Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tropes I Don't Like (Part 2)— Species Culture

It's not a recurring feature if it never recurs so now it's time for Tropes I Don't Like the second part.

Today's trope is Species Culture, which is Exactly What It Says On The Tin— the idea that a species has a culture.

This trope is widespread in sci-fi, fantasy, and especially anything that caters to the furry fandom— basically, anything that has multiple species involved will try to give each of them (except humans) a single culture. Elves are smugly superior lanky blokes who shoot arrows. Lombaxes are really good engineers. Wombats aren't cultural relativists, for extra irony points.

At its most basic, any work that refers to "[species name] religion" or "[species name] art" or law or music or what have you is committing the sin of species culture. However, more egregious examples abound, where a fairly cosmopolitan city inhabited by multiple species will have one culture for each species, and each culture is universal to that species— because obviously, a vahamere who was born in Westmoreland and thoroughly steeped in Westmori culture would have far more in common with a vahamere who was born and raised in The Fells than a mandraga who was born and raised in Westmoreland just one town over.

The worst examples of species culture are generally from works produced by or catered to the furry fandom. By its nature, the furry fandom generally focuses on characters who deliberately affect a small number of stereotyped animal behaviours while otherwise acting completely human, and whose authors are careful to avoid any humanlike characterisation that might overshadow the affected animal behaviours.

Meanwhile, in real life any species that's at least marginally intelligent will have some degree of culture learned from its upbringing that it will pass on to and exchange with those it meets— and the more intelligent and social the species, the more complex its cultures will be. This means that when it comes to this one aspect of behaviour, real animals are actually more humanlike than "anthro" ones so take that furries.

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