Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bling Bling The Panda Is A Chick Magnet
Yes, I know his name is "Tai Shan." But the more we hear about the bamboo-scarfing superstar of Washington's National Zoo, the more I think he should be renamed "Bling Bling." And The Washington Times informs us further:
Meet Tai Shan -- the ultimate chick magnet.
The National Zoo's new giant panda cub, who made his first appearance before the international press yesterday, has women all over the Washington area swooning over the cute and cuddly ball of fur -- and more than a few guys scratching their heads.
"He's just not that cute," said Richard Wertheim, 32, of Arlington -- drawing a fork to the leg from his panda-loving female lunch mate.
"He is too cute, say he is," quipped Aqsa Khan, 24, of Woodbridge, Va., to Mr. Wertheim. "The panda is cute, tell me he's cute. He's adorable."
Tai Shan's power over women has not gone unnoticed by local date seekers.
Let's leave aside the obivous that men will use anything in their pursuit of ... women. (I considered a cruder term but I'm just not that type of guy. Unless you're female and would like to visit the National Zoo.) The issue remains why does Bling Bling make the estrogen percolate like coffeepot on a hot stove? Here's a snip from the story that suggests a possibilty:
"During Tai Shan's press debut, most of the female reporters oohed and ahhed as the 21-pound cub climbed rocky ledges in his enclosure, pulling himself up with his front legs and wobbling his back paws up and over, while the male reporters focused primarily on shooting pictures and scribbling notes.
It might be maternal instinct that draws the female fans to Tai Shan, said Janice McGurick of the District."
And the constant theme of the article is that the cub is "cute." Cute. Oh, for sure. But I think we need a bit more analysis. Pandas, after all, are about as close as you can come to a sentient teddy bear, a sentient, shambling, bamboo-munching, monochromatic teddy bear that in reality has the claws and the strength to split you from um-to-um (cranium to rectum, if you must know) and check to see if there's any bamboo in there. So the reality of the panda's existence is not where the cute is.
It's the image. The panda is the matinee idol of cute-itude. We can't dismiss the designer aspect of the panda: the simple black and white is classic. Consider the Hampshire hog. Ain't that black and white great? But the Hampshire is, as far as I know, not known for giving the ladies the steamin' undies. So the panda has something more than its color scheme.

I offer, for no other reason than my consideration, that the essence of the panda's babe-magnetism is related to that color scheme but based on the curious neoteny of the breed. One of the most visible aspects of a baby animal is that the eyes are much larger in proportion to the head than for the same animal in adulthood. And pandas have those black eye patches around their black eyes which I propose is a kind of mimetic neoteny. Feel free to use that phrase.
Sociobiology, in which I hold great but not ultimate credence, tells us that the female is genetically hard-wired to take care of babies. So here, in Bling Bling, we have the current incarnation of the actual baby stage of an animal that evidences a salient baby characteristic throughtout its life. It is like taking the concept "baby" and boiling it down to a hyper-concentrate of baby-ness. The baby panda is the demi-glace of babydom and thus has the effect of being a hormone-stimulant in those women who are open to their maternal instincts. So I think Janice McGurick of the District is indeed right. She just doesn't get into the whys.

Men have been known to take advantage of such situations, even if they don't understand why. And let's face it, it's not like they're going to spend the effort to figure it out either.

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