Miniature, Lifelike and Dead

This is a nester and a go-with, both at once.  Not only is it  a slice of toast to go with a toaster, but the slice of toast nests into the toaster: After that, though, I really have nothing much to say about it.  It’s cute of course, in the way that miniature versions of things are always cute–that paradoxical combination of accurate verisimilitude and inaccurate littleness that somehow allows viewers to truly enjoy something and have positive feelings towards it while, or because of, feeling superior to it.  And again like all miniatures, its power seems to lie in the way in which it so both accurately represents larger objects and disempowers them–makes them safely littler than we are, makes them useless, deadens (or immortalizes) them (this toast will never go stale, and the toaster cannot ever actually make toast).  Not that toast or toasters are in obvious way threatening to us, but maybe they are threatening merely in being real and out there, part of a world that surrounds us and therefore belittles us somehow, makes us aware of our limitations and our own littleness in relation to the magnitude of everything else that isn’t us, isn’t me.  So we triumph over its threatening not-me-ness by making it little, belittling it, seeing it as cute and thus enlarging and empowering ourselves?  Then does this sort of cuteness somehow emerge from both the lifelikeness and the actual deadness, the lack of life, of the object?  I think it must, and I think that somehow that accounts for the peculiar combination of adorability and dismissiveness such objects seem to arouse–that the recognition of what we call “cuteness” always seems to arouse.  Cuteness is deadening to cute things, and therefore life-giving to perceivers of cuteness.

Well, so maybe I had a little to say about this set after all–but as a representation of its category, not in terms of the specific objects it is and the specific objects it represents.  What the specific appeal of a miniature slice of bread and a miniature toaster?  The set makes sense as one of a collection of equally miniatured objects, like, say, the furniture in a doll house–but why specifically toast, why toaster?  Might it maybe be designed for use on a breakfast table?  Perhaps.  But I have a sense that anyone who might actually have chosen to put these to use on a dining table would be less interested in the particularities of the particular object depicted than in their shared idea of miniaturization and cuteness.  In other words, any of a number of shaker sets that represented bigger things in a smaller but fairly accurate way would do, and this one just happens to be toast and toaster?

There’s also something about the shininess of such objects–but I’ll leave that to think further about later.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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