“Four-Legged Terror” or “Ultimate New Yorker”?: Urban Rat Videos and Their Media Reception

In: Society & Animals
Gabriela Jarzebowska Department of Liberal Arts, University of Warsaw Warsaw Poland

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Online videos of subway rats in New York and their media reception are examined in order to observe how they reflect sociocultural attitudes towards these non-human animals. It is argued that regardless of whether a particular video was purposefully staged as a hoax or whether its creators were convinced they were filming “true life,” virtually all these materials produce a deeply stereotypical vision of these animals and provide interpretations of their behaviors that conform to deep-seated cultural scripts and prejudices. Contemporary videos contribute to a long-enduring myth about rats that is deeply embedded in Western culture. They complement this myth with a new one that establishes rats as the ultimate urbanites who are granted individuality and extensively anthropomorphized.

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