Predictably Irrational Stereotype

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Squirrels and rats belong to the same family, medium-sized rodent. Why hate rats, love squirrels?

Ice Age. Yep, squirrels are greedy. Not just this squirrel, but squirrels in general.

Ratatouille. Rats can cook!

I went picnic today with my cousin at Central Park. Apparently, people there are crazy about squirrel. They are cute, furry and mischievous. However, Squirrel and rat look almost the same, except for their tails. From Inglorious Bastard by Quentin Tarantino (Respect) :

Col. Hans Landa: The feature that makes me such an effective hunter of the Jews is, as opposed to most German soldiers, I can think like a Jew, where they can only think like a German … more precisely, German soldier. Now, if one were to determine what attribute the German people share with a beast, it would be the cunning and the predatory instinct of a hawk. But if one were to determine what attributes the Jews share with a beast, it would be that of the rat. The Führer and Goebbels’s propaganda have said pretty much the same thing, but where our conclusions differ is I don’t consider the comparison an insult. Consider, for a moment, the world a rat lives in. It’s a hostile world, indeed. If a rat were to scamper through your front door right now, would you greet it with hostility?
Perrier LaPadite: I suppose I would.
Col. Hans Landa: Has a rat ever done anything to you to create this animosity you feel towards them?
Perrier LaPadite: Rats spread diseases. They bite people.
Col. Hans Landa: Rats were the cause of the bubonic plague, but that’s some time ago. I propose to you, any disease a rat could spread, a squirrel could equally carry. Would you agree?
Perrier LaPadite: Oui.
Col. Hans Landa: Yet I assume you don’t share the same animosity with squirrels that you do with rats, do you?
Perrier LaPadite: No.
Col. Hans Landa: But they’re both rodents, are they not? And except for the tail, they even rather look alike, don’t they?
Perrier LaPadite: It’s an interesting thought, Herr Colonel.
Col. Hans Landa: Ha! However interesting as the thought may be, it makes not one bit of difference to how you feel. If a rat were to walk in here right now, as I’m talking, would you greet it with a saucer of your delicious milk?
Perrier LaPadite: Probably not.
Col. Hans Landa: I didn’t think so. You don’t like them. You don’t really know why you don’t like them; all you know is you find them repulsive. [lets the metaphor sink in] What a tremendously hostile world a rat must endure. Yet not only does he survive, he thrives. Because our little foe has a instinct for survival and preservation second to none. And that, Monsieur, is what a Jew shares with a rat. Consequently, a German soldier conducts a search of a house suspected of hiding Jews. Where does the hawk look? He looks in the barn, he looks in the attic, he looks in the cellar, he looks everywhere he would hide. But there’s so many places it would never occur to a hawk to hide. However, the reason the Führer’s brought me off my Alps in Austria and placed me in French cow country today is because it does occur to me. Because I’m aware what tremendous feats human beings are capable of once they abandon dignity.

Is this repulsion rational?

Not all squirrels have the luxury of having an organic diet in the nut-packed beautiful garden in New York City. My cousin said in St. Louis, like rats, squirrels scavenge garbage. In fact, she said the squirrels in poor neighborhood are more fat because of all the junk food dumped in trash. Rats do the same thing.

Just think about why exactly do people hate rat and not squirrel? I’d say modern media play a significant part in promoting a bad image of rats. Just as what I learned from Cultural Studies, there has been a redress of wolf’s bad image in China lately. Ever heard about the book Wolf Totem and the cartoon 喜洋洋与灰太郎? Hopefully, that luckiness would fall on rats soon.

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