Animal Stereotypes and sexual discrimination in Polar Bear’s Café

Someone needs to fight for the injustice done towards these poor animals!

No, this is not Polar Bear’s Café review. I will post my full review sometimes after the show ends its run. This post is more like a half-time remark on things I picked up from watching show. And despite the rather strong title of the post, I want to tell you that I like the show quite a lot so far.

Polar Bear Café’s characters are very refreshing to watch.

There’s no doubt about that. At first, I thought the anime would set in fantasy (or at least surreal) world where animals could talk. But Polar Bear’s Café set in realistically portrayed world full of people going about their regular business. Somehow all these talking animals lived among us; they even work in the zoo as ‘zoo animal’ version of themselves. I wish I got paid just for being myself like they did!

Is this show forcing certain stereotypes into these animal characters?

When you think of Grizzly bear, do you imagine it as a cuddly loving bear?

After watching this anime for a while, I found myself enjoy watching these animals (Polar bear, Panda, Penguin, Lama, Tortoise, Grizzly etc.). I liked how the anime employed each species’ unique trait into their characters. For example, Panda was always lying around chewing on bamboo grass; Mr. Tortoise was frequently misunderstood because he talked so slowly because no one waited till he completed his sentence or Grizzly-san appeared to be tough and fierce.

But how did they know that these animals were supposed to be like that? It appeared that the anime producers were actually creating these characters using images from their own perception. More precisely, they used human’s general impression towards these animals. It goes like this…

Panda = cute + lazy
Polar Bear = wise + kind
Grizzly bear = tough + fierce
Penguin = naïve + insecure
Sloth = slow + slow
Turtoise = slow + old
Crocodile = hungry + bully

This is what we usually come up with when we think about these animals; stereotypes. No wonder there was only one for each animal type (except the Pandas) because each character essentially represented its entire respective species. Of course, this was only my observation and it was actually not the weakness of this anime. I was under the impression that such generalization and use of stereotypes were present in most anime anyway (not to mention other types of media). In that light, Polar Bear’s Café remained quite unique. Instead of using typical stereotypes based on race, occupation or gender, Polar Bear’s Café used stereotypes based on species. These animals were trapped in our limited perception of their respective species.

Where are all the female animals?

Calling the lack of female animal in this anime a case of sexual discrimination was rather too strong. I believed that the predominance of male animal resulted from the same phenomenon discussed above.  Seriously, when you think of Polar Bear, do you think of male or female polar bear? The same could be said with most other animals; emperor penguin, grizzly bear, crocodile for instance. Though I do not actually agree with it, I don’t expect to see major female animal character popping up sometimes soon, unless it is a poodle or Persian cat.

This article is inevitable influenced by my own way of thinking. The nature of the people behind this anime also had heavy influence on characterization of Polar Bear’s Café. The only way to change this is to add more animal of the same species. If we had more than one grizzly bear, the second grizzly bear would have to be different from the first and thus, the second bear could break free from the stereotype.

Note: I have watched 14 episodes of Polar Bear’s Cafe when I wrote this article. New development might emerge later in the series but I will keep further discussion for my full review after the show ends.

4 responses to “Animal Stereotypes and sexual discrimination in Polar Bear’s Café

  1. Actually, Penguin has overcome his insecurity and earned himself a harem of female penguins (in a very hilarious manner).

  2. I’m glad you wrote about Polar Bear’s Cafe. I’ve been meaning to write a post about it as well.

    It’s an enjoyable show to watch, but its premise really is sort of strange: that the animals are accepted in this small town as if they were human, but at the same time, they’re still seen as animals (since they’re at the zoo as themselves). I have to wonder if it’s a sly statement about how minorities are perceived and treated by a majority culture. I could be reading too much into it, of course. ;)

    • There’s no such thing like reading too much into something as long as we don’t forget to enjoy the show (which we did). Personally, I am convinced that the animals working in the zoo as themselves implied to how people treat minorities as well, though I doubt that it was intended.
      Thanks for the comment :)

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