cuteness

The Requisite Post About That Movie

BB-8: Detail of image by Lucasfilm I did, in fact, see the film last night; Star Wars: The Force Awakens is unquestionably a marked improvement over the infamous episodes 1-3, though all I might say in specific review is that I am not ready to echo a friend who declared that Star Wars is back. Nonetheless, it was indeed better than I expected.

Meanwhile, a bit of something interesting, as Melissa Dahl at Science of Us explains why BB-8, the strangely adorable white and orange droid capturing consumers’ hearts everywhere, is “basically the textbook definition of cute”.

What is it about BB-8 that makes it so freaking cute? As it turns out, the little robot is practically a textbook example of Kindchenschema, or baby schema, the reigning theory describing just what features it takes to make someone or something appear adorable. This is something that scientists have been theorizing about since at least the 1940s, when ethologist Konrad Lorenz introduced the concept in a landmark paper.In his words — quoted later in an essay by popular science writer Stephen Jay Gould — for a creature to be considered cute, it must have the following: “a relatively large head … large and low-lying eyes, bulging cheek region, short and thick extremities … and clumsy movements.”

BB-8 nails every one of these characteristics. Its “head” is relatively large in proportion to its spherical “body,” and its “eye” — the black eyepiece, rather — is also pretty huge when compared to the size of the head. The area surrounding either side of the eyepiece bulge out like chubby cheeks, and while it doesn’t exactly have extremities, its rounded lower half definitely adds to the chubby effect. When it moves, it bobs and wobbles a bit as it rolls, making it look a little bit clumsy. In short, it’s got everything required to be scientifically classified as a total cutie pie.

Which sounds about right.

However, I would note BB-8 is also incredibly impractical. Honestly, its appearance is one suggesting marketplace novelty, as if people in that galaxy far, far away, who had already mastered gravity only recently figured out some notion of maglev. This thing is rolling around in a desert and apparently suffers no ill effects of sand. The upshot, of course, would involve a counterspoiler, but if you simply don’t think about it too hard, and attend the script by Lawrence Kasdan and J. J. Abrams, there is at least one occasion that … well, something about predictability goes here. And expectation. And seeing the joke coming only raises expectations. We will get a payoff on this point sometime during the new trilogy. Rather, we should. It really does seem inevitable, so the only remaining question is a matter of execution, and if they cannot pull it off we will know they have failed.

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Image note: BB-8, impractical as can be, but cute as anything. Detail of image by Lucasfilm.

Dahl, Melissa. “BB-8 Is Basically the Textbook Definition of Cute”. Science of Us. 17 December 2015.

A Little Light … er … ah … Something

D'oh!  An earlier version misidentified the Skipper costume as The Professor.

Normally, we find the saccharine-sweet clickbait going around social media downright idiotic, and possibly even offensive. And that isn’t necessarily because the overdose of toxic cuteness is itself stupid; rather, it has to do with the fact that it is so easy to “share” content that people seem to have stopped thinking about what they’re passing along.

Detail of photograph by Gina Lee, ca. 2013.To the other, it’s not like we’re going to knock Gina Lee or her daughter Willow. But in the first place, the destruction of language—such as Mike Spohr’s BuzzFeed headline, “A Little Girl Named Willow’s Costume Game Has Already Won Halloween”—really should stop. Professional writers should not go out of their way to behave as if they are functionally illiterate. Then again, botching the language is a commodity these days, so … you know … whatever. And Mr. Spohr can always blame his editors. We hope.

And, additionally, there are still other treasures to be found. The photographic exhibit also contains one of the best editorial corrections I’ve ever witnessed:

An earlier version misidentified the Skipper costume as The Professor.

Is this the part where we say, “Oh, my”?

Or would, “Ouch!” suffice?

To the other, BuzzFeed is aiming for proper journalism, saccharine clickbait notwithstanding. Many, perhaps most, of us would likely have just made the correction and not attached any sort of note. So thank you, Mr. Spohr, for taking that one on the chin for the sake of journalistic integrity.

And, no, that’s not nearly as much of a joke as it sounds.

But, yeah. We’ll give a little razzing. How could we not?

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Spohr, Mike. “A Little Girl Named Willow’s Costume Game Has Already Won Halloween”. BuzzFeed. 21 October 2014.