In his book, Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic
, Daniel Harris
describes how a thing becomes cute “not necessarily because of a quality it has but because of a quality it lacks, a certain neediness and inability to stand alone, as if it were an indignant starveling, lonely, and rejected because of a hideousness we find more touching than unsightly.” Within the aesthetic of cuteness , there is a pitiable quality, something that can be explored in the popularity of tea cup dogs
; a trend which has surged thanks to everyone’s favorite famous for being famous heir, Paris Hilton
. In the course of her overly publicized life, she has paraded several animals down the red carpet. Even on her show, The Simple Life
, she is constantly clutching Tinkerbell
, a tea cup chihuahua- a very tiny dog, whose internal organs have never fully developed, whose bones can be broken in one jump off a lap, wrapped in the arms of Paris, wide eyed and shivering; terrified of the flashbulbs that illuminate his vision. Paris even furthers this ideal of animals as accessories by replacing Tinkerbell with a smaller (cuter) dog for the red carpet, named Bambi.
This trend is explored by Harris who believes, “(cuteness) generates enticing images like these of ugliness and dejection
, cuteness has become essential to the marketplace, in that advertisers have learned that consumers will ‘adopt’ products that create, often in their packaging
alone, an aura of motherlessness, ostracism, and melancholy, the silent desperation of the lost puppy dog clamoring to be befriended-namely to be bought.”
Who is more ostracized than a puppy whose growth is stunted because its lack of mother’s milk? Hilton has made teacup dogs a hot accessory for young women, because of their ability to promote sympathy and a sense of motherhood to young women. Yet, before Hilton’s heyday, teacup dogs were more likely to be called runts
, a word with such a negative connotation, which are the animals least likely to survive; weak, and hardest to take care of, otherwise known as “medical disaster
”. At one time, this tiny dog was usually given away for free to a friend of a friend by the breeder. If cuteness is an angle for marketing, breeders have it down. Change the description from ‘runt’ (negative), to teacup (positive, cute), get the consumer to believe that these dogs are more valuable (Paris Hilton has one), and people will pay.
Harris has correctly pegged the cute as the pitiable, a marketing strategy that attracts mothering personas to the motherless.