Internet sensation Grumpy Cat can light up just about anyone's day with that goofy, adorable and grumpy grin.
Yet what is hiding beneath that frown is feline dwarfism — a deformity that also renders her hind legs wobbly, according to her official website, GrumpyCats.com
While her cuteness ultimately lands square on her deformity, I wonder how human beings with deformities don't enjoy the same "cute" response.
When was the last time you let out an "aww" at a person with a facial deformity?
Our society pities children born with genetic deformities such as cleft palates and adults with other "flaws" such as speech impediments or buck teeth.
I've noticed this phenomenon in my personal life too. Stuart, my pug whose tongue extends a few inches outside his snout at all times and whose right eye is covered in scar tissue and renders him blind in that eye, receives just as many "awws" as Grumpy Cat.
The cause of Stuart's deformities is unknown. It could be traced either to inbreeding or abuse prior to or during his time as a young stray.
I've yet to meet a dog more cute than my own Stuart or a cat more darling than Grumpy Cat. Yet I'm reminded of my admiration for their faces when I meet people with similar deformities to these adorable animals.
I'm fascinated, disturbed and confused by this inconsistency in our culture's perspective. What is it precisely about deformities among animals that elicits different responses for humans with deformities?
Perhaps it's a difference between perceived vulnerability or our culture's requirement that we all be beautiful and perfect. What opts our animals out from this requirement?
I have no answers — only an enthusiasm to question our motives as a society. So there it is, a question: Why does a dog with a tongue hanging out his mouth get a societal pass and "aww" and a person with the same deformity would get a stare and a shrug?