Crying quietly into overpriced Fanta, I decide it is better for everyone if I leave the cinema. My jellified 10-year-old self doesn’t yet understand why an animated bear upsets me, but I’m perceptive enough to up with my drink and leave. My mum follows me out.

“Are you ok? [handing me a white hankie] This happened when you watched Winnie the Pooh too.”

I consistently hate Paddington. I’ll confess, I’ve never made it through the whole film – never mind Paddington 2 – and I avoid most films featuring animals-who-bear-the-weight-of-the-world. I state my case based on:

  • 30 minutes of the first film
  • the Paddington X Queen Elizabeth II video for the jubilee
  • my general distress at Goodbye Christopher Robin. 

Horrific times. I am fully aware these are films aimed at children, the family at large, the feel-good sense of Innocence! Fun!

Not for me. These films render me immobile; quivering, sobbing. It is time for my 18-year-old-brain to unpack itself, its anguish, and state ‘The Case Against Paddington’.

You think he’s adorable. Fluffy fur, black nose, perky ears. He’s a beautiful bear, I’ll admit that, but to me Paddington is not cute. In those bearish eyes, Paddington looks forlorn, and it makes me feel sad. Paddington carries too much baggage to be cute. He is more than a bear. 

With the inexplicable exception of Zootropolis, animated animals in films upset me. The crucial thing about animated animals is that they’ve been humanised: given a persona and a voice. We look inside the animal, projecting all our own nonsense onto it. We’ve used the ‘otherness’ of the animal and made it human, combining what we understand and what we don’t to get closer to knowledge about our own predicaments.

Paddington is a way of getting us to process human issues through the medium of Bear. This is not new – we have been using anthropomorphised animals in this way for ages – for example The Tortoise and the Hare and Animal Farm. But these are allegories and I feel they are conscious of their own use of animals to explain humans. The problem with Paddington, (and I object to both bear (Paddington) and film (Paddington)), is that it takes human and animal merging to an extreme. The bear transcends categories. He’s too human. My local vicar even uses Paddington – the Man-Bear – as an analogy to explain Christ’s dual nature, as both fully God and fully Man. 

Paddington’s ‘bearness’ creates distance from, and therefore helps people understand, human problems. Immigration (bear crosses seas), food shortages (marmalade sandwiches), displacement, deforestation, lack of trust and family are all topics conjured by the wandering bear. Paddington’s helpless, innocent, non-human ‘bearness’ shrinks these sticky real-world problems into a more manageable bear-package. This could be useful, but I hate it. It expects me to love animals, to feel empathy for the bear and subsequently change my perspective on humans.

Quorn™ have tapped into my upset this year and reversed the typical animated pattern. They’ve humanised an animal to think about animal issues, not about human issues. The 2022 Quorn™ Deli advert is voiced over by a personified pig, his voice undeniably smooth, sensuous, and I’d go as far as to say sexy. The humanoid pig promotes eating Quorn™ Deli ‘meat’ and not him, voicing his own fears, namely being eaten. Mr Pig is funny and persuasive, with the reasoning power to form an argument for his survival. You get the impression that he has a life off-screen. A nation of empaths convert to Quorn, seduced by the pig. This personification doesn’t upset me, because the pig pursues his own piggish motives – survival – not alternative human motives that are projected onto him. Or maybe it’s just because I’m so incredibly virtuous and don’t eat meat. 

Back to Paddington. Ultimately, Paddington is a fictional bear and I am an emotional girl. He could have been constructed to help humans understand their own problems. But I think it’s merely deflection. It could be a conscious way of showing that the inner lives of animals are beyond our comprehension, or that we’ve got more in common than you think. But how can we know! Paddington’s serious themes are poorly disguised by a silly, hungry bear.

Quorn Deli – So Tasty Why Choose The Alternative? | TV Ad 2022 | Quorn 🥪 👜 Ma’amalade sandwich Your Majesty?