Anthropomorphic narrative : humanizing animals in factual writing and filmmaking

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Anthropomorphism, a strategy for storytelling whereby human characteristics are applied to non-human characters, has been criticized for its anthropocentrism and tendency to misinterpret animal behaviors. Evidence suggests that anthropomorphism makes an audience more sympathetic and better able to connect with an animal character since they can metaphorically see themselves reflected in said animal. I propose that anthropomorphism needs to be analyzed in layers. In this paper I look at the first layer of anthropomorphism: anthropomorphic narration or the humanizing of animals through story. I caution against describing species as "bad", or emphasizing behaviors or characteristics that humans do not find pleasing or particularly interesting. Misrepresenting a species can lead to social stereotypes that harm its conservation potential. Finally, I explore the use of religious themes as applied to "humanized" animals. The French documentary "La Marche de l'empereuar" (2004), the graphic novel "Maus: A Survivor's Tale I" (1986), Jim Trainor's short films "The Bats" (1999) and "The Moschops" (2000), and my thesis film "Hunting the Horned Horse" (2015) are used to explore anthropomorphic narration.


Hunting for the horned horse is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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