ArticlePDF Available

Holy bonsai wolves: Chihuahuas and the Paris Hilton syndrome



This article examines the reasons for the Chihuahua breed's popularity in contemporary western society by looking at two sets of data: Chihuahua handbooks and The Simple Life show, starring Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua Tinkerbell. The article argues that the Chihuahua is a holy anomaly: a creature which can be used in myths and rituals to temporarily alleviate the tension-filled binary oppositions and stereotypes inherent in a particular culture, in order to celebrate and reinforce that culture's categories and social order. The Chihuahua - or the bonsai wolf - transcends two binary oppositions fundamental to contemporary westerners: subject/object and nature/culture. Although the Chihuahua challenges a number of related binary oppositions, it is generally dismissed as a matter for humor, low-brow entertainment or expressions of sentimentality, rendering ritual encounters with Chihuahuas harmless. The article concludes by asking: what would happen if humans actually started listening to what the Chihuahua is telling them?
Holy bonsai wolves: Chihuahuas and the Paris Hilton syndrome
David Redmalm
(Department of Sociology) Örebro University, Sweden
Corresponding Author:
David Redmalm, Department of Sociology, Örebro University, 701 82 Örebro, Sweden.
Email: / new valid e-mail address:
Published as:
Redmalm, David (2014) ‘Holy Bonsai Wolves: Chihuahuas and the Paris Hilton Syndrome,’
International Journal of Cultural Studies 17(1), 93–109.
This article examines the reasons for the Chihuahua breed’s popularity in contemporary western
society by looking at two sets of data: Chihuahua handbooks and the Simple Life show, starring
Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua Tinkerbell. The article argues that the Chihuahua is a holy
anomaly: a creature which can be used in myths and rituals to temporarily alleviate the tension-
filled binary oppositions and stereotypes inherent in a particular culture, in order to celebrate and
reinforce that culture’s categories and social order. The Chihuahua—or the bonsai wolf—
transcends two binary oppositions fundamental to contemporary Westerners: subject/object and
nature/culture. Although the Chihuahua challenges a number of related binary oppositions, it is
generally dismissed as humor, low-brow entertainment or expressions of sentimentality,
rendering ritual encounters with Chihuahuas harmless. The article concludes by asking: What
would happen if humans would actually start listening to what the Chihuahua is telling them?
Anomalies, binary oppositions, Chihuahuas, dogs, dichotomies, Donna Haraway, Paris Hilton,
hudographies, animal human relations, humor, popular culture.
Paris Hilton, heiress of the Hilton hotel chain, has frequently been depicted in popular media
carrying a Chihuahua—most often, her favorite dog, Tinkerbell Hilton. Tinkerbell’s fame, many
argue, creates an increased demand for Chihuahuas, which in turn has resulted in a large number
of abandoned Chihuahuas in the United States described by American journalists as ‘the Paris
Hilton syndrome’ (see e.g. Hyde, 2010; La Ganga, 2009). Chihuahuas clearly suffer from their
popularity: several breed-specific Chihuahua shelters and a national Chihuahua rescue group
(Chihuahua Rescue & Transport, Inc) have been created to respond to abandoned, neglected and
abused Chihuahuas, and Chihuahua handbooks dissuade readers from buying Chihuahuas as a
response to the Chihuahua trend (see e.g. Hustace Walker, 2006: 11). But Hilton was not the first
person to create a stir around the breed—several twentieth-century public figures have owned
Chihuahuas, and Chihuahua booms have accompanied these public figures’ success. At least in
the United States, interest in the Chihuahua breed seems to be less a momentary trend than a
fixation that has persisted since the late 19th century (Terry, 1990: 213ff).
This article examines the reasons for the Chihuahua’s popularity and the attention given
to the breed. It argues that the Chihuahua is popular because it allows contemporary Westerners
to play with binary oppositions fundamental to their society. Drawing on Mary Douglas’ (1984:
169ff) argument that anomalies to a society’s dichotomous conceptual framework are sometimes
considered holy, the Chihuahua is analyzed as a holy anomaly. Holy anomalies can be used in
rituals to temporarily alleviate the tension-filled binary oppositions inherent in a particular
culture, in order to celebrate and reinforce that culture’s categories and social order. The
Chihuahua’s ambiguity is in some respects reminiscent of the bonsai tree: it can be regarded as a
piece of nature brought into the social sphere as a portable proof of humanity’s omnipotence (cf.
Tuan, 1984: 61ff). Yet, Chihuahuas cannot be mere symbols of power; many people live and
actively interact with them on a day-to-day basis (Serpell, 1996: 52). Accordingly, the article
argues that the Chihuahua transcends a number of binary oppositions, of which two are
particularly central to the modern western society. First, the Chihuahua undermines the
opposition between subject and object, since the Chihuahua is both regarded as a dear
companion and as a commodity. Second, the Chihuahua transgresses the boundary between
nature and culture, since it is both a descendent from the wolf, and a social being included in the
sphere of human society. Chihuahuas allow modern people to play with these binary oppositions,
as well as a number of related oppositions, stereotypes and moral boundaries—a ritual which
ultimately reinforces the validity of these categories and boundaries. In short: the Chihuahua is a
holy bonsai wolf.
In the next section, I further present the concept of the holy anomaly and discuss the
Chihuahua’s place in contemporary western society. After a section accounting for
methodological considerations, the analysis is carried out in two steps. I first analyze the
ambiguities in Chihuahua handbooks’ portrayal of the breed, and I then go on to explore the
anomalies and transgressions produced in the relationship between Hilton and Tinkerbell. By
looking at these two sets of data, the article detects relevant binary oppositions inherent in
contemporary western culture. The focus on a particular dog breed is consistent with a larger
hudographical project, that is, the study of human-dog relations. As Emma Mason (2008: 291)
puts it, hudographers ‘might shed light on the way humans relate to themselves and each other
in a new way. In the present article, this means investigating the various discourses permeating
the Chihuahua and its existence to uncover the cultural categories that regulate both human-
Chihuahua relations and humans’ self-understanding. The Chihuahua is the holy anomaly of the
moderns; their holy bonsai wolf. Yet, this does not mean that the Chihuahua is a passive surface
for humans’ cultural inscriptions. Chihuahuas matter, as we shall see, through their constant
attempts in communicating with us humans. The question is: are we ready to listen?
Monsters and holy anomalies
According to Bruno Latour (1993), knowledge is most effectively produced when a society’s
thought systems and meticulously defined categories fail to fill their duties. He argues that while
the distinction between nature and culture has been integral to humans’ self-understanding during
the modern era, this constructed division incessantly creates anomalies, since no phenomenon is
strictly natural or cultural. Latour labels anomalies that cannot be translated into the language of
natural science or cultural understanding as monsters—they challenge a coherent understanding
of the world, and they dissolve binary oppositions fundamental to common sense. Monsters
therefore also pose a threat against enlightened, rational thought, and must be neglected or
destroyed (Latour, 1993: 11f; cf. Douglas, 1984: 39f).
The Chihuahua’s place in society is highly ambiguous—it is at once an exploitable
commodity and a life companion, an animal with a wolfish inner nature who plays an active role
in human society. These two binary oppositions are played out repeatedly in presentations of the
Chihuahua in contemporary western culture. The Chihuahua’s challenge against the binary
opposition between commodity and companion is prominent in the many toys modeled after the
breed. For example, Hasbro’s collectible Littlest Pet Shop series includes three different
Chihuahuas—‘ready to make a fashion statement in their stylin’ outfits!’ ( The
Chihuahua is also one of four breeds represented in the puppy-rearing TV-game Nintendogs. And
the Fancy Pals Pet Carriers (property of Aurora World, Inc.)—a plush purse and toy dog
combination—comes in three different Chihuahua designs. These toys play on the
commodification of the Chihuahua, but their marketing campaigns emphasize friendship and
care, implying that the dog also represents spiritual values.
The Chihuahua’s transgression of the boundary between nature and culture is also a
common theme in western culture, and it is highlighted in historical accounts of the breed. While
the Chihuahua is sometimes framed as something unnatural, simply a result of human
manipulation, the Chihuahua has a much more intricate past. An ancestor of the Chihuahua—the
Techichi—was bred in South America for ritual purposes and food as far back as the ninth
century in Toltec society, and later by Aztecs. When the Spanish colonized the Mexican region,
the Chihuahuas were set free and went to live in the Mexican mountains. The Chihuahua was
then re-domesticated and given the name of the Mexican region about two or three hundred years
ago (Gagne, 2005: 7ff; Waldorf Gewirtz, 2006: 18f). The image of the Chihuahua as a hard-
boiled survivor, offering dogged resistance in the face of the whims of nature and the constant
flux of human societies, thus stands in sharp contrast to the perception of the Chihuahua as a
petite fashion accessory. Several contemporary artists have explored the way the Chihuahua
challenges the nature/culture and the animal/human binaries. Bjarne Melgaard (1991) performed
with live Chihuahuas which he trained to sit still in various poses, highlighting issues of power,
socialization and domestication. Scott Musgrove explored the tension between wild wolf and
subjugated dog in his depiction of a Chihuahua in wolf’s clothing, Canis Strategema, from 2003.
In 2007, Daniel Edwards sculpted a diseased Hilton with a grieving Tinkerbell by her side,
challenging the traditional sexist association of women with animals, as well as the hierarchical
relation between the human owner and the owned animal.
While monstrous anomalies are often dealt with by means of expulsion, the Chihuahua is
instead elevated in a peculiar fashion, both in high and popular culture. This treatment can be
recognized in Mary Douglas’ (1984: 169ff) discussion of what I call holy anomalies—
phenomena which are given special attention in a cultural setting, not in spite of, but because
they challenge binary oppositions central to the society in which they exist. By confronting a
holy anomaly under controlled circumstances—and in so-called pre-modern societies this would
mean creating myths and rituals around the anomaly—a society is able to play with otherwise
strict boundaries between categories central to that society. In these playful confrontations,
knowledge about the categories and their boundaries are distributed to the members of the
society, and the categories are reinforced. As I will argue, the confrontations with the holy bonsai
wolf are dismissed as humor, sentimentality, or low-brow entertainment so that the Chihuahua’s
monstrosity never fundamentally threatens the social order it transgresses and the binary
oppositions it challenges. The ritual cementation of fundamental binary oppositions can hence
continue undisturbed. Thus, in the analysis of Chihuahua handbooks and the relationship
between Hilton and Tinkerbell, the analysis will focus on the Chihuahua’s challenges against
binary oppositions and cultural categories as well as highlight how these transgressions are
[Figure 1]
[Figure 2]
The Chihuahua as text
The method of analysis used in the present study is inspired by Donna Haraway’s (1989: 35, 58)
‘literal reading’ of 19th and 20th century documents concerning African expeditions, museiology
and primatology. Haraway’s project aimed to unsettle the original authors’ claims of objectivity
by pointing out the interplay of sexist, racist and anthropocentric elements in the texts. Her study
is ‘literal’ since she emphasizes the tensions already explicit in the texts, instead of imposing a
hermeneutic apparatus on the material. The present study is an analogous literal reading of
contemporary texts about the Chihuahua that focuses on the Chihuahua’s ambiguous character.
By playing texts about Chihuahuas against each other, the texts’ inherent tensions are
accentuated and as a result, the myth around the Chihuahua is laid bare. The reader may perceive
the focus on text as excluding the Chihuahua itself from the analysis—it may seem that
logocentrism must entail anthropocentrism (Barad, 2008: 136). Still, the texts which are analyzed
are produced, reproduced, circulated and assimilated in a system which also includes real, living
Chihuahuas and their interaction with humans. Chihuahuas thus ‘intervene in their own
representations’ (Hayward, 2010). To use Haraway’s (e.g. 1989: 172, 2008: 26) expression, the
Chihuahua is ‘material-semiotic’—at once a social construction and a biological organism. An
analysis of Chihuahuas’ significance is therefore pertinent to their material existence and may
have consequences for Chihuahuas themselves.
To capture the Chihuahua’s material-semiotic and omnipresent character, this twofold
study uses friction between different genres to map out the Chihuahua’s multi-faceted dynamics.
The first part focuses on Chihuahua handbooks. Ten internationally available books of
approximately 1700 pages were selected with the goal of creating variation in the data in terms
of length (100–300 pages), publication date (1990 to present), tone (both humorous and sober),
target audience (both first time and experienced dog owners) and the frequency of illustrations
(from almost no images at all to images on every page). The material was analyzed with a special
attention to tension-filled descriptions of the breed. Such descriptions were found in all of the
books, and they appeared in the books’ various sections, regardless of subject. The descriptions
were gathered under two main binary oppositions that encapsulate the Chihuahua’s bonsai wolf
character: individual/commodity and nature/nurture. To expand the characterization of the
Chihuahua, the second part of the study contrasts these findings to those of a similar analysis of
the relation between Hilton and Tinkerbell as depicted in three seasons’ episodes of the Simple
Life reality show.
The supplementary sources added to the analysis—both academic and popular—provide
additional context and a richer overview of the Chihuahua’s status in contemporary western
society. However, this article is written from within that society. Both the analysis and the
contextual frame are therefore recognized as the author’s rhetorical constructions, and the line
between contextualization and empirical material is intentionally blurred (cf. Rose, 1999: 13). As
a whole, the article makes up a critical Chihuahua hudography.
Chihuahua handbooks: ‘Are you up to the Chihuahua challenge?’
To investigate the Chihuahua’s contradictory character, I first look at a forum that turns the
Chihuahua into an object of desire. Chihuahua handbooks address potential Chihuahua owners
and current owners interested in enriching their relationship with their dogs through shared
activities, new diets, or perhaps another puppy. I discuss two binary oppositions evoked
repeatedly in the books: individual/commodity and nature/nurture.
Individual and commodity
A pet is certainly a commodity: it is bought and sold; there are fashion trends in breeds and
species; different pets are connected to different characteristics, values, ideas and ideals; and
many species used as pets are mass-produced. But a pet also transcends the status of commodity;
Chihuahua handbook authors continuously emphasize that every Chihuahua is an individual with
unique needs playing an important role in the life of the owner, and so cannot be used as a mere
fashion accessory. The commodification of Chihuahuas, as well as many other pets, accords with
the logic laid out by Baudrillard (1996: 141f, 1998: 60ff): while modern economies are based on
the mass-production of objects, every single object must be perceived as unique and authentic to
become a desirable commodity. Yet, commodities themselves have no intrinsic value and are
exchanged incessantly without ever satisfying the consumers. Pets are the ideal merchandise
because they are considered to be unique individuals and true companions in spite of the fact that
they are commercially exchanged. Zygmunt Bauman (2000: 81) also points out that consumption
is an inherently open-ended process. He argues that consumerism is an identity project which
Westerners in late modernity engage in to try to fill the void left when urbanization and
individualization erased the pre-modern Gemeinschaft. But the project is endless since shopping
is an insufficient substitute for actual social bonds, and consumers are never able to give
substance to their identity projects. Yet, the purchase of a Chihuahua-individual opens up the
possibility of a continuous identification with another individual—exactly what Bauman says the
contemporary consumer is looking for. Consequently, Chihuahuas dissolve the tension of the
individual/commodity binary.
The Chihuahua handbooks’ authors explicitly condemn the very notion of trends in dog
breeding (see e.g. Gagne 2005:11; Hustace Walker: 2006:46f), but the books’ pictures present
Chihuahuas as small and cute, surrounded by a sentimental shimmer. Chihuahuas are depicted in
flower arrangements; in teacups; in non-functional clothes; and in knitted baskets, the last being
one of the most common depictions (see e.g. Coile, 2003: 4; Pisano, 2001: 107; Terry, 1990: 18).
In addition, many of the pictures simply depict Chihuahuas posing in a studio—‘Chihuahuas
make wonderful models because they are easily trained and respond well to direction’ (Terry,
1990: 22). In other words, handbooks simultaneously disapprove of and encourage the
objectification and commodification of the Chihuahua.
Several authors use economic jargon to discuss the advantages of the pet relationship, and
some even allude to prostitution. The Chihuahua is described as ‘the smallest, most economical
and compact bundle of love in dogdom’ (Pisano, 2001: 9). And it is a remunerative investment:
‘For every affectionate pat they receive, you will get double payback in love and loyalty’
(Dunbar, 1999: 2). One author pinpoints the tension between the Chihuahua’s status as both
individual and commodity by saying that ‘the Chihuahua is a living proof that you can buy love’
(Coile, 2000: 9). In spite of these cynical observations, all authors emphasize that it is a constant
struggle to maintain a healthy human-dog relationship. A Chihuahua is not a guarantee for
unconditional love (see also Haraway, 2008: 228). To earn your Chihuahua’s friendship, you
have to love it and care for it—‘An unloved pet is an unhappy pet’ (Terry, 1990: 87); you have to
be sensitive to the Chihuahuas needs and wishes; you have to endure ‘the midnight walks in the
rain, the soiled floors, the lack of freedom, the expenses, such as food, equipment, boarding and
veterinary, and ultimately, the grief of parting after a long life’ (Coile, 2003: 11). And not to
forget, Chihuahuas need to urinate at short intervals: ‘Small dogs have small bladders!’ (Gagne,
2005: 23). With all these obstacles in mind—both existential questions and problems of a more
mundane kind—readers are urged to ask themselves: ‘Are you up to the Chihuahua challenge?’
(Coile, 2003: 10).
The individual/commodity binary even frames authors’ discussions of death. Most
Chihuahua handbooks emphasize that it is natural to grieve one’s lost canine friend, and
recommend a funeral ceremony of some sort as a last celebration of the mutual devotion between
dog and owner. Thus, handbooks make the Chihuahua’s demise meaningful by connecting it to
the dog’s purposeful life and its genuine personality—in contrast to the prevalent philosophical
idea that the death of a non-human animal is devoid of all meaning (Smith, 2005). According to
the handbooks, the departure of an individual dog is a tragedy, but the reader is also reminded
that there are always new dogs available at the market. The human-dog relation, therefore, is
cyclical. One chapter on euthanasia ends with the dreadful words: ‘Enjoy your new Chihuahua!’
(Terry, 1990: 94).
Nature, nurture or neuter?
While the image of the Chihuahua as a brittle decoration item is present in handbooks, authors
also emphasize that the Chihuahua in fact has a pristine, animal essence. They describe the breed
as a ‘natural breed,’ which means that according to its race specifics, it is not necessary to
manipulate the dog’s physical appearance. The Chihuahua may be a toy dog, but nevertheless,
‘[t]oy dogs are real dogs’ (O'Neil, 2008: 16), and it is as good a dog as any larger breed (Terry,
1990: 173). The Chihuahua’s long history adds to the perception of the Chihuahua as a real dog
with a well-preserved essence: ‘As much as they have shaken off their wild vestiges, Chihuahuas
still speak the ancestral language of wolves’ (Coile, 2000: 41).
Again: the Chihuahua is a bonsai wolf. Even though the Chihuahua is described as a
sturdy dog, its bonsai body creates a number of problems that handbooks repeatedly mention: the
dog is easily hurt by falling objects, careless people and bigger dogs; it has a sensitive
metabolism; it is sensitive to rain and cold weather; it is particularly hard to housebreak; because
of its small body volume, it is especially vulnerable to household chemicals and insect stings; its
teeth may accidentally be pulled out when playing too roughly; and it is vulnerable to several
diseases common to small breeds (Mondshine, 1999: 37; O’Neil, 2008: 225ff; Waldorf Gewirtz,
2006: 148). Furthermore, particularly tiny Chihuahuas run a larger risk of suffering from organic
diseases: ‘perhaps some internal organs simply have met their lower limits of normal size and
function’ (Coile, 2003: 11). The Chihuahua is described as ‘[t]he tiny dog with the giant heart’
(Coile, 2000: vi), but in light of these medical facts, the figurative expression becomes a cruel
Whether the Chihuahua is a wolf-like creature or a fragile, somewhat deficient creation of
breeders, it must be nurtured by a caring human; otherwise it may face ‘lifetime personality
problems’ (Coile, 2003: 14; cf. Pisano, 2001: 90). Chihuahua-keeping implies development for
both dog and owner: ‘[T]raining your dog leads to understanding your dog, and understanding
your dog will make you a better trainer’ (Terry, 1990: 175). To facilitate this mutual
understanding, you have to learn to speak its language: ‘Wuzzzer-wuzzer-wuzzer, hoooser good
wuffer den?’ (Dunbar, 1999: 76). Chihuahuas may not be verbal, but they are definitely not mute,
according to the handbooks. By their sounds and body language, Chihuahuas are said to signal
for example playfulness, anticipation and bodily integrity (see e.g. Gagne, 2005: 43, 88; O’Neil,
2008: 123). Even misbehavior such as whining and excessive digging may be a way for the
Chihuahua to communicate boredom or separation anxiety (Hustace Walker 2006: 155ff).
The handbooks also encourage readers to endeavor to ‘think like a dog’ (Coile, 2003: 29)
in order to educate it properly. Taking on the role of the ‘pack leader,’ a position intelligible to
both dog and human, is crucial—as a dog owner, you must take control, keep it and act
consistently (Mondshine, 1999: 21). When, in contrast, Chihuahuas are spoiled, they turn into
‘pests’ (Terry, 1990: 31), ‘tiny tyrants and nervous wimps’ (O’Neil, 2008: 16), ‘little napoleon[s]’
(Coile, 2000: 9), or perhaps worst of all: ‘[i]f your dog doesn’t receive the proper training and
guidance, he [sic] very well may replace you as Alpha’ (Mondshine, 1999: 151). By properly
nurturing your Chihuahua, you make sure it does not cross the thin line between pet and pest.
Owners can adjust their Chihuahua’s behavior not only through training, but also by
means of neutering and spaying. Handbook authors recommend sterilization to prevent unwanted
pregnancies (Dunbar, 1999: 22), to eradicate dominant behavior in male dogs (Coile, 2000: 39)
and to stop dogs from masturbating (Gagne, 2005: 20). The discourse of neutering reveals a
common-sense biological determinism: dominant behavior is natural to males and can be warded
off with a simple cut. Thus, handbooks on one hand recognize the Chihuahua as a biological
organism with a nature of its own, but on the other hand suggest that owners must manipulate the
Chihuahua’s nature—its behavior and reproductive organs—to turn it into a real (family) dog.
Nurturing, therefore, requires neutering.
Finally, handbooks consistently invoke the nature/nurture binary by describing them as
eternal children, or ‘perpetual babies’ (Coile, 2000: 152; cf. e.g. Gagne, 2005: 110; Pisano, 2001:
2). In a chapter on Chihuahua puppy-rearing, the caption of a picture of a Chihuahua in a mini
crib says, ‘Congratulations! You’re expecting!’ (Coile, 2003: 21). Haraway (2003: 37) has argued
that the sentimental notion of dogs as ‘furry children’ is demeaning both to children and pet
animals since it does not take into account the differences between the two kinds of beings.
Although handbooks repeatedly describe Chihuahuas as children, especially in the puppy section
that each book contains, they also criticize this notion. For example, one author states that
‘[a]lthough many Chihuahua owners are inclined to think of their companions as “little people”,
it must be understood that the Chihuahua is first and foremost a dog’ (Coile, 2003: 21).
Handbooks encourage readers to treat the dog like a dog, in respect to the dog’s true nature. Yet,
the Chihuahua is acknowledged as an eternal child by nature. The books undermine the
nature/nurture dichotomy when they simultaneously present the Chihuahua as a child in need of
nurture and a dog whose wild nature needs taming. In the handbooks, the Chihuahua is at once a
baby and a beast.
Even though handbooks intermittently refer to the Chihuahua as a child, they also
recognize that there have been occurrences of ‘Chi[huahua]s being tortured, abused and killed—
sometimes in a ritualistic or sacrificial manner’ (Hustace Walker, 2006: 12). Some also mention
that Chihuahuas are sometimes caged and used as ‘puppy-producing machines’ in spite of the
large number of Chihuahuas killed because of the breeding surplus (Coile, 2000: 8). Because it is
a common, not to say fundamental, idea in most contemporary societies that every parent is
obliged to recognize and to care for their children unconditionally (Honneth, 1997: 32), the cruel
treatment of Chihuahuas is incompatible with descriptions of it as a child. Of course, human
children like Chihuahuas are in no way guaranteed the benefits of this universally prevailing
imperative, but while there are legislation preventing adults to abuse their power over children,
Chihuahuas have no individual rights and may, without any legal consequences, be destroyed
when regarded as superfluous. While Chihuahuas are treated as objects of nurture in handbooks,
they are also, as we have seen, described as a part of nature, and are consequently not granted the
same level of protection as humans. The Chihuahua’s transgression of the nature/nurture binary
thus allows an ambivalent treatment of the breed both in theory and practice.
To sum up, the two main binaries of the Chihuahua literature, individual/commodity and
nature/nurture, imply that the Chihuahua is both a subject and an object of desire; both a
commercially manufactured toy dog and a true companion; both a fragile artifact and a natural
breed with a wolf-like essence; both a perpetual baby and a dog that may grow up to outsmart
you with its dominant behavior; both a social being and a biologically determined organism. To
further investigate the dynamics of the Chihuahua, I now turn from the Chihuahua as a breed to a
particular Chihuahua, Tinkerbell.
[Figure 3]
The Simple Life: ‘Stilettos in cow shit’
In broadcasted public appearances by Tinkerbell and Hilton, Tinkerbell may seem passive in her
mistress’ arms. Upon closer examination, the intense dynamic between them becomes tangible.
Hilton’s and Tinkerbell’s identities are coproduced—a process which includes the actions of
mistress and dog as well as their discursive context (cf. Sanders, 1990). This mutual identity
construction is most evident in The Simple Life, a so-called reality TV show commonly referred
to as the original source of the Paris Hilton syndrome. The choice of medium is itself telling: the
reality show genre’s paradoxical mix of soap opera and surveillance film esthetic is the perfect
way to display Hilton’s play with superficiality and authentic individual expression as well as the
collapse between her career and her private life (Andrejevic, 2002; Hillyer, 2010). Tinkerbell’s
performance accumulates an analogously paradoxical identity. Her artificial character is
emphasized in the show by the clothes she wears: pink dresses, fake fur and glittery shoes. Yet,
Tinkerbell is a living, breathing, individual being, a fact stressed by Hilton’s concern for the dog.
Hilton asserts that she would ‘die’ if anything happened to Tinkerbell (season 3, episode 1), a
claim that contrasts with her reputation as a negligent dog owner. In the series, the couple enacts
and transgresses numerous stereotypical categories. Like the Chihuahua, Hilton has an
ambiguous character—‘[h]eiresses don’t need to be consistent’ as she puts it (Hilton P and
Ginsberg, 2004: 60). Because Tinkerbell and Hilton accentuate each other’s ambiguity, the duo
becomes an especially effectual holy anomaly—they both are given special attention in the
popular media. Four themes characterize The Simple Life’s interrelated depictions of dog and
mistress: gender, class, the binary opposition between human and animal, and the relation
between child and parent.
The Simple Life is premised upon Hilton and her friend Nicole Richie interacting with
‘common people’ who have ‘common jobs.’ The two women are consistently displayed as being
unable to manage the easiest of chores, and they seem to react out of proportion to everything
that happens, laughing frantically or screaming out loud with high-pitched voices. ‘They’re
TOTALLY OUT-OF-CONTROL’ as it says on the cover of the DVD edition of the first season.
Hilton and Richie are presented as the Freudian pleasure principle personified; they are depicted
as impulsive, childish, lazy and disloyal, and as having a burning need to impose their sexuality
on everyone they meet (cf. e.g. Freud 1961: 1–4). The depiction accords with modern,
androcentric conceptions of gender that define women as closer to nature and more governed by
their drives than men. Women, in this view, are less than human (Horkheimer and Adorno,
Although Hilton and Richie are gendered in this conventional way, the series emphasizes
that the two women do not know how to take care of a home or raise children (see e.g. season 1,
episode 3). To address this ‘problem,’ the series repeatedly attempts to re-domesticate this ill-
bred couple by placing them in host families with strong father figures. ‘[T]hey are learning
about a little thing called consequences,’ in the words of the speaker voice (season 1, episode 5).
Or as one of the substitute fathers says: ‘I’m gonna pop the whip on them’ (season 2, episode 4).
Hence, the presentation of the women as less than human also plays on the adult/child binary, a
theme emphasized by the small, childish, cheerfully colored dresses they regularly wear.
As a part of their education, Hilton and Richie are put into demanding work situations.
Hilton explains the situation by saying, ‘They are treating us like animals’ (season 1, episode 2).
Two themes reoccur throughout the women’s various jobs—meat and filth. Hilton and Richie
clean out barns, clean fish, clean an outside lavatory, pluck chickens, castrate dogs, fry
hamburgers and make sausages. According to one of the show’s producers, the concept of the
series is ‘stilettos in cow shit’ (Ryan, 2004), and accordingly, the filthy imagery adds an overly
explicit element of realism to the women’s usual lifestyle, which is presented as divorced from
such dirty realities. The meat scenes also pull Hilton and Richie down to earth. As Carol J.
Adams (2000: 41) argues, the cultural meaning of meat eating is interwoven with the notion of
enlightened civilization: when eating other animals, humans confirm their exceptionality.
Following this logic, scenes in which Hilton and Richie are talked into eating meat after
hesitating and expressing repugnance are best understood as invitations to the couple to re-
establish human status.
Even though Hilton seems to be disgusted by most animal encounters, she kisses
Tinkerbell on the mouth (season 1, episode 6, season 2, episode 2). This repeated display of
affection confirms Tinkerbell’s status as a perpetual baby, and intertwines with Hilton’s
performance of the airy-fairy, childless, sentimental, upper-class woman who is more devoted to
her pet dog than to the people around her (McHugh, 2004: 85ff). To keep an animal for non-
utilitarian purposes is something of a cross-cultural symbol of wealth; small dog breeds have
been used this way in Europe and in Asian Buddhist cultures for centuries (McHugh, 2004: 80ff;
Serpell 1996: 43). This publicly broadcasted exchange of saliva is a challenge against Hilton’s
hosts’ and employers’ eager attempts to uphold the hierarchy of the human and sub-human. The
kiss confirms a certain stereotype, but it also shows Hilton’s and Tinkerbell’s mutual recognition
and cross-species bond (cf. Turner, 2010).
The image of the couple’s intimate and equal relationship is questioned in Tinkerbell’s
autobiography, The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries: My Life Tailing Paris Hilton (Hilton T and Resin,
2004), which is written in first person singular. Of course, Tinkerbell did not actually write her
autobiography all by herself, but neither did Hilton (Hilton P and Ginsberg, 2004). As if to
emphasize that the book should by no means be taken seriously, the cover is decorated with the
words ‘FICTION/HUMOR’ in capital letters. Tinkerbell is portrayed as raising her voice,
rejecting the notion of the accessory Chihuahua, and thus challenging the stereotype of the mute,
weak and passive victim. According to Tinkerbell’s written statement, she suffers from being
dressed in stupid-looking clothes, listening to her mistress’ gibberish and endless shopping
sprees. In the book’s diary-like narrative, these luxury problems soon lead Tinkerbell into
suicidal thoughts (‘I spent the rest of the morning trying to lick a power socket,’ Hilton T and
Resin, 2004: 75). Nevertheless, she persistently protests against Hilton by relieving herself on
Hilton’s possessions and even on one of Hilton’s friends. Again, the fecal matter is supposed to
pull Hilton down to earth. The protests are also framed as a cry for help—the fictional Tinkerbell
lives under constant fear of being abandoned or euthanized. In her own words: ‘That’s a lot of
pressure to be adorable’ (Hilton T and Resin, 2004: 7). In Tinkerbell’s confessiones, the
perpetual, furry child thus becomes yet another of Hilton’s many masters, reprimanding her for
her irrational behavior.
Since Hilton never risks losing her fortune, no matter how badly she behaves, and since
even Tinkerbell wears jewelry and designer clothes and lives in a mini-mansion which most of
Hilton’s employers and host families probably could not afford (Hilton P, 2009), The Simple Life
cannot be seen as a cautionary tale about the excesses of the upper class. Moreover, because
Hilton takes on low-wage occupations even though she was born with a silver spoon in her
mouth, her socio-economic status is also highly ambiguous. The other characters in the series
describe Hilton as uneducated, uncultivated, incompetent and incapable of dressing properly.
These characterizations, together with the fact that Hilton is forced to live in a trailer together
with Richie and Tinkerbell during the show’s second season, associate her with the ‘white trash’
stereotype (Newitz and Wray, 1997). Hilton thus inverses the logic of the stereotypical nouveau
riche American—‘trash with money’—and is depicted instead as ‘money with trash’ (cf. Brown
Hilton and Tinkerbell enact a child-woman-animal trinity in a topsy-turvy way that
challenges the binary oppositions adult/child, man/woman and human/animal. In this imagery, a
furry child suddenly becomes her mistress’ mistress, a stereotypically gendered blonde runs
amok while dozens of nuclear families are mobilized to put things straight, and an animal turns
out to be much better off than a human with an honest job. Hilton’s ambiguity is emphasized by
the series’ simultaneous infantilization and sexualization of her, which gives her appearance a
tabooic twist; the merging of the categories ‘child’ and ‘sexual object’ slips by without comment,
although it would normally evoke repugnance. This is because holy anomalies deal with both
logical and moral paradoxes. The characters in The Simple Life act against all reason and smear
any sense of moral virtue; yet, their behavior is completely innocuous. After all, it is just
[Figure 4]
The Chihuahua has never been modern
This excursion into the meaning of the Chihuahua reveals that the Chihuahua has never been
modern, as Bruno Latour (1993) would have it. This means that the Chihuahua is still holy—it is
still at the centre of rituals and myths. Like Toltecs and Aztecs, Westerners in late modernity both
embrace and exploit the Chihuahua. The breed is neither completely natural nor cultural; it is
both an asset and a companion; and cultural expressions emphasize its ambiguous character, just
as in Toltec and Aztec societies. This observation stands in contrast to studies arguing that the pet
relationship in late modernity has become less anthropocentric and more personal and intimate,
as in Adrian Franklin’s (1999: 57) ambitious study of animals in late modernity. In opposition to
what Franklin (1999: 61) suggests, I argue that there is no way to differentiate true human-
animal relations from ‘socially constructed’ ones. ‘Chihuahua’ designates today both a group of
organisms with a common gene pool as well as a network of values, meanings and practices of
breeding and consumption, and there is no way to definitely differentiate between the material
and the semiotic aspects of the creature.
The point of departure for this analysis was the fact that the Chihuahua is characterized
by two paradoxes—it is at once a natural and a cultural creature and simultaneously embraced as
a unique individual being and exchanged and exploited as a commodity. The analysis of
Chihuahua handbooks and Tinkerbell’s life has identified a number of additional, more or less
intertwined binary oppositions to the dog’s ambiguous character: human/animal,
synthetic/authentic, tame dog/wild wolf, rational male/irrational female, subject/object, social
being/biological organism, adult/child, rich/poor and verbal/mute. In addition, I have argued that
the Chihuahua’s and Hilton’s ambiguous characters mutually reinforce one another, resulting in a
complex, yet comical play with stereotypes and binary oppositions. Hilton, Tinkerbell and
Chihuahuas in general thus lend themselves to a restorative staging of binary oppositions in
popular media, books and art. Popular media and comedy shows are the myths, chants and rituals
of contemporary Westerners, and because they are neatly and comfortably separated from
everyday life, they reinforce the same oppositions that they challenge.
FICTION/HUMOR is the cue that the ritual has begun, and that the participants can lay
their orderly thought systems and their meticulously defined categories aside for a moment. This
is obvious in relation to Hilton and Tinkerbell, because of the tongue-in-cheek way they are
framed in The Simple Life and in popular media in general. But it is also apparent in the wit of
the Chihuahua handbook genre—in most books, jokes are frequent, and the breed is both
embraced and ridiculed by the authors. Sentimentality is another way to circumscribe the ritual
confrontations of the Chihuahua; the dog is often surrounded by an over-romantic shimmer, as
when depicted in baby’s clothes and pink accessories in Chihuahua handbooks or when tenderly
embraced by Hilton on the TV screen. The comfortable distance between The Simple Life and
ordinary life, and the disarming, objectifying cutification of the Chihuahua in breed-specific
handbooks and popular media, allows Westerners to neglect the fact that symbolically, there is a
bit of a Chihuahua, and perhaps also a bit of Paris Hilton, in each and every one of them. Again,
Chihuahuas have never been modern—and neither have Westerners, even if they like to think so
(Latour 1993: 7). The holy status of Hilton and the Chihuahua breed is also evident in the
controlled forms of profanity (the ‘stilettos in cow shit’ and the peculiar focus on housebreaking
techniques in the Chihuahua handbooks) and the tabooic twists (the allusions to prostitution in
the handbooks, the simultaneous sexualization and childification of Hilton, and the treatment of
Chihuahuas as disposable children) that characterize their portrayal. Such treatment gives
anomalies the power to cement not only categorical boundaries, but also moral boundaries.
Because these holy anomalies alleviate fundamental tensions in a general western conceptual
framework, the Chihuahua and Hilton must never be allowed to grow up—to change. Just as
J.M. Barrie’s fictional character Peter Pan, accompanied by the mute fairy Tinker Bell, never
grows up, Hilton is presented as an eternal child who needs to be told off in each new TV
episode, season after season. In the same way, Chihuahuas are viewed as ‘perpetual babies.’
Research mapping out the intersection between exploitative structures such as
heterosexism, racism and anthropocentrism should also include the study of holy anomalies. In a
society’s celebration of holy anomalies, categories otherwise taken for granted are brought to the
fore and made more palpable than ever. But it is also in these celebrations that stereotypes seem
the least harmful, since the rituals are disconnected from everyday life, which in turn is the
reason that the ritual cementation of these categories can continue undisturbed. By critically
examining contemporary holy anomalies and scrutinizing all things FICTION/HUMOUR, we
can rob such anomalies of some of their magic. In other words, critical research of holy
anomalies should be prepared to claim the role of the ‘killjoy’ (Ahmed, 2010). By doing so,
researchers can shrink the distance between ceremony and everyday life, and the people who
used to celebrate the anomalies can actually start learning from the anomalies’ transgressions.
When we stop laughing at Chihuahuas, the comfort of our old dichotomous conceptual
framework is suddenly challenged: if a Chihuahua can challenge the human-animal divide, how
human are we humans?
Furthermore, a critical examination of holy anomalies must recognize that the anomalies
themselves matter. After more than a century in the limelight, Chihuahuas have attracted
unwanted attention from inept owners and corrupt entrepreneurs. The popular media condemn
the objectification and mistreatment of Chihuahuas while Westerners simultaneously continue to
reproduce an order in which dogs and other animals lack any juridical rights and are regarded as
property. Thus, the Chihuahua has a lot to win from its Entzauberung—a demystification of the
Chihuahua would make it lose some of its appeal. As we have seen, Chihuahuas are not mute and
passive. The handbooks highlight the way Chihuahuas express themselves through body
language and sounds, and Tinkerbell the Chihuahua is starring as herself in the show about her
and her mistress’ life. Chihuahuas take an active—but neglected—part in their own discursive
production. Nevertheless, the Cartesian notion of the speechless animal-machine (Descartes,
1988) is curiously persistent. It is present, for example, in Baudrillard’s (1994) writing, who
argues that non-human animals threaten a universal human identity because they remain silent,
no matter how humans treat them. This study argues quite the opposite—non-human animals
threaten anthropocentrism in their constant attempts to communicate with humans (be it by
digging holes in the garden or barking out loud) but we humans persist in refusing to take their
accounts seriously.
What if the Chihuahua were one day no longer available as a holy anomaly? What if one
day, all Chihuahuas decided to return to the Mexican mountains, where they lived in peace for
centuries? In the movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Gosnell, 2008), the spoiled Chihuahua Chloe
from Beverly Hills gets lost in the desert of the Chihuahua region, but is saved by a group of
hundreds of Chihuahuas, living in an Aztec temple. Montezuma, the leader of the group, teaches
Chloe about her noble ancestry and why the members of the Chihuahua guerilla have turned their
backs on human society. In his speech, each line is followed by a ‘No más!’ from the other
We Chihuahuas are not toys or fashion accessories.
We were not bred to wear silly hats and ride in purses.
We will no longer be spoken to with baby talk. We have been called ‘teacup’ and ‘tiny toy’ for too long.
Names like Fifi, Foo-Foo, Pookie, Pumpkin or Squirt.[…]
Yes, we are tiny, but we are mighty!
Adams CJ (2000) The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. New
York: Continuum.
Ahmed, S (2010) Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness. Signs 35(3): 571–594.
Andrejevic M (2002) The kinder, gentler gaze of big brother: reality TV in the era of digital
capitalism. New Media and Society 4(2): 251–270.
Barad K (2008) Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to
matter. In: Alaimo S and Hekman S (eds) Material Feminisms. Bloomington, IN: Indiana
University Press, 120–154.
Baudrillard J (1994) Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan
Baudrillard J (1996) The System of Objects. London: Verso.
Baudrillard J (1998) The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. London: Sage.
Bauman Z (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Brown JA (2005) Class and feminine excess: the strange case of Anna Nicole Smith. Feminist
Review 81: 74–94.
Coile DC (2000) The Chihuahua Handbook. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s.
Coile DC (2003) Chihuahuas. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s.
Descartes R (1988) Discourse on the method. In: Cottingham J, Stoothoff R and Murdoch D
(eds) Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 20–56.
Douglas M (1984) Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. New
York: Routledge.
Dunbar, I (ed.) (1999) The Essential Chihuahua. New York: Wiley Publishing.
Franklin A (1999) Animals and Modern Cultures: A Sociology of Human-Animal Relations in
Modernity. London: Sage.
Freud S (1961) Beyond the Pleasure Principle. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of
Gagne T (2005) The Chihuahua. Neptune, NJ: TFH.
Gosnell R (dir.) (2008) Beverly Hills Chihuahua, DVD. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Pictures.
Haraway DJ (1989) Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science.
New York: Routledge.
Haraway DJ (2003) The Companion Species Manifesto. Dogs, People, and Significant
Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.
Haraway DJ (2008) When Species Meet. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Hayward E (2010) Fingeryeyes: Impressions of Cup Corals. Cultural Anthropology 25(4): 577–
Hillyer M (2010) Underexposed overexposure: one night in Paris. The Velvet Light Trap 65: 20–
Hilton P and Ginsberg M (2004) Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek behind the
Pose. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hilton P (2009) My mini doggie mansion. In: Twitter. Available at: (accessed 11 May 2010)
Hilton T and Resin D (2004) The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries: My Life Tailing Paris Hilton. New
York: Warner Books.
Honneth A (1997) Recognition and moral obligation. Social Research 64(1): 16–35.
Horkheimer M and Adorno TW (2002) Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Hustace Walker J (2006) The Everything Chihuahua Book: A Complete Guide to Raising,
Training and Caring for Your Chihuahua. Avon, MA: F+W Publications.
Hyde M (2010) California’s Chihuahua problem? Blame it on Paris Hilton. In:
Available at:
chihuahuas-paris-hilton (accessed 1 September 2010).
La Ganga ML (2009) Animal shelters seeing glut of Chihuahuas. In: Available at: (accessed 1
September 2010).
Latour B (1993) We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
McHugh S (2004) Dog. London: Reaktion Books.
Mason E (2008) Dogs, detectives and the famous Sherlock Holmes. International Journal of
Cultural Studies 11(3): 289–300.
Melgaard B (1991) Las pequeñas sugerencias de las patas sobre la pasión del Chihuahua.
Gothenburg: Hong Kong Press.
Mondshine (1999) A New Owner’s Guide to Chihuahuas. Neptune, NJ: TFH Publications, Inc.
Newitz A and Wray M (1997) What is ‘white trash’? Stereotypes and economic conditions of
poor whites in the United States. In: Hill M (ed.) Whiteness: A Critical Reader. New
York: New York University Press, 168–184.
O’Neil J (2008) Chihuahuas for Dummies. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley.
Pisano B (2001) Chihuahuas. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.
Rose N (1999) Powers of Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ryan L (2003) ‘Simple Life’ new reality at Fox Studio. In: TelevisionWeek. Available at:
mplelife.html (accessed 1 August 2012).
Sanders CR (1990) The animal ‘Other’: self definition, social identity and companion animals.
Advances in Consumer Research 17(1): 662–668.
Serpell J (1996) In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Simple Life, the: Season 1 (2004) DVD. Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox.
Simple Life, the: Season 2: Road Trip (2005) DVD. Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox.
Simple Life, the: Season 3: Interns (2006) DVD. Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox.
Smith JA (2005) ‘Viewing’ the body: toward a discourse of rabbit death. Worldviews 9(2): 184–
Terry, R (1990). The New Chihuahua. New York : Howell Book House.
Tuan Y-F (1984) Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets. New Haven: Yale University
Turner L (2010) When species kiss: some recent correspondence between animots. Humanimalia
2(1). Available at: (accessed 17
January 2011).
Waldorf Gewirtz E (2006) Chihuahua: Your Happy Healthy Pet. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley.
... The increase in non-domesticated pet interest may be due to the widespread availability of the internet and social media, both because of the increased market access for those trying to reach consumers and because of the exposure that people have to images and videos of animals [28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35]. Further, public interest in non-domesticated pet ownership is known to be responsive to media portrayals of animals on Facebook, YouTube, and in popular movies and television shows [36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43]. ...
... This result was obtained for both species despite the species being considered independently in the study design, and despite the differences in their biology and appearance. Given the previous connections identified between media and interest in pet ownership [3,[36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43], one explanation for these findings is that younger generations, which are regularly exposed to images of these animals in unnatural contexts and alongside humans in social media, are developing more interest in pet ownership than older generations without similar long-term exposure. ...
... It is possible that the same older subjects sampled here would have expressed greater interest earlier in their lives, and similarly that the younger generations reporting greater interest may show declining interest with age. However, given the relationships reported between media and pet interest [36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43], we find it most plausible that interest reported among younger generations persists to some degree through development unless there are concurrent changes in media exposure. ...
Full-text available
The trade and private ownership of non-domesticated animals has detrimental effects on individual animals and their wild populations. Therefore, there is a need to understand the conditions that motivate and dissuade interest in non-domesticated pet ownership. Past research has demonstrated that the way in which non-domesticated animals are portrayed in images influences the public’s perception that they are suitable as pets. We conducted an online survey of people residing in the United States to investigate how viewing images that could be realistically captured in the zoo and broader tourism industries impact the degree to which people report interest in having that animal as a pet. We focused on two species, reticulated pythons ( Malayopython reticulatus ) and two-toed sloths ( Choloepus hoffmanni ), and presented each species in six different visual contexts. After viewing an image, respondents reported interest in pet ownership on a four-point Likert scale. Each species was studied separately in a between-subjects design and results were analyzed using ordinal logistic regression models. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported interest in sloth pet ownership, and 21% reported interest in python pet ownership. However, contrary to our hypotheses, we found that viewing these species in different visual contexts did not significantly affect survey respondents’ reported interest in having either species as a pet. Generation was a significant predictor of interest in both sloth and python pet ownership, with younger generations reporting more interest in having these species as pets. Male respondents reported more interest in python pet ownership, whereas there were no significant differences between genders regarding interest in sloth ownership. We consider how modern media exposure to animals in unnatural contexts may relate to the generational effect and discuss priorities for future research to better understand the development of individual interests in non-domesticated pet ownership.
... In a similar way, serious parody, or profanation, moves a set of practices or concepts beside the sphere where they previously were given a special or sacred meaning. Prozorov (2014) suggests that although parody has a subversive potential in an oppressive normative or political context, parodies often remain within the sphere of the humorous without creating a dissonant profanatory shift (see further Agamben, 2007: 76f;Redmalm, 2014). In contrast, a profanation is not necessarily humorous, but similar to parody, it re-positions a concept or a phenomenon by moving these to a new context which disarms them of their conventionally attributed power or impact. ...
Full-text available
This article is a companion to “Pride: Alternative Entrepreneurship Enjoyed,” a videography about the company Prezi’s engagement in the Budapest Pride parade. The aim is to advance video ethnographic methods within Organization and Management Studies (OMS) based on Agamben’s profanatory philosophical method, which puts into focus abstract “sacred” concepts and returns them to the sphere of the profane—of the everyday. A profanatory approach of use for OMS accounts for organizations, brands, and management in a way that do not reproduce their “sacredness”—entrepreneurial myths and management clichés. Instead, by opening them up to critical exposure, they can be moved from a “religious canon” of communication strategies, press releases, and policy documents, to everyday profane work. Through a methodological discussion of the videography, we show three ways in which profanation re-positions the myth of alternative entrepreneurship: by engaging in the logic of the sacred, by playing with notions of inside and outside, and by using musical soundtrack as an expressive tool. We suggest that these methodological strategies advance the analytical possibilities within video ethnography, also useful for other organizational phenomena, especially when economic interests are combined with ambitions of social change and ideals of self-realization. See the videography here:
... For example, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are so often represented in the media as part of a white, nuclear, middleclass family, that they can now be counted upon to 'safely transmit assumptions about whiteness' [28]. Chihuahuas (pre Paris Hilton in the 1990's [32]) were frequently used to depict negative Mexican stereotypes, such as Tito from Oliver and Company (1988) who starts fights, is promiscuous and hot-wires cars [33]. Rosenberg [28] believes that this use of dogs became especially prominent after the Civil Rights era in the 1960s, where public discourse about race in the United States became highly coded and hidden. ...
Full-text available
The media is a powerful force that can affect the welfare of the domiciled dog population. Dogs have long been in human stories and their depictions can create demand for the breeds shown. While previous research has found that this effect can last for up to ten years after the release of a movie, how this phenomenon occurs is unknown. This paper examines if how a dog is portrayed in a movie is associated with a subsequent change in American Kennel Club breed registrations for that breed. Following a systematic literature review, four key themes were identified in how dogs are portrayed in the media; dogs portrayed as heroes, as anthropomorphised, as embodying the ideals of Western societies (Whiteness and heteronormativity) and as boundaries between wilderness and human society. Forty movies from between 1930 to 2004 were analysed, resulting in 95 dog characters scored, and hierarchical multiple linear regression was run. Movies with dogs portrayed as heroes were followed by significant increases in the number of American Kennel Club breed registrations for the breed shown, while anthropomorphised dogs were followed by significant decreases in the number of dogs registered for up to five years after a movie’s release. These results indicate that how dogs are portrayed may be an important driver of demand for breeds. Future work should investigate whether these portrayals may have negative welfare implications for real dogs by leading to owners having unrealistic expectations for dogs or increasing demand for dogs with in-breeding related disorders.
... This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that some forms of selective breeding seemed to be applied for the mere "pleasure" of humans, as in the case of dog species bred for traits that make them physically more attractive as companions but that are often accompanied by health problems (Nicholas et al. 2010), for example, the case of French bulldogs, with their particular facial "baby-like" characteristics, but also their severe cardiovascular and eye problems. In the case of companion or pet animals, selective breeding may then promote the human view of animals as either "toys" or objects with high commercial value (as the pedigree market confirms…) that can be collected by humans as status symbols (Redmalm 2014). Animals with extreme physical characteristics are then subjected to the whims of fashion, and may become highly popular among humans despite their serious health problems (Sandoe et al. 2017). ...
... In addition, older dogs (>8 years) were considered to be more negatively affected by adverse weather than those over 2. Small dogs (under 10 kg) were considered to be more negatively affected by adverse weather, despite having the greatest odds for coat use in winter. Coat use may also be related to fashion and the anthropomorphism of small dogs [56,57], rather than being purely functional to facilitate exercise. ...
Full-text available
Climate change is leading to more instances of seasonal weather variation. Studies have explored the impact of adverse winter weather on dog walking, but the impact on the dog’s overall activity levels have not been previously considered. This study explored dog owner perceptions of the effects of both summer and winter weather on their dog’s activity levels. An international online survey recruited 3153 respondents between May and December 2018, to explore the impact of summer and winter weather conditions on baseline activity levels. Owners reported their dogs were more impacted by cold (48.2% less likely to exercise their dog in the cold) and ice (64.0% less likely), than rain (25.3% were less likely). In hot weather, over 80% of owners reported reduced exercise duration and vigour for their dogs. Carrying water or walking near water to facilitate activity in the summer was the most popular mitigation strategy (90.8%). Participation in dog sports appeared to reduce the impact of winter weather on canine activity and increase owner awareness of cooling strategies to facilitate summer activity. Strategies to promote safe activity participation are needed to maintain canine activity levels amidst rising global temperatures, including better understanding of cooling strategies for exercising dogs.
... Big-D was kind to offer help eating one of the muffins =) <3 (Comment) According to Redmalm, binary oppositions -such as human/animal -that are central to society can be challenged by playing with otherwise strict categorical boundaries -such as nature/culture. 55 The police horses are animals that are thoroughly culturized by the system in which they operate and live, but this does not negate their animality. The 'horseness' of the horses is performed in the postings, recounting their everyday antics in a lively way that is made possible by the use of humor to distance the reader from the apparent dissolving of the nature/culture boundary. ...
Full-text available
Mounted police units around the world have entered social media, with the aim of bringing the police closer to the public. In this paper, I analyze the Facebook page of the mounted police in the city of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. I ask how equine agency, animal work, interspecies care, and the relational networks of memory are interpreted, communicated, and performed on social media, contributing to the co-production of urban imaginaries. I approach the material as performances of animality and human–animal relations, concentrating on shared interpretations and representations of the horses and their agency. To be able to analyze human–animal encounters and interaction in urban space as they are experienced, imagined, remembered, and collectively shared, I suggest a novel concept of multispecies urban imaginary. Developing the concept widens the focus of understanding the multispecies nature of urban environments and includes animals in the experiences and perceptions of city space – where they belong.
... The Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog in the world [46], with owners reportedly more influenced by "convenience" when choosing this breed than owners of other popular dog breeds [47]. Chihuahua ownership and popularity are also reported to be influenced by fashion and celebrity trends, with the breed frequently depicted as a "handbag dog" being carried as a fashion statement [48]. Their relatively smaller bodyweight is likely to confer a degree of protection from HRI as previously identified [16,49], which could potentially be augmented by their greater likelihood of being carried than other breeds which could reduce the risk of exertional HRI due to reduced exercise. ...
Full-text available
Heat-related illness will affect increasing numbers of dogs as global temperatures rise unless effective mitigation strategies are implemented. This study aimed to identify the key triggers of heat-related illness in dogs and investigate canine risk factors for the most common triggers in UK dogs. Using the VetCompassTM programme, de-identified electronic patient records of 905,543 dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016 were reviewed to identify 1259 heat-related illness events from 1222 dogs. Exertional heat-related illness was the predominant trigger (74.2% of events), followed by environmental (12.9%) and vehicular confinement (5.2%). Canine and human risk factors appear similar; young male dogs had greater odds of exertional heat-related illness, older dogs and dogs with respiratory compromise had the greatest odds of environmental heat-related illness. Brachycephalic dogs had greater odds of all three types of heat-related illness compared with mesocephalic dogs. The odds of death following vehicular heat-related illness (OR 1.47, p = 0.492) was similar to that of exertional heat-related illness. In the UK, exertional heat-related illness affects more dogs, and kills more dogs, than confinement in a hot vehicle. Campaigns to raise public awareness about heat-related illness in dogs need to highlight that dogs don’t die just in hot cars.
The use of biotechnologies has dramatically increased in recent years, radically changing our relationship with animals and their use in several fields, from food industry to scientific research. Provided here is an overview of those biotechnologies having the most relevant impact on our approach to animals, and a discussion of their implications in bioethical terms as well as their scientific and general advantages versus their limitations. This chapter concentrates on biotechnologies applied to biomedical science, providing a large range of examples particularly focused on genetic modifications of laboratory animals.KeywordsGenetically modified miceMouse modelsCRISPR/Cas9Gene-targetingNeuropsychiatric disorders
Brachycephalic canines have grown in popularity, but many owners are unaware of pre-existing breed related health conditions. Brachycephalic breeds most encountered in practice include British Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs. The veterinary team are faced with challenges in the medical and surgical treatment of these patients. Therefore, there needs to be a collective effort to increase public awareness of the breeds predispositions and educate owners on safely improving the animal’s welfare. Methods to achieve awareness include nursing clinics, social media, veterinary websites and improved veterinary communication with the breeding community.
The aim of this study is to consider whether the media has any influence on an owner’s decision to acquire a brachycephalic breed dog. This topic is of current importance due to the increasing demand for brachycephalic breeds and their current use in advertising across various media platforms. Their increasing popularity has brought to the forefront numerous conformation abnormalities, most notably respiratory problems, dystocia and ophthalmic conditions. This ultimately contributes to deteriorating breed health and compromises canine welfare. As veterinary nurses are leading advocates for animal welfare, it is important to understand motivations behind prospective pet owners and educate them accordingly as to promote healthy standards in canine companions.
The Sexual Politics of Meat is Carol Adams’ inspiring and controversial exploration of the interplay between contemporary society’s ingrained cultural misogyny and its obsession with meat and masculinity. First published in 1990, the book has continued to change the lives of tens of thousands of readers into the second decade of the 21st century. Published in the year of the book’s 25th anniversary, the Bloomsbury Revelations edition includes a substantial new afterword, including more than 20 new images and discussions of recent events that prove beyond doubt the continuing relevance of Adams’ revolutionary book.
Haraway’s discussions of how scientists have perceived the sexual nature of female primates opens a new chapter in feminist theory, raising unsettling questions about models of the family and of heterosexuality in primate research.
Newitz and Wray explore the origins and use of the term "white trash." They adopt a methodology of "critical multiculturalism" to complicate traditional views of race, class, and gender identities. They see "white trash" operating on both racial and class lines. "White trash" refers to white people who occupy the economic and social margins of America nlife, and it is a set of myths and stereotypes that justify their continued marginalization. In other words, people labelled "white trash" are both privileged by race and marginalized by class. The authors then examine instances of "white trash" in mass media, such as the story of John Wayne Bobbitt, television shows like Roseanne and Married With Children, and the grunge rock movement.
"(Tuan) does a masterful job exploring the condescending human treatment of animals as 'playthings' that exist only for our entertainment. He charts the malevolent history of male domination over women and children and the sad chronicle of slaves, dwarfs and other 'freaks' treated as human appliances or toys. This provocative study of power in the world of pleasure, play and art is a tour de force." -Cultural Information Service "A brilliant book that will appeal to a wide audience. The volume provides excellent material for school and college seminar debates on humankind's place in nature and attitudes toward other living things. . . . (A) penetrating analysis. . . . Readable at all levels."-Choice.