguises himself as a dolphin. Just so we're clear, dolphins eat fish too — but they're cute! (This led to a few reviewers reading a stronger metaphor into it...) Funny thing, is, the movie actually uses this, when Oscar tries to subvert I Have Your Wife by having Lenny fake eating his girlfriend. The "attack" appears to be just as quick and almost as savage as...well, a shark attack.
Finding Nemo: The good guys are colorful tropical fish. They're threatened by ugly, drably-colored predators with sharp teeth who don't talk. And then there's the sharks, who try to go vegan, but old habits die hard. Interestingly, they do reference the hypocrisy of humans who think dolphins are cuter than sharks.
Done both straight and subverted in A Bugs Life. On the one hand, the heroes are ants and a circus troupe which includes a ladybug and a chubby caterpillar, while the main villain is an ugly, voracious locust. On the other hand, the circus bugs include in their ranks a praying mantis and a black widow spider; while both are considered cool-looking by some, neither are most people's idea of cute. The remaining grasshoppers are only Punch Clock Villains. But the biggest subversion of all is that the one creature the others fear the most is...a Goldfinch. Which from their perspective is the equivalent of the T. Rex in Jurassic Park. The sight of Hopper meeting his demise at the beaks of her fluffy little chicks gives new meaning to the phrase Grotesque Cute.
The title character in Shrek exploits this, acting as disgusting and standoffish as humans expect a big, ugly Ogre should. In truth, Shrek has a good heart, and this behavior is really because he just wants to be left alone. He explains that he'd be much happier if the stereotype didn't exist in the first place.
The trope is then further played with by Fiona, who is the conventional vision of beauty...but in her "cursed" ogress form Shrek finds her beautiful, and she's happy to stay that way because he loves her and thinks she's beautiful no matter how she looks. (And she is still pretty cute after her transformation.)
The heroes of Disney's Lady and the Tramp are cute, sassy dogs. While the Siamese Cats Are Mean, the only definitely evil character in the movie is a large, vicious black rat with mad, red eyes that menaces the baby.
In The Little Mermaid, dolphins, crabs, seahorses, and various tropical fish are portrayed as cute and therefore good. In contrast, the shark is just an angry set of scary teeth and the Moray Eels are the aquatic equivalent of evil, sweet-talking snakes.
Quest for Camelot rather anviliciously illustrates the difference between good and evil creatures. Devon and Cornwall, a two-headed dragon duo who serve as comic relief, are drawn to look rather silly and harmless. A little comic relief chicken-thing is also silly-looking. A loyal falcon named Ayden has a round, sweet face, big soft eyes and cute fluttery movements. In contrast, the "evil" dragons are sharp-toothed, have squinty eyes, and look altogether more feral and the griffon henchman has another set of scary squinty eyes, a long crooked beak, bat ears, and a small head compared to his thick-maned neck — and the voice of Bronson Pinchot (we're not sure what to make of that last thing).
The gryphon, though, at least was meant to be cuter than his original design, which was deemed "too frightening for little girls". He's also Affably Evil at most.
Another obscure animated feature that gets Anvilicious about this is The Adventures of the American Rabbit. Predictably, the hero and most of his buddies are cute rabbits. Other good guys include cuddly little bear cubs, pudgy little farm animals like sheep and piggies, big snuggly Toblerone-ish moose and gorillas, and Squee-worthy ducklings and penguins. The bad guys are a biker gangmade up of jackals and they are led by a big, scary condor. The uncomfortable part comes when the eponymous hero insists that "there are sure to be nice jackals out there", which seems to be an anti-stereotyping Aesop. Too bad it's Broken — we never ever meet any nice jackals. Every single jackal in the world of the movie is part of the biker gang.
The one initially heroic dog is golden retriever Dug, in stark contrast to the dobermans, bulldogs, and rottweilers, who are all evil. However, it is ultimately subverted when Dug defeats the alpha male doberman and the rest immediately follow his lead. Only Alpha really comes off as evil; most of the other dogs are Punch Clock Villains who live for praise, treats, and the occasional game of fetch (presumably) from the Big Bad.
More directly addressed in the short preceding Up, "Partly Cloudy", where a stork in charge of delivering sharks, alligators, porcupines, rams, and electric eels is getting tired of never getting any puppies or kitties. The main reason is that puppies and kitties don't hurt as much.
This arguably has to be the reason why Lucifer the cat from Cinderella is considered one of the villains, despite that all he really tries to do throughout the film is eat the mice, which is what cats do in real life. Unlike Lucifer, the mice have human attributes with which to endear themselves to the audience.
The Princess and the Frog subverts this with Louis, who's an alligator, but is perhaps the friendliest and most likable member of the cast. Mama Odie's pet snake, JuJu, is also pretty friendly and likable.
This is apparently the Aesop we are supposed to get out of watching The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Unfortunately, watching the movie kind of makes you want to punch the next non-cute you see right in the face. The eponymous Garbage Pail Kids are sociopaths. One pisses himself frequently for comedic effect, another is an anthropomorphic alligator (presumably a carnivore too), and another is riddled with infectious disease and projectile pukes. To make it even worse, they seem to simply do whatever they want with no regard for others, are generally quite insulting and violent (one of them starts a bar fight) and their only skill is making clothes...for some reason. The Old Mentor character likens them to the horrors unleashed by Pandora's Box and they're close to personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins. And the whole thing kind of reaches an extreme Broken Aesop when one realizes that the heroes just want to put them back into a tiny garbage pail...but are willing to break them out of prison and give them pep talks about how being ugly as sin and violent to boot is a-ok.
Welcome to Joe's Apartment, where this trope is played with and tossed on its ear...with cute, dancing, singing cockroaches.
Twilight of the Cockroaches does the same, albeit with an added World War II allegory.
This is heavily implied to be the key reason why the MNU is able to get away with what they do to the aliens in District 9.
Toho manages to subvert this with the film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. Godzilla himself can rarely be considered "cute", but what he goes through in the movie turns him into a major Woobie (Most notably, there's the moment when he sees his own son being brutally murdered by Destoroyah. Made worse by the fact that Godzilla himself is dying and that Destoroyah decides to torment the mourning kaiju by curling his tail around his throat and dragging him around...and it doesn't hurt that the film itself is a majorTear Jerker.
The original 1954 film Gojira also manages to subvert this. Godzilla appears terrifying and spends the film destroying Tokyo and killing thousands (if not millions) of people. However, he's also portrayed as a Non-Malicious Monster and Tragic Villain who is shown to be just as much a victim of the atomic bomb as the Japanese were.
Subverted in the 1999 film Gamera 3 Awakening Of Irys. In the film, Gamera has become rather fearsome-looking and has lost most (if not all) of his empathy towards humans to the point where he obsessively attacks the Gyaos (and kills them) without any regard to whether or not innocent people get hurt...and the JSDF decide that Gamera may be too big of a threat to keep alive. Likewise, a Heartwarming Orphan named Ayana finds an oddly adorable creature that she names "Irys" (after her late cat) and adopts it as her new "pet" stating that "both their families were killed by Gamera" (Ayana's family was killed by a Gyaos in a flashback to the first movie in the Heisei Trilogy). Turns out Irys is pure evil and is trying to manipulate Ayana's emotions so that it can merge with her and become powerful enough to kill Gamera and allow the Gyaos to wipe out all of humanity. Unlike its "weirdly adorable" baby form, Irys's adult-form can best be described as an Eldritch Abomination.
One might say there's a slight nod in The Dark Crystal with the Skeksis have condoric features are and quite ugly compared to their counterparts. Especially compared to the cute creatures that raised Kira. Y'know, the ones that look like those cute little troll dolls with the funny hair...minus the funny hair.
"And this pretty much sums up the animal right's movement, 'Don't eat the tuna fish!' 'Why not?' 'Because dolphins are getting caught in the nets!' 'What about the tuna fish?' 'Well fuck them, they taste good.' But that's the thing, isn't it? We only want to save the cute animals. 'Who are you?' 'I'm an otter, I swim around and do cute little human things with my hands.' 'You're free to go.' 'And who are you?' 'I'm a cow.' 'You're a hamburger, get on the fucking truck.'"
Likely the reason why the film version of Lord of the Rings changed Wargs from wolves to Hyenas.
Actually it was changed because the hyena shape was deemed more powerful by WETA.
In Stuart Little 2, Stuart befriends a little bird who is menaced by a falcon. This would just be another case of Carnivores Are Mean, but Stuart's friend is an adorable female canary and the falcon is depicted as a vicious, mad-eyed, scheming mob boss.
Subverted in Birdwing, where we find a wise, solemn, gentle and polite snake king (admittedly, he only makes one appearance before being brutally murdered, but still, he was there). Most of the swans, who the main character had up to that point associated with beauty and grace, are shallow bullies, though there are exceptions.
At first glance, it appears as though all the heroes are herbivores and the villains are carnivores — but then you notice badgers and otters in the cast of heroes and figure out that, as usual, the heroes are all cute, cool, and popular animals and the villains are all unpopular and ugly animals (and still, no herbivores). The series goes on to get downright confusing on this point. You'd expect the owl to be a straight-up, bloodthirsty villain but...
Also subverted in The Outcast of Redwall where a ferret named Veil throws himself in front of a spear to save his adoptive mother... though said mother immediately announced Veil to be better off dead.
Subverted again in The Bellmaker which contained a searat who eventually reformed and remained friends with the Redwallers. He didn't live there, though...Heaven forbid.
Then it looks like the good guys are animals that aren't minded around farms in England, and the bad guys are the creatures considered to be "vermin" (which they're actually referred to as in the Redwall series, just to drive the point home.) But then you remember the badgers and rabbits in the good guy's ranks. And technically mice and squirrels come under the heading of "vermin" in Real Life.
Squirrels aren't always good guys. Just look at the murderous Gawtrybe...
It's confusing from the get-go. Stoats are part of Cluny's evil horde in the first novel. They look like this◊.
He did specifically make one of his Big Bads cute on purpose; Ferahgo the Assassin and his son Klitch are both cute weasels with pretty blue eyes.
And then there's the cats. Cats are generally accepted as "cute" in fiction, and they're about the only neutral species in the entire series, though the feline Big Bad of High Rhulain had severe facial disfigurement.
The psychotic barbarian Wolverine cannibal. Here, "cannibal" is used to refer to eating otherTalking Animals. Wolverines actually are as violent as that in real life, though not with any more genuine malicious intent than your average animal, but they look like teddy bears with fluffy tails.
Reptiles, Amphibians, and foxes are even worse than the Vermin.
There was a ferret Mook (or two, or three...) being maimed, killed, and possibly eaten by a Mute Swan somewhere in "Mossflower" (come to think of it, that darn bird spent a good portion of the book terrorizing the Goldfish Poop Gang, and gave the foxes Fortunata and Bane a run for their money.) And then there was that crazy, vermin-eating stork in "Martin the Warrior". He had a knack for crying out "I am the laaaawwwwww..." as he descended upon his prey. Needless to say, Martin and his cohorts were pretty darn worried that they could end up on his menu themselves while he was escorting them across his territory.
It's simple. The good guys are vegetarian/pescatarian, even in defiance of their species' natural requirements (badgers, moles, shrews, some birds of prey). The bad guys are scavengers and hunting carnivores (rats, ferrets, weasels).
Averted with Mossflower's bats, which are not evil at all; they're cute and friendly with an endearing Verbal Tic, verbal tic, verbal tic ...
In Animal Farm, the good guys are cuddly horses and dogs and the like, while the poor old downtrodden proletariat are fluffy, easily led sheep, dull-witted horses, and quirky chickens. Tellingly, the puppies become vicious, unhuggable Rottweiler types as they become more indoctrinated to Napoleon the pig's side. And Moses the raven is ambiguous. As far as the pigs, even the implicitly cute little Snowball was not as okay as he seemed; during the turning point of the novel (when the pigs claimed the apples and milk for themselves), even Snowball's own greed was apparent, as this was one of the few issues that both he and Napoleon could agree upon. The book itself says that the pigs were chosen as the leaders because they're the smartest animals on the farm, which is Truth in Television. Symbolically, they were also most likely chosen for their association with greed.
Inevitable Dinotopia Animal Trope Entry: Be assured that James Guerney mostly picks his main cast of animal characters based on how much fun they are to paint. Which means that animals most people wouldn't usually consider cute, like Budge the Estemmenosuchus, get to be the good guys. (For those not in the know, Este...uh, Budge's species looks like this.)
In Yvain, an Arthurian chivalric romance, the hero comes upon a fight between a dragon and a lion. He chooses to step in and help the lion, specifically because, "...a venomous and wicked creature deserves only harm: the dragon was venomous and fire leapt from its mouth because it was so full of wickedness." Nice and subtle that.
Conversely, in the Dragonriders of Pern novels, people admire both dragons and fire lizards so much that animals which normally benefit from the "cute" image, such as dogs and horses, are seldom treated as anything more than organic tools. Even animal-loving Piemur calls his runnerbeast (= horse) "Stupid" and remarks on how ugly it is, presumably because it's neither as smart nor as glamorous as a dragon.
Runnerbeasts are not necessarily horses, they merely serve the same purpose for that world and have only the most basic physical resemblance. Additionally the dragons resemble equines...and watch-whers, a close cousin of dragons and fire lizards, are considered the ugliest things in existence. But dolphins, normally considered "cute", are regarded as ugly, vicious predators for much of Pern's history.
Runnerbeasts seem to be a modified and side-evolved Terran animal — horses were among the first things deployed by colonists, along with cattle and oxen. As to dolphins, there were mentioned "tales" that sometimes they help fishermen in a trouble. After the Pernese forgot their origins it was taboo to catch a "shipfish" in a net or kill one any other way, for fear that the rest would stop guiding and rescuing sailors.
An issue of Ranger Rick, which is published by the National Wildlife Federation, had a short story that pointed this trope out rather directly. The animals of Big Green Wood propose holding a support group for all severely endangered animals. Everyone is all for it, except for Boomer the Badger, who was extremely unsympathetic to the plights of the less cute and cuddly animals like the Komodo Dragon. That night, Boomer has a nightmare in which badgers had been put on the world's cut list and would go extinct unless Boomer alone could plead their case, and he realized his hypocrisy.
There was also a Ranger Rick book entitled The Unhuggables, and it was all about the animals unfairly affected by this trope, so good on National Wildlife Federation.
Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels series subverts this quite frequently. The heroes are weasels, the stoats are mostly antivillains, the black rats are Always Chaotic Evil, and the Norway rats are good. Hedgehogs are nice, but moles aren't. The first book has an evil sheep and an evil fox (both of which are traditionally nice animals), and the second one has an evil zombie badger. Windjammer Run also contains the line "You could not find a more honourable bird than a raven or a more treacherous creature than a dove."
Averted in James and the Giant Peach where the only talking animals are giant invertebrates such as a centipede, a grasshopper, and a spider. They're all kind to James and become his adoptive family. Also the movie avoided making them too cute.
This and several other Animal Tropes were well-addressed in the Discworld novel, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. In it, a few animals have gained human-like intelligence thanks to magic — and the key there is human-like. The "Educated Rodents" were always clever and cunning; intelligent the way rats already are. However, gaining the ability to understand human language caused them to gradually think more and more like humans, worrying about the future, fretting about money. And, because they darn well know about this trope, angsting about what humans would do to them if they knew. After heroically saving a small town from a truly nasty creature, the rats effectively out themselves to the humans. The humans and rats negotiate with each other and the town becomes a well-loved tourist destination, where people go and learn just how nice rats really are.
"Had it been made for humans? The shop had been made for humans, true, but surely even humans wouldn't make a book about Ratty Rupert the Rat, who wore a hat, and poison rats under the floorboards at the same time. Would they? How mad would anything have to be to think like that?"
Quoth the Raven is also aware of this trope, claiming he would receive better treatment if he were cute like a robin. Robins don't typically manage to work their love of eating eyeballs into every conversation.
Also in Lords and Ladies, both Magrat and Nanny Ogg muse about how if cats looked like frogs, people would more easily realise that Cats Are Mean, comparing it to the glamour cast by the elves.
Interestingly addressed in the Silverwing trilogy of children's books. The main characters are all bats, traditionally a creature humanity considers menacing. The divide between "good" and "evil" bats is at least somewhat racial — the villains are carnivorous False Vampire Bats, while the "good" bats are smaller, more conventionally cute ones. However, the villains are primarily marked not by their frightening appearances, but by their predatory habits and worship of an evil deity. No points for guessing who the Big Fat Traitor is by the way, it's straightened like an arrow in the cartoon.
The Caldecott medalist picture book Stellaluna is about a bat. (For good measure, it's a female bat.)
In the first Destroyermen book, the readers are introduced to two intelligent races on a parallel Earth. One is an intelligent lemur race that is so cute that several of the human characters want to sleep with them. The other is an Always Chaotic Evil race that evolved from raptors, and engage in genocidal wars, violent slaughter, and collect the skulls of their enemies. Guess which ones the heroes end up allying with?
Averted very pointedly in the Young Wizards series. In one novel, despite being the ultimate — perhaps the original — predator and sporting the title of The Pale Slayer, Ed'rashtekaresket the Giant White Shark is actually a servant of the Light and ultimately the Heroic Sacrifice that holds back the forces of decay.
Subverted in Animorphs — the Hork-Bajir are enormous lizard people with natural blades on their limbs, and act as shock troops for the invading Yeerk army. When the lead characters are told that they "are to be pitied" upon first seeing with them, this advice is met with puzzlement and immediately dismissed. However, it soon becomes apparent that the Hork-Bajir are naturally gentle, nonviolent herbivores; they use their blades only for defense and for stripping off the tree bark they eat. The main cast are surprised at this revelation, and Tobias is ashamed of the more vicious and destructive nature of humans. After the main cast assists in freeing some Hork-Bajir from Yeerk control and setting up a free settlement, they help (usually in non-combat ways) to fight the invaders.
But played straight with the Yeerks. Though to be fair, many real parasites look unpleasant.
Lampshaded by Visser One: "Snails, slugs, leeches...the comparisons are never endearing."
Played straight with the Taxxons, mostly. The insatiable hunger doesn't help them any...
Subverted later on in the series though, when it's revealed that the Taxxons are intelligent beings that made a deal with the Yeerks in the hopes that the Yeerks would be able to control their hunger.
Ernest Thompson Seton averted such things. For example, he wrote novels about adventures of a Boar, Coyote, and a Bat. A human who hunted and mistreated bats brought on himself and his family doom in the form of a justifiedanvil...that is, a gnat-transmitted disease.
Avoided in the Xanth book Castle Roogna, where Dor's friend for much of the book is a Giant Spider named Jumper. There's also a friendly, spider-like monster in Golem in the Gears, and other various nonthreatening oddities throughout the series.
Subverted in Guardians Of Ga'Hoole, where Owls are the main characters and snakes are helpful and kind. Unless said snake's name is Gragg of Slonk.
George Carlin brings this up in his book Brain Droppings. "If lobsters looked like puppies, nobody would dip them in boiling water. But instead they look like science-fiction monsters, so it's okay."
You don't have to look at them while they're alive.
R. A. Salvatore in the short story "Dark Mirrors" acknowledged an element of the Drizzt Do'Urden series's popularity, exploring the different reactions humans have to different Always Chaotic Evil races. See, dark elves are exotic and beautiful (and powerful), and goblins are...not. A given member of either race may happen to be a decent individual, but they are received in different ways. Drizzt experiences considerable mistrust, but is given the chance to prove himself; Nojheim, on the other hand, is enslaved and then eventually put down.
Subverted in numerous works of Robin Mc Kinley, notably the book Rose Daughter, in which spiders, bats, toads, and hedgehogs play positive roles in the plot.
There's an in-story instance of this in The Thief Lord, and applied to humans, strangely. Esther dotes over Bo only because he's a cute, innocent-looking little boy and refuses to take Prosper into her home because he "doesn't look like a teddy bear anymore".
Subverted by Frankenstein. The creature is instantly hated by everyone who sees him because he is so monstrously ugly. In reality, he's just looking for love and companionship, but the injustice of his treatment eventually turns him as evil as people think he is.
The bear-cows look very much like teddy bears, which causes officers to comment on the coincidence in view of their brutal and instant attacks, which show no regard even for their own species.
The spider-wolves, however, look very much like things out of nightmares — even Eldritch Abominations — which gives officers qualms even after they become the first race humanity can actually establish friendly relations with, and they fight together against the bear cows. This is all the more ironic in that they clearly share human aesthetics in several ways: their ships are marvels of elegance, their ship formations are beautiful mathematical patterns, and their multi-color clothing never clashes in human eyes.
Played straight by most of the elves in Nine Goblins, which is why Sings-to-Trees is left alone to take care of all the creatures that are not (currently) meeting the elves' haughty standards.
Especially bad in the Enterprise episode Hatchery. The ship discovers a heavily damaged and abandoned Insectoid ship. In the most hardened part of the ship is their hatchery with ~30 soon to be hatching insectoid offspring. Archer is shown to be caring for their fate and trying to save their hatchery from failing. He gives a story about his great grandfather having to deal with a school during the war and saving the children inside the school at great personal cost. Everyone else on the ship looks at the Captain like he's nuts. In the end it turns out his paternal feelings were only due to his being infected by an enzyme the eggs gave off. Huh...
This was the lesson in the original series episode "Devil in the Dark": Miners are being attacked by a hideous "monster" that looks like a big, rocky blob and secretes acid. They want to kill the creature, but Kirk realizes she's just protecting her eggs, and refuses to let them.
In "The Trouble with Tribbles", whose title creatures do nothing except eat food, reproduce — and look cute. Near the end of the episode, Kirk is horrified at the possibility that Scotty beamed them out into space.
To be fair, though, Kirk didn't like tribbles much ("I don't care if it takes every man we've got, I want them off the ship!"). He'd be horrified at the prospect of Scotty killing any animals that way.
Fortunately Scotty instead beamed them onto the Klingons' ship. Klingons hate Tribbles with a passion, going so far as to destroy a planet to eradicate the species. But since the inevitable Tribble massacre happens off screen, it's played for laughs.
But they were beamed into an unoccupied part of the Klingon's engine room. Where they'll be no tribble at all.
An episode of Lost in Space called "The Golden Man" dealt with this. Penny, who is a Friend to All Living Things, meets a hideous frog alien, while Dr. Smith meets a handsome humanoid alien that is solid gold. The two aliens are at war with eachother. Guess which one turns out to actually be the good guy. Hint: all that glitters...
In an episode of Dharma and Greg, Abby and Larry were going to protest some sort of land development which would drive out an endangered species of bee. Larry refused to attend when he discovered the development wouldn't threaten anything more impressive.
Parodied on Yes Minister. People were protesting the clearing of a copse of trees, because it was home to a family of badgers. Sir Humphrey tricked them into thinking that the badgers had left, and the only animals that would be displaced would be a colony of rats, and the protests ceased.
Sesame Street intentionally subverts the trope, featuring friendly introductions to "scary" animals to assure the kids that they're not actually mean. In addition, their cast contains a number of "monsters" raging from the adorable (Elmo, Grover), to the imposing-but-actually-softies (Frazzle, Herry), to The-Closest-Thing-To-An-Angry-Homeless-Guy-You're-Going-To-See-On-A-PBS-Kids-Show (Oscar), to genuinely monstrous (Yip-Yip aliens, Beautful Day Monster, Yorick, Early Count, early Snuffalumpagus, Frackles).
Doctor Who: The flesh-eating spider-hatchlings of the Racnoss get drowned in the Thames while the chubby smiling Adipose babies are "just children" who "can't help where they came from". You wouldn't expect this kind of bias from the Doctor, of all people, but there it is.
Actually it's not "bias" on his part at all. Firstly, the Doctor found a way to make the Adipose babies harmless without having to kill them, something he had tried to do for the Racnoss as well but failed. Secondly, Donna (who witnessed both the Racnoss and the Adipose) explicitly points out this change in the Doctor's attitude and remarks that spending time with Martha must have done him good. The Doctor agrees. On the other hand, it's very much an example of this trope on the part of the writers, since they quite clearly set up the parallel on purpose.
Periodically subverted when the Doctor compliments the appearance of various alien creatures that most viewers would react to with this trope. It underlines that no matter how much humans LOOK timelord, the Doctor isn't human.
Spoo, from Babylon 5, is a small wormlike critter that happens to be a delicacy (Aged and chilled to the Centauri, fresh to the Narn, though whether it's a matter of taste or a Take That to their former oppressors is up to the viewer), but is considered one of the ugliest creatures in known space. Even the Interstellar Animal Rights Protection League's official policy towards the treatment and well being of spoo is simply "Kill 'em."
Go to a Furry or Otherkin forum, and ask how many of them consider themselves, totems, or personal character to be a rabbit, lion, turtle, or the like (better yet, just head on over to this OTHER other Wiki's article). Now, ask how many choose a trout, mole rat, a tapeworm, or such instead. Compare the results.
Warhammer40000: Hey look, it's a walking lion! He's brave, loyal and kind! Shoot the everloving fuck outta him! -gunfire noises-
To be fair, shooting the everloving fuck out of anything is the first rule of survival in that game.
Exalted subverts this with the various varieties of Beastmen. Most of them tend to be violent barbarians who run around pillaging, raping, and occasionally eating the humans they come across. Most notable in this category are the Wolfmen of the North and Raksi's baby-eating Apemen. However, the Hawkmen and Snakemen of Halta and the Sharkmen and Squidmen of Luthe are perfectly civilized people. Granted, however, that the little sharkgirl in the comic preceding the Luthe chapter of Compass of Terrestrial Directions: West was quite adorable.
Werewolves and wererats are Always Chaotic Evil and Always Lawful Evil respectively while werebears are Always Lawful Good and werecats are always neutral.
Then there are anthromorphic Hyenas, also known as gnolls, which are...well...they have a penchant for enslaving other humanoids, and that's when they're not eating them (and they have a knack for eating their slaves sooner or later.) Gnolls just do it because they're sadistic - the Monster Manual outright states that "they enjoy intelligent prey because they scream more."
Depending on the source, gnolls themselves subvert this trope. They're never described as 'good' but they can certainly have more noble aspects to them. The origin story is that Yeenoghu, their demon god fed a pack of demons to mortal hyenas and so gnolls have the two sides to them...demon and hyena. Monsters and Hunters.
Blink Dogs are good monsters with a built in ability like the blink spell, while their evil counterparts (displacer beasts) resemble emaciated, tentacled panthers. There's even a race of always neutral good celestials that are essentially anthropomorphic animals. There are lion people, wolf people, horse people, bird people, mouse people, and bear people among the celestials. There's also an anthromorphic dog type of celestials, the Hound Archons, who are Always Lawful Good. Most insect monsters favor evil over good — the exception being Formians, who are always lawful neutral (though in AD&D2 Planescape, before they replaced now-corrupted Modrons, were lawful neutral/good) instead and Thri-Kreen, if they aren't removed again) There are a few exceptions. Naga (snakelike creatures) has good, neutral and evil variants, and lizardfolk are generally viewed as neutral, if usually primitive and hostile to PCs.
Lizardfolk are a little like the gnolls in terms of being vicious and sometimes predatory, but lizardfolk only do it if they need to survive - survival is their top priority, actually, and they don't have any other agendas (well, in most cases. Some lizardfolk can be downright vile.)
As for the eponymous dragons, it's an interesting variation. The metallics are always good, and tend to look noble and/or wise. The chromatics are always evil and tend to look fierce and, subjectively ugly.
in 4th Edition this overlaps with Designated Hero, since metallic dragons are described as equally brutal, greedy, self-centered, dictatorial and arrogant as chromatic dragons, and about the Tiamat-Bahamut conflict they are even more cruel and racist than the chromatic ones. yes, a chromatic dragon would kill a metallic one at sight, but metallic dragons enjoy not just killing chromatic ones(even wyrmlings aren't spared!), but mafia-style intimidating and forcing them into betraying their own kin too. why they are described as 'good'? because they're slightly more benevolent to humanoids.
partially subverted however, since dragons are sentient and so they can be of any alignment.
Get a copy of Draconomicon and look at the blue dragon wyrmling. It's kind of cute in a weird reptilian way. For a bizarre use of this trope, blue dragons are the least evil of Chromatics in 4th edition - sure, they're arrogant, self-serving jerks, but they prefer cows to humans and can get along quite well with people as long as they receive ample groveling and tribute. Contrast this with black dragons, who just look nasty and tend to hang out in swamps dissolving people.
3+ ed. includes it in the game mechanics. See monster types: "Magical beasts usually have supernatural or extraordinary abilities, but sometimes are merely bizarre in appearance or habits." while "An aberration has a bizarre anatomy, strange abilities, an alien mindset, or any combination of the three." If the two looks synonymous, well...and both see in the darkness. What's the difference? Rule of thumb: if it's "cute", it's a Magical Beast, if not, it's an Aberration.
Some would argue that a lot of the characters from Changeling: The Lost could qualify, doubly so from the Beast and Elemental seeming.
Specifically as it applies to insects, this was in full force in earlier editions of Nobilis with the Locust Court — a realm under the ultimate control of Lord Entropy and filled with flesh-eating locusts...only to be completely reversed in 3e. It turns out the author just made up the previous version of the Locust Court and it's actually the domain of Surolam, where creatures can gain respite from the harsh consequences of knowledge of miracles. It's called the Locust Court because it is constantly filled with insects, the only non-miraculous beings who can remember their time spent within.
The World Wildlife Fund happily avoids this with their symbolic gift adoption program (perfect for any Tropers having a hard time getting a gift this holiday season for that one person impossible to shop for). For fifty dollars, your giftee gets an adorable stuffed animal, and the real animal gets some much-needed help. Available adoptees include the expected lions and elephants and monkeys...and giant salamanders, vampire bats, Tasmanian devils, baboons, hyenas, sharks, stingrays, and so on. (About the only thing sorely missing is the aforementioned Coelacanth.)
But also embraces the trope with their adorable panda logo. To be fair, they know which side of the bread's buttered.
Folkmanis, a company that makes high-quality puppets, averts this. Not only do they make realistic-looking puppets of adorable puppies and kittens, but they also make puppets of tarantulas, snakes, alligators, and dragons.
Similarly, Wild Republic. They have plushies of all sorts of animals ranging from adorable monkeys to tarantulas to great white sharks.
There is a picture-assisted tutorial on the internet (in Japanese, sadly) for making a giant isopod plushie. To be fair, giant isopods have big round shiny eyes and stubby little legs, and are probably the most Ugly Cute arthropods she's ever seen.
The Rahi MakutaTeridax brainwashed are al menacing monsters. On the other hand the friendly Pewku and Spinax are Ugly Cute.
There's a company that makes plushie cuddly viruses and bacteria, including such charmers as the common cold, the Black Death, and syphilis. Ah yes, there it is. One shivers to think of toddlers sleeping with these.
A lot of the good guys in the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line subvert this, like Wyrm and Muckman, who were good guys (Although Wyrm was less so in his original comic incarnation), and Mutagen Man who was a Punch Clock Villain. There was also this one human-mosquito hybrid who was a good guy.
The Turtles' rat mentor.
It helped that the toy line seemed to be on a mission to turn every species they could think of into an anthropomorphic superhero.
Subverted with Squishables. While they do make adorably rotund plushies of your typical kitties and puppies, they also make plushies of sharks, alligators, bats, snails, octopuses, robots, and the devil. Yes, they made Lucifer adorable.
Squishables even released a limited-edition (only a couple thousand were made total) Axolotl mini-squishy. Granted, Axolotls are rather Ugly Cute in real life.
Currently, Squishables is holding a contest for people to select which fan-made designs they want to see turned into Squishies. While the typical cute puppies, kitties, otters, etc. have been featured, there have also been submissions for grasshoppers, warthogs, piranhas, praying mantis, sea cucumbers, and even an Archaeopteryx. Unfortunately, the trope is played straight in that most of the winners have been cutsey-looking animals rather than some of the more creative designs.
Most of the nonhuman races of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy XII (both are set in Ivalice) are animal-like, and the game uses, averts, and subverts this trope. The crustacean Urutan-Yensa and the goblin-like Baknamy are all hideous and, probably not coincidentally, Always Chaotic Evil. The Moogles, who resemble a living teddy bear more than anything else, are all on the side of right. The boarish seeqs while technically not monsters are a slightly more sociable version of Zelda's moblins. Seeq are borderline Always Chaotic Evil. Almost all of them (even the NPCs) are portrayed as stupid, morally degenerate, greedy and cruel. They are also a common enemy.
There is one exception each between the Urutan-Yensa and the Bakanamy, one Urutan-Yensa posts a bill (though this doesn't count as an official mark because there was no pub or clan hall to place it in the area the Urutan-Yensa live in) for a Yensa eating Adamantitan. Doing this quest will get you an item that severely weakens the main boss of that area, but the Yensa that posted the bill is executed because their queen doesn't like interacting with outsiders. Within a tough optional area of the game you could find a Bakanamy selling items (he also sold things unattainable anywhere else, including the game's replacement spell for Ultima called Scaythe).
Final Fantasy IX has both fuzzy doll-like black mages, and the rat-like Burmecians and Cleyrans plus a plethora of bit player species whom you don't interact with much.
Star Fox partially averts this. The main villains are monkeys and apes. There are several reptile enemies but the manual for the Super Nintendo game says they were enslaved. One of the bosses is a seal.
The Star Wolf team plays this straight with the exception of Andrew. A cruel Wolf, deranged chameleon, and a greedy traitorous pig. Pigma and Andrew broke off by the time Assault rolled around, both of which were replaced by Panther Caroso. And Star Wolf now is more of a Badass trio and has shown respect towards Star Fox and helps them when needed.
Thank goodness for the Pokémon games. Any creature can inspire a Pokémon and the series seems to have been going out of its way to showcase obscure, strange, and unpopular animals (like coelacanths). You can befriend even big scary creatures, and these tend to be the most powerful potential Game Breakers. Additionally, your Starter tends to start out cute and become more of a monster as it levels up.
This may be why Amity Square, in Diamond and Pearl, seems so darned out of place. Not only was this the first time we, as the player, were specifically told that only certain Pokémon are "cute" in a situation played straight but many of the cute ones such as Mew, Togepi, Cubone, Pichu, Smoochum, Eevee, and Marill aren't on that list! If you happen to think your Bulbasaur or Mudkip is way more adorable than 'proto-Fetish Fuel bunny' and 'creepy kidnapper balloon', you're apparently a weirdo. (Granted, the news that the Park was designed around the pre-existing character sprites relieves the sting a little...) It's also lampshaded by a guy near the entrance who complains about the discrimination against his Gyarados and Steelix — two huge menacing snakelike creatures.
In Platinum, Amity Square has been remodeled and they now allow all of that game's starters and evolved forms thereof. Apparently, a 683 pound turtle monster with bushes growing out of its back is just as cute as a little electric mouse Pokémon. It's a start.
HeartGold and SoulSilver avert it entirely. Any Pokémon you own can follow you through any part of the game, and the big scary 'mons can do cute little dances when you talk to them. When the feature was first announced, one teaser screenshot even showed the hero with a Steelix behind him - amusingly, one of the Pokémon that the man in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum complains he can't have follow him. (Makes you wonder how Wailord manages to follow you on land.)
The NPC trainer archetype 'Lass' has a personality built around this trope. One of them, in an earlier game, actually lampshades the 'uglier as you evolve' thing and says that she refuses to let any of her (rather high level for their species) Pokémon evolve.
The anime more or less follows through with the games' philosophy...until you go back to the first season or so and notice that Ash had cute little Pikachu, Butterfree, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander - and that the Team Rocket trio had a floating naval mine gas cloud, and a giant purple rattlesnake. Later on though, Ash got a Muk (essentially a live pile of sludge) and Charmander gradually changed into the big, scary — but Bad Ass — Charizard. Additionally, Team Rocket started a sort of running gag where they acquire increasingly cute Pokémon in the newer seasons. It's also revealed that Ekans and Koffing aren't really evil (although it's stated that no Pokémon are evil). In "Island of the Giant Pokémon" they are revealed to be Punch Clock Villains and bear no anger or malice towards Pikachu. The first Pokémon Ash captures is a Caterpie. It does evolve soon, but in the meantime Misty gets to scream about it because she's afraid of bugs and thinks it's gross. Also, Ash later gets an adorable Gligar which evolves into Gliscor — which is a huge, demonic-looking, flying scorpion thing with fangs and batlike ears. It's affectionate and a little slow in the head. But then there's also the uncomfortable realization that Ash's team hardly ever get to evolve. Unless their adult form looks cool.
Ash's rival Paul has some pretty scary Pokémon on his team, all of them evolved. He eventually released the only one that didn't belong that he kept for a good amount of time...Ash ended up capturing it minutes later.
And the evil teams always use an overabundance of Poison and Dark types. In the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games the bad guys are always Dark, Poison, or Ghost types. Always. Who here didn't see Dusknoir'sFace-Heel Turn coming the moment the character was introduced?
The summer camp arc of the anime had a Dusknoir that tried to warn people about the evil ghost girl that was really trying to harm them, and getting beaten up for its trouble. It still chose to help, even putting itself at risk and clearing its name. You just want to take it with you and give it snacks.
In Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, Darkrai is blamed for destruction in the city, whereas it was Palkia that caused it and Darkrai tried to protect the town and the garden in which he lived. He goes as far as to sacrifice himself to prevent the effects of one of Palkia's Spacial Rends and Dialga's Roar of Time colliding. He gets better in the end.
Partially averted in FireRed and LeafGreen, as one little girl talks about how much she loves her Koffing (which is essentially a huge living ball of toxic gas).
Pokémon X and Y avert this further, where any Pokemon - even the giant bees, even the living piles of toxic ooze, even the Godzilla knockoff - can be taken into the Pokemon-Amie feature to be petted, fed, and played with.
The Koopa Troopas of the Mario games have become increasingly more anthropomorphized as the series has gone on. They started out as slightly cartoony four-legged turtles that you couldn't care less about killing off. As the series has gone on, their appearance has changed. They were given the ability to walk on two legs in Super Mario World, and one was made a playable character in Super Mario Kart (though he was bumped off by then newcomer Wario until the more recent entries in the series). The current character design for Koopa Troopa (and its winged brethren, Paratroopa) is now on a level of cuteness rivaling Yoshi. Nintendo has noted this, and Troopas hardly ever appear as enemies anymore, and when they do they're either in short supply (like in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy) or they're usually given some sort of accessory that lowers their cuteness factor, such as the spiked armband and pointy sunglasses wearing variants of the Paper Mario series (there all Koopas with sunglasses are evil and those without are friendly NPCs. At a certain point in Part 3 a normal Koopa gets brainwashed by the villains and suddenly wears sunglasses). They also make frequent appearances in spinoff games either as playable characters or harmless NPCs. Now contrast this with the Goombas, who've hardly had any major design changes, usually require accessories to make them cuter in the few games where they exist as an ally, have only been in the RPGs and Mario Baseball games as playable characters, and are the most common enemy type even in the most recent games.
Mario And Luigi Bowsers Inside Story averts the trend with the Goombas with the Chuboomba, which is chubby, has a lollipop, is generally considered cute by the fandom, and is still an enemy in the game.
The New Super Mario Bros.. series averts this trope. Those cute Koopas? Who dance to the BGM? You're still allowed, still encouraged, to stomp on them mercilessly and use their shells as a weapon.
Both played with and subverted in World of Warcraft. On the one hand, the more humanoid, pleasant-looking races form the Alliance, who are usually framed as the more protagonistic faction. But on the other hand, the fierce, alien and sometimes downright ugly races of the Horde are playable characters and are also sometimes portrayed in a positive light, just as the Alliance races can be malicious. (Particularly humans.)
The Tauren are a very good example; aligned with the Horde faction, they can be easily described as 800 pound bipedal cows. Naturally, they gain a health boost as a racial ability, being extremely tall and muscular. And they are, surprisingly, extremely peaceful most of the time.
Berserker from Fate/Stay Night is reminiscent of Goliath from the Gargoyles. If you can get past his lead-grey complexion, odd elbow protrusions, mismatched set of blood red and glowing gold eyes, and frighteningly huge size, he's really handsome. Indeed, he's the demigod Herakles from Greek myth, who was quite popular with the ladies andthe guys. But he's not as pretty as the other manly warrior-Bishounen of the game, and except for a brief time in one scenario, he's always under a mental compulsion that reduces him to a constantly growling and bellowing monster. A pity, considering who they got to voice him in The Anime of the Game. Then again, he does have those moments with Ilya...
Drone Tactics plays into this. Although both the player and enemy units are giant robotic bugs, the good guys get "cute" bugs like stag beetles, fireflies, and snails, while the bad guys get "creepier" ones like ants, mosquitoes, and water bugs.
Somewhat subverted in Conkers Bad Fur Day. You just can't take the cuteness out of a teddy bear, no matter how fascist and cybered-up you make them.
Animal Crossing has its share of cute fluffy animals, and their character type seems to be determined by just how cute the animal in question is (ie. the kitten animal is a cute girly airhead type while the rockhopper penguin is a grumpy little fellow) but the Coelacanth does make a cameo appearance as the most expensive fish you can fish up.
In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, there are good (or at least mercenary) uncute animals to play as, such as a hawk, a crocodile, and a bat. The non-anthro characters are a different story...
Parodied in Overlord II, the reason your minions hate the cute baby seals is because they eat those "Poor Fishies", they think wolves are cute puppies, you fight man-eating pandas, and a group of hippy Elves are trying to stop you from doing all this, even saying "You're just mad because your minions aren't cute!"
Hello Kitty Online is weird about this. Being based on Sanrio characters, absolutely everything is cute, but the friendly NPCs include some stuff that would be considered decidedly "non-cute" without the Sanrio treatment — the preview Flash game, Island of Fun includes a friendly tyrannosaur, octopus, and fish-man.
Subverted in Vindictus. The prologue tutorial has you fighting a realistic-looking giant spider boss. However, once it dies, you find out that NPC Tieve, the town's oracle, can actually talk to the spider; and she reacts about as the same as a girl her age would react to losing a beloved cat or dog. The spider itself was formerly a friendly guardian of the town, and the giant spiders have been allies of the humans up to that point. Heavily implied that it was only attacking because it was under the control of an enemy wizard.
A later quest has you hunting for a giant spider egg for Tieve, that she can hatch and raise as a pet.
The wolf boss in Dark Souls has many in the fanbase wishing that they didn't have to kill him. None of the other more grotesque bosses are extended such favor.
Mass Effect: Compare the treatment of aliens with humanoid proportions and expressive faces (asari, turians, drell, etc.) to those that are less relatable to humans (volus, hanar, elcor, geth, etc.). The former get a lot more respect, from humans, each other, and the narrative.
Turian C-Sec Officer: That hanar refuses to listen to reason! Why can't it act in an orderly and lawful manner? Renegade!Shepard: Because it's a BIG, STUPIDJELLYFISH!
Played with in Monster Hunter. However indiscriminately the player acts, the deer-like Kelbi and the cat-like Felynes and Melynxes, as well as the little tiki-like Shakalakas, can't be killed. They'll be stunned, and then they'll leave. Despite having entries in Monster guides, Felynes are even friendly NPCs and seem to be on the same social standing as humans. The ones you meet out in the wild don't even bother you until you attack them. The Shakalakas and Melynxes attack on site, but the third generation has two friendly Shakalakas that join you and act as your party on single or two-player hunts.
Intern: Would I be doing this if the A.I. that came to us looked like a deranged washing machine instead of a puppy dog with big amber eyes and a waggley tail?
In Alien Dice the main dice are cute cuddly talking animals. However enemy dice which Lexx kills/almost kills show up they tend to be big scary mute reptilian creatures. Remember that the dice are all considerably smarter than normal animals, and that they have no more choice about fighting than the Bishonen main character.
Turns out it's a subversion: dice, like Pokemon, get uglier and nastier-looking as they evolve. Lexx tends to get pitted against the toughest dice in the game, but his own dice are starting to look pretty hardened as well. (Granted, the dice we've seen in cute forms are the ones who've stayed nice as they've evolved, but that can just as easily be credited to the fact that Lexx is much less abusive than most masters.)
Digger almost epitomizes the subversion of this trope. Although wombats can be said to be cute, the title character proves herself to be not only cantankerous and sarcastic, but also a decent fighter. Rats are not only useful creatures, but intelligent and cultured (critiquing bad poets by nibbling their books). Although the aforementioned hyenas initially try to kill the protagonist, they're eventually shown to be a fairly typical primitive, somewhat insular, tribal people; and eventually end up adopting her into their tribe. Various breeds of moles are used by wombats as domestic animals. There's even a race of oracular slugs. In fact, the only creatures to show any definite leanings toward evil are humans and gods.
The mere existence of Lycosa challenges this trope - it's about spiders. So far it's been proving successful, to the point that some arachnophobes enjoy it. The author of the comic also went to the trouble of preparing a guide on spiders, including anatomy and behaviour; that's probably a factor.
This is generally the rule for chimeras in El Goonish Shive—the nicest is part squirrel, the nastiest is a monster of uncertain origins, and the rest are somewhere in between. The bat, at least, is interestingly justified: he's evil (or at least destructive) because he's aware of his ugliness and redirects his self-hatred at the world around him. He manages a Heel-Face Turn after turning fully human.
This comic demonstrates this concerning oil spills.
Lampshaded in Academia when Stephen wants to run some tests (actually pretty painless ones) on his roommate's pet octopus. When he runs the idea by his professor, he's told "Ethics won't care. They don't bother with anything that isn't a mammal."
Played very weirdly on Tumblr. Many different animal species are praised, but Alligator Gars seem universally considered "gross". Even tapeworms are apprarently "cuter" than gars.
In Worm, Bitch's power is to turn dogs into huge, bony monster dogs, but don't you dare hurt one when she's around. Before long, Taylor becomes so used to them that she forgets they are scary to normal people and heroes. She completely recognizes that the bugs she controls are also disturbing to people, and uses them to that effect, but she reaches the point where she has no problem using them as masks and to help her get ready in the morning.
Kim Possible features a naked mole rat named Rufus as the Team Pet. We ought to be celebrating this one as an aversion, and we definitely would. The thing is, Rufus is drawn◊ in an overly cute and cuddly Disney manner rather than anything resembling a real Naked Mole Rat. Additionally, Rufus started out as a pretty ugly Naked Mole Rat baby. This would make one guess that it was Ron's wonderful friendship with him that turned him cute...Or his Bueno Nacho Junk-Food diet.
The reason they have Rufus eating junk-food is because part of the diet of real Naked Mole Rats consists of their own feces.
On King of the Hill, Bobby's environmentalist teacher Mr. McKay campaigns for the preservation of "Itchy Algae"; when Hank argues that its extinction would be a good thing, McKay decries letting a species' habitat be destroyed "just because it isn't cuddly or good for anything." Great message. Too bad Mr. McKay is portrayed as a delusionalHippie Teacher...whom Hank Hill surprisingly agrees with.
He was only agreeing with him because he didn't want the city to drain the quarry that the algae lived in, because his friend's car had been hidden at the bottom of said quarry for decades.
Transformers has played around with this in their animal-like characters:
Generation 1 had the Dinobots and Insecticons. The Dinobots were rather brutish and anti-authoritarian, but generally good; after all they're Transforming Robot Dinosaurs! The Insecticons, however, were more devious and evil than Megatron and Starscream combined.
In Beast Wars, all of the Maximals were mammals or birds, or fusions of the two. Those who weren't (Dinobot and Blackarachnia) were incoming Heel Face Turns. The toyline did this a lot as well, though we did get at least one bug Maximal in Beast Machines. Additionally, both Silverbolt the wolf/eagle fuzor and Rattrap the rat were heroes. In Beast Machines, the gang was joined by a bat and Silverbolt, through a wildly convoluted series of events, had become a vulture.
The case of Inferno is especially unbelievable. He was said to have a "Maximal body" the first time he was seen. The body in question? A Fire Ant. First off, the arachnids all start off as Predacons. Six legs good, eight legs bad, apparently. Secondly, Fire Ants are scary in Real Life.
For the record, all the Predacons that were added as the show went along were Maximal protoforms reprogrammed to be evil. But the type of animal they scanned for their beast form was sure to align with the trope.
Transformers Animated returns both the Dinobots, who are (mostly) happy to just be left alone, as well as Blackarachnia, who is a pretty cruel little spider (though since she is also the Dark Chick of the Decepticons, she at least get the benefit of a sad backstory).
While the stars of Brandy & Mr. Whiskers are a purebred dog and a rabbit respectively, their friends include such unlikely animals as a boa constrictor and a walking stick insect. The sole recurring antagonist is a gecko, usually considered a cute animal of late.
And just in case the "don't judge anyone just by the way they look" message didn't sink in, the TV series gives us the episode "Fugitive Flowers". In it, Hippie-Chick Pony Posey is (way too) easily convinced by a group of cute little talking flowers that the giant, scary crab monsters following them are evil. Go figure, the talking flowers soon reveal their terrifying true forms and wreak havoc on the Ponyland ecosystem — they're gigantic, invasive weeds that happen to look pretty. The crab monsters were actually Proud Warrior Race Guys hoping to stop them.
Would you believe there's some Truth in Television to this episode? Long story short, asking a very young child to help you pull up the weeds in your perennial garden is not going to end well. (Certainly, you want the dandelions and their pretty flowers to flourish while getting those boring echinacea leaves out of the way, right?) On a separately bad note, some children delight in ripping up dandelions. But only their HEADS, leaving the roots to continue their conquest of your front lawn.
Also, the Ponies being so quick to distrust the crab monsters is a little more explainable when one remembers that A: they introduce themselves by ripping apart everything in sight (making for a bad first impression) and B: they won't stop and explain themselves, and C: they call themselves "Crabnasties". That's not exactly the sort of name to inspire confidence in their fundamental benevolence.
The Friendship is Magic episode "Swarm of the Century" has Fluttershy finding an adorable bug in the forest and taking it home. The other ponies coo over its cuteness, despite the fact that it has suddenly become three bugs. All too soon, the ponies realize that these bugs not only multiply rapidly, they eat everything in sight and create mayhem and destruction wherever they go. By episode's end, they are over their initial enamor.
This trope is frequently subverted with Fluttershy, who is truly a Friend to All Living Things. She has absolutely no problem with any animal, including mythical creatures like a Manitcore (except adult dragons, which she was terrified of, but she got over that).
Similarly, an episode of Thunder Cats features a cop and a criminal: one was a sinister, brutal-looking alien, the other a shiny gold, fragile-looking robot in white robes. Guess who's who! It wasn't even a reptilian alien — as would be frequently used for this trope or an attempt to play with it — but something even "creepier" by most standards; a hairy scorpion-man, complete with pincers, a tail and chelicerae! "Cute" sidekick Snarf actually failed to appreciate the lesson in the end.
Bucky O Hare And The Toad Wars was all over this trope like butter on toast. The show concerns an interplanetary war between the Toads and various mammalian species. Now, it's not like this isn't typical for this trope, but consider this: it isn't just that "Toads are ugly so it's okay to antagonize them". The Toads' planet had been taken over by an evil computer which militarized their society and brainwashed the Toads into conquering other worlds. So now the other animals are fighting what are armies of brainwashed minions. Dude...
Additionally, in an early episode, a guy named Al Negator tries to get a job on Bucky's ship, the Righteous Indignation. As he's a shifty-looking reptile, the crew is generally suspicious. But Captain Bucky O'Hare hires him anyway, making a big point of mentioning how he trusted the gunner Deadeye Duck, despite him being a pirate with somewhat questionable morals. So it looks like a "beauty is on the inside" or "different doesn't mean bad" kind of Aesop...until Al betrays them, steals classified info, and sabotages the ship! So is the message "if they look evil, they are evil"? (To be fair, Deadeye never did a Face-Heel Turn, so Bucky was at least right about him. He's a duck. Ducks are cute. Even when they are four-armed pirates.)
Deadeye was voiced by Scott McNeil. The Aesop is "never trust any baddie not voiced by Scott McNeil".
My Gym Partners A Monkey plays with this trope endlessly. The staff includes a warthog, a chameleon, a goldfish, a baboon, a pixie frog and an elephant, all of whom have personalities that vary wildly with their appearances; the snake is friendly, helpful and a member of the main cast (one notable episode had him apparently fighting with a mongoose, only to be revealed that they were just playing tag); the (spider) monkey is the resident Jerk with a Heart of Gold; and the human, instead of being a bastard, is just trying to survive amongst the insanity. The shark, however, is the school bully, but like most bullies in recent fiction, he's a coward who hides his insecurities behind violence
Inverted in Dexters Laboratory in one episode where Dexter and Dee Dee joined manly and cute clubs respectively. Due to accidentally mixing up the instructions for initiation, Dexter enters the club full of action-ready guys dressed in a tutu and carrying a tin of cookies. Dee Dee enters the cute pony club dressed in combat fatigues. The dangerous looking men immediately recognized the swapped instructions as a common mistake and shared a laugh at the whole affair in a friendly manner with Dexter. Meanwhile, the cute ponies are ready to drop Dee Dee into a boiling cauldron for not being cute enough!
Figures heavily in Gargoyles, where the eponymous species was nearly hunted to extinction because of their monstrous appearance. Most of the gargoyle-friendly humans don't mind and, indeed, some fans of the show find them rather cute. Goliath — if you can get past the wings, fangs, horns, and talons — could be seen as downright handsome. (And let's face it, any character with Keith David's voice is going to have less trouble with the ladies than he might otherwise.)
Humorously subverted in one episode, where Elisa (the lead human) is turned into a gargoyle herself. Goliath admits that he never realized she was so beautiful, and it is implied that gargoyles find humans just as physically unattractive as humans find gargoyles.
In the same episode, Elisa was just short of being all over Goliath in the few moments when they were both humans. Although they were already close friends beforehand, it seems that seeing each other as the same species kick-started it into an attraction.
As well, the later seasons/comic series makes it pretty explicit that it's something both sides can get over. In the show, from their globe-wandering on, the two of them display as much sexual frustration about their relationship hurdles as you could get away with in a Disney show. The comic rather implies that the frustration part may be a thing of the past, as Elisa dons a dress that could only be called "boobtastic" (though not really Stripperiffic) in preparation for a night out with Goliath that she muses should be "quite the hot time". In the Halloween episode she was dressed as Belle.
Because of his pterosaur-like features (his clawed wings and, more obviously, his humongous beak), Brooklyn is sometimes treated as the ugliest in the show, especially by humans who get outright scared. Being horned and red doesn't help. In the fanbase, however...
An exception appears in Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who!, where the villainess is a kangaroo. She does, however, employ a terrifying psychotic vulture, as well as a gang of apes who constantly look like they're rarin' and ready to ruin someone's day.
Captain Planet has an example of this in its pilot episode. When Gaia sends the rings to the five kids, each of them gets a short scene illustrating their affinity with their element. Ma-Ti's Heart is demonstrated by him saving a trapped monkey from... being eaten by some sort of large wild cat, sending the message that carnivores don't count as Gaia's creatures. A bit of a Broken Aesop when watched with an adult view of ecology.
It goes beyond that; while the show is meant to teach kids about respecting animals, how do we instantly know Hoggish Greedly and Verminous Skumm are bad? Because they look like a pig and a rat, respectively.
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder zigzagged this one. Early in the episode, the Wongs' urban developments threaten to eliminate a species of leech. Leela rescues one, which immediately starts attacking her and trying to drain her blood. She fights it off, nearly kills it, then resuscitates it before the cycle repeats itself. Eventually she ends up caging it, the apparent lesson being that just because an endangered species is ugly and hostile doesn't mean it should be exterminated. Then, mere minutes before the ending it turns out that this species of leech is the most recent manifestation of an Always Chaotic Evil race bent on exterminating other species.
She does this in several other episodes, like the time she rescued Nibbler from an imploding planet and allowed him to eat all the other rescued animals with no repercussion, all because he was adorable.
She hated Mr. Peppy, Fry's bone vampire, even though he was actually pretty nice.
At least there was something apologetic in the fact that her will requests that her body be fed to the Cyclophage - a giant beast that only eats cyclopes.
Re: The Dave Barry quote at the top — Toad Patrol. They may not have been furry, but the creators of this show did everything they could to make the toads on this show look as a cute as possible. Oh, but snakes are evil.
Growing Up Creepie is the subversion of this trope personified. She's a pint-size Perky Goth raised by bugs, and nearly every episode involves her helping out some kind of "creepy-crawly" creature. There's one called Scorpophobia, where a horror movie about scorpions opens in Creepie's town and is invaded by scorpions that scare all the human moviegoers out; Creepie finds out not only that they're just there to see the movie (since "Scorpions haven't had a starring role in a movie for years") but that the queen scorpion in the movie itself turns out to be a good guy.
The South Park episode "Whale Whores" concerns Stan's attempts to stop the Japanese from killing dolphins and whales. In typical South Park fashion, it is revealed the Japanese believe those species are responsible for the atomic bombing. After Stan makes them think chickens and cows are the real culprits, the Japanese go after them. Everyone watches approvingly.
Randy: Now the Japanese are normal, like us.
The Animals of Farthing Wood subverts this for it's first two seasons with non-cute animals as heroes (Weasel, Toad) and a semi-realistic art style that neutralised the animals' features- although arguably if you were a bad animal not part of the band of Farthing Wood friends, you were a bloodthirsty predator that didn't talk. Similarly, it was a-okay for the owls and foxes to eat mice, rats, etc- as long as they were non-talking, non-Farthing wood mice. Then in the third season...whoa. A bunch of rats were introduced to the story, and since they were all evil, they all had over the top, cartoony evil features (Claws! Fangs! Glowing pink eyes!) that didn't fit at all with the rest of the animation.
Parodied in an episode of The Tick. Some aliens come to the Tick for help; initially dressed as Roswell Grays, so that he'd get the idea. Once he's come to terms with what's going on, they drop the disguises, and the Tick comments that they're not the best-looking guys in the universe.
What Ambassador: Well Tick, I'd like to tell you that we're actually considered quite beautiful on our home planet, but...
What Crewman: *shaking head* Whaaaa-at.
What Ambassador: We're dogs.
In Ruby-Spears Superman, the Kryptonian known as Superman falls into something similar to the Thunder Cats example above in this second episode. He had to determine who an alien criminal was between two two choices — a beautiful lady humanoid and an ugly whale man. Whale Man turned out to be a space-cop, and the lady humanoid was the crook. Fortunately she soon transformed into a giant Kaiju monster, which everyone felt made beating her up much easier.
Still played straight to a erroneous degree in the sense that the Land of Dream was still conveyed as a saccharine borderline embodiment of good, despite often being far more vindictive and self righteous than the uglier but pragmatic Urpneys (who were almost always Harmless VillainsJust Following Orders) and often taking their retaliations far beyond self defensefor the sake of sadistic fun. The narrative still vigorously conveys the heroes as righteous and properly provoked and the Urpneys deserving whatever they dish them, with all of a couple of instances the Noops were even vaguely depicted as taking things too far.
Zigzagged in Yin Yang Yo: the main characters are two cute bunny rabbits while their master is a panda. Their friends include a dog, a chicken, an aardvark, and some sort of monster. The villains are also a mixed batch: one of their main enemies is a cockroach who is deemed ugly and a giant bat; then, there's enemies like Yuck who looks like Yin and Yang but only with more dingy fur and sharp teeth (they even call him cute in the first episode he's in), the Chung Pow Kittens who are a group of adorable cats, and Fastidious who is a small hamster with a British acccent.
In Stripperella, the title character regularly mentions animal rights and refuses to harm them, but does not hesitate to stomp on a giant crab and freeze another (implied to be the mother) into little ice cubes.
Played with in the Tom and Jerry series. While housecat Tom was often the villain to small cute mouse Jerry, the shorts frequently made light of Jerry's occasional mean streak, with Tom actually granted the last laugh the odd time he came off as the more sympathetic character. Tom and Jerry Tales also frequently Deconstructs the usual cat and mouse formula.
Inverted in Fairly OddParents where the adorable "prize inside" stuffed teddy bear looking aliens are evil conquerers who use their cuteness to catch their victims off guard.
There is a massive ongoing debate in Canada right now over the baby harp seal hunt. Many people have pointed out the apparent hypocrisy in caring about the systematic killing of adorable fuzzy seals, as opposed to something not particularly cute such as cattle.
In the late 1980s, when this issue first flared up in a major way, it was more the "club something adorable to death" issue people had a problem with.
Even today, the image used by anti-hunt advocates is almost always that of a whitecoat, a newborn seal with a cute white coat. People don't tend to root for the Hooded Seal, also hunted (and, unlike the harp seal, actually endangered) because it looks like a Cthuloid abomination.
This trope became incredibly obvious during a commercial break on the Discovery Channel: A commercial was aired from the Humane Society about animal abuse, which among understandable footage of maimed dogs and cats had a shot of a seal being clubbed while the narrator explained how horrible it is to harm or even kill a living animal. Immediately afterward was a commercial for Deadliest Catch, a show about the unsympathetic systematic slaughter of millions of crab that are killed in much less humane ways than the seals.
German "science" TV show Galileo did a shocking documentary about tigers in a Korean zoo being raised under horrible conditions like too small cages, a true scandal. Then the next day they showed people eating (and chewing) living frog and skinning a snake while it was still alive, that fell under their cool section.
Many people object to using glue traps for mice, which instead of killing the mouse simply hold it there until it starves, dehydrates, etc. However, no one objects to flypaper and roach motels, which work on the exact same principle, but with non-cutes. Because mice are endothermic mammals and require much more food and water per gram of body weight than insects, they also work much more quickly for mice.
Averted by Steve Irwin who was essentially a living, breathing incarnation of the Friend to All Living Things trope. The man once gave a heartbreaking eulogy to a dying lizard. Not even a very exciting or rare lizard. It was just a lizard. But he cared enough, anyway.
Anansi, a spider culture hero from West Africa, averts this. Granted, he is The Trickster who gets others into trouble a lot...but the fact that his victims are consistently dumb enough (and often mean-spirited) to fall for his traps prevents the audience from feeling sympathy for the "bad guys".
Some Spanish people point this out, wondering why bullfighting is legal and dog fighting is not.
In North America, there is widespread opposition to the slaughter of horses and their use as meat. They seem to have no such qualms about, say, cattle.
Prevalent in the Anglosphere and Western world in general. It probably dates back to Christianization of Europe. Horses were eaten in Pagan rituals, and the church discourage this. In the 19th century there was an attempt to use old work horses as cheap food for the poor, but it never really caught on. Combine this with horses being very valuable for much of their history, and the fact that people work closely with them makes killing them, and eating them a bigger deal than cows.
The religious background for this in Christian and Jewish tradition is spelled out in The Book of Leviticus. Chapter 11 deals with what is and is not acceptable for eating, stating that only those "That has a cloven hoof, divided in two, and that is a ruminant" are acceptable. Since horse hooves are not divided, they are forbidden. Oddly enough, you're not supposed to eat griffons either (Leviticus 11:13). Seeing as how there's no more griffons, one can assume this rule was not followed, regardless of the level of cuteness.
In the west horses tend to be companion or work animals and in the case of the former there is an implicit bargain that if an animal has a trust relationship with a human, that animal should not be eaten. When a horse is engaged as a work animal the simple truth is that after years of hard work they simply would not taste very good. Beef Cattle and other livestock are raised as food from birth and therefore humans rarely form bonds with them.
To simplify the above, eating a horse is like betraying one of humanity's best friends for many centuries. Many people think cows are cute, but they are merely considered food rather than friends by society, having been bred just to be eaten. Even though we have used cattle as work animals just as much as horses, we called them oxen.
A considerable amount of effort and money goes into protecting the American Mustang which is an introduced species descended from escaped horses brought to North America by the Spanish. The amount of effort and money going into protecting the Mustang is significantly greater than goes into protecting many genuine indigenous endangered species.
The listing of animals under the United States' Endangered Species Act is a good example of this: "The employees in the Office of Endangered Species proceeded by listing the species that they liked best despite the prescription against ranking in the Act. A survey of their preferences demonstrated that they ranked mammals and birds above fish, amphibians, and reptiles, and these preferences reflect the rankings of which species are actually listed. The few listed arachnids suggests they have relatively few to champion their case for candidacy." link
Recently in Italy there was a scandal where the presenter of a TV show about cooking gave a recipe in which the main ingredient was cat meat. After a media kerfuffle the presenter was fired, eliciting responses of "Oh, so it's OK to eat chicken, rabbit, and beef, but cats are off-limits?"
Also averted harshly in that it seems the cuter the bunny, the better it will taste, with the best meat coming from the New Zealand white rabbit.
Sometimes wildlife conservation works this way; for example tigers are good poster animals, because when tiger habitats are preserved, rare snakes, spiders, and insects living in the same area are preserved as well, and people like animals such as tigers, polar bears, whales, etc. The panda is currently the most famous conservation icon due to its cuteness. (They never tell you that it's too lazy to raise both its cubs and just lets one die.)
Ironically, they are actually very different - rats are both far more intelligent and far more social animals than hamsters, resulting in their ability to actually bond with human owners and see humans as playmates much like kittens do. Most domestic rats rarely bite unless severely frightened (the main exceptions are some pink-eyed rats who can't see well and are easily startled). Hamsters, on the other hand, rarely see humans as more than lumps to climb on and to bite any time they happen to get in the way. But because hamsters have rounder faces and fluffier fur (and no long, naked, semi-prehensile tail), they are the more popular pet.
There has apparently been talk about banning goldfish as pets in San Francisco due to them often being bred in unethical conditions or something along those lines. Whether you agree with the ban or not, you have to admit that the people's reactions have been telling of this trope. The worst comments claimed that they can't even feel pain, which has been scientifically proven wrong (and if it wasn't, you'd think the benefit of the doubt would go towards supposing that they can, to avoid possibly causing pain). Goldfish are generally often treated badly, for example kept in far too small bowls, again probably due to this trope. It's all too hard to make people understand that not only do they in fact have longer memories than 3 seconds (as busted by the MythBusters, among others), they are actually rather smart and can learn tricks and even recognize humans by voice.
Another fish example are the species of tuna, many of which are being overfished into extinction. Meanwhile, what the general public worries about is that dolphins might be harmed as a side effect of tuna fishing.
Of course, another reason for this is that dolphins are many times more intelligent than tuna.
In America, opossums tend to get this treatment. Due to their vague resemblance to that abhorred rodent and disturbing dentition, they often get treated with much less respect and mercy than other native wildlife. Some people immediately conclude that an opossum is rabid because it's ugly, even though their low body temperature makes them unlikely to catch the virus. An opossum living outside your house is usually harmless and sometimes even useful, as they eat many small pests. Admittedly they are rather dirty (and smelly) animals, but rarely carry any contagious diseases, to the point that wild opossum roadkills are usually safe to eat and there's a whole cuisine in the Deep South around them. They have very little chance of hurting you, their best defense is to hiss and play dead. But they're uglier than raccoons and skunks, so they must be evil!
One of PETA's harebrained ideas to scare people away from eating fish was to attempt to rename them "sea-kittens," the logic being that if only we identified fish as adorable and cuddly, then no one would eat them. Needless to say, it wasn't long before they went back to using naked celebrities for publicity again.
Part of why this didn't work is that Catfish are both caught and farmed for food. In some places, Catfish are a delicacy while in other places they are a dietary staple. A "sea-kitten" could refer to a juvenile Catfish that will be lunch when it grows up.
Only cute reptiles like leopard geckos, bearded dragons, ball pythons and corn snakes are popular in the pet trade. Then again, they're also the hardiest, least costly and most laid-back in terms of temperament, so it's justified.
Tegus, particularly, seem to be actively working, as a species, towards defying Reptiles Are Abhorrent; videos of them being quite affectionate and tame with their owners are commonplace.
Monitor lizards as well (tegus are not monitor lizards). Even Komodo dragons in zoos have been known to get used to their keepers, and while most people who keep monitor lizards are more likely to think they're cool than cute, there are cute ones like ridge-tailed monitors, or "ackies" (Varanus acanthurus). The trouble is that even though they can be like scaly dogs under the right circumstances, if something goes wrong with a monitor lizard, Reptiles really are Abhorrent. Research before you get one, kids.
And, to be fair, most reptiles that are not popular pets are either highly endangered or dangerous.
In a now notorious Internet video, a man, one Luke Magnotta, fed a live kitten to a Burmese python. When the video caused an uproar, some people defended his actions, pointing out that there are several videos on YouTube of cats killing and eating baby snakes, and no-one complains about this. (The complaints might be due to Magnotta's later arrest for murdering and dismembering his roommate and mailing the pieces. Perhaps if the video had been flagged, the murder may not have happened.)
Fully-domesticated pet animals (ie cats and dogs, rather than captive-bred-but-essentially-wild ones like reptiles and birds) exhibit neoteny, which is when they keep juvenile traits into adulthood. This is probably an effect of us looking after them - but it serves to make us want to look after them more, because babies are helpless and adorable. Similarly, domestication seems to select for more expressive, human-like faces - hence the eyebrow-like markings on many breeds of dogs. When it comes to our pets, we select for cute.
Humans care about animals, because of this trope. Nobody even cares about plants. It is even considered good to eat plants. At least a mother boar can protect her piglets when someone tries to eat them. An apple tree? Forced to watch as someone casually plucks her children away from her branches and eats them, while sitting against her in her own shade.
Then again, humans may have a point. First off, plants, unlike animals, have no consciousness or awareness, and in cases like the example above, actually WANT their products eaten (the whole point of an apple is to have an animal eat it so the seeds end up in the fertile dung later).
It can be a subversion, though. It is possible to find anything cute, so the apple tree and the apples might be considered cute. Not that it stops people from eating the apples, though.
Not to mention the fact that fruit-bearing plants are supposed to be eaten. They evolved to taste good to animals, so they would be eaten, and the seeds would then be "deposited" somewhere else, allowing the plant's offspring to spread out and have a better chance at survival than they would growing right under their parent.