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Analysis / Good Animals, Evil Animals

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Species Morality Coding

Many predators (whether omnivorous or carnivorous) and scavengers are usually pegged as bad, mean, or evil even though most are not especially mean or aggressive in Real Life. Most herbivores are pegged as good, friendly, or nice even though many large herbivorous mammals are especially mean and aggressive in Real Life. Despite this trope's existence, animals that are pegged as bad or evil in fiction are actually not evil at all in Real Life and deserve respect and conservation as much as animals that are pegged as good in fiction, do.


Sometimes, there are differences with the species' moral coding across different cultures. For example, in Western cultures, ravens are generally portrayed negatively morality coding wise, but in Pacific Northwest Native American folklore, they are Guile Heroes.

Sometimes, some types of animals within a larger group of animals are portrayed either more negatively or more positively morality coding wise. For example, turtles, tortoises, and certain types of lizards are pegged as good guys whereas other reptiles are generally pegged as bad guys. Ravens and crows are technically songbirds, but unlike other songbirds, they are generally pegged as bad.

Sometimes, there are differences in the moral coding of a species across different time periods or locations. For the longest time, wolves were among the most demonized animal species, and in Europe this attitude still prevails. In North America, however, with its much larger tracts of wilderness, the wolf is viewed more positively. Also, sperm whales were generally pegged as bad guys in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but that portrayal of sperm whales has faded away as whaling became discredited. Before people knew that gorillas were gentle animals, they were generally cast as pugnacious bad guys.


Some animals are usually pegged as good despite the negative expressions and associations attributed to them. For example, skunks are usually portrayed as good despite being associated with sneakiness and the expression, "drunk as a skunk." Also, when a person is called a "dog," the label usually refers to their disloyalty, even though real dogs are loyal and fictional dogs are usually heroic or otherwise good.

With some animals that are often pegged as bad or evil, the young of the species doesn't normally follow the moral pegging often attributed to the species' adult form. For example, when humans are cast as bad guys, it is usually adults that are cast as such. Children can be cast as villains, but it's usually done as a subversion or as an Enfant Terrible. Teens can be either/or in moral pegging. Also, adult cats are often cast as bad or mean, but kittens are usually exempt from that moral pegging. If a kitten is cast as evil, it's usually done for comedic purposes.


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Species Morality Coding List

    Bad Guy Animals 

    Good Guy Animals 

    Either/Or Animals 


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