Gendered Elimination?

Since my last few posts have been about creatures taking their pants off, a look at this shaker set seems appropriate:

toiletsAs a set, they have an interesting binary-oppositional relationship.  I’m tempted to suggest that they replicate the insistence of the shaker miniverse on dividing things into opposite pairs: salt and pepper, black and white, male and female.  They might be doing so in this case by suggesting a gender opposition:  one of the object depicted is used, usually, only by males, and the other is depicted in a position that makes it convenient for females.  And in that way, they might represent the common tendency in shaker sets of distinguishing the two components of each set in terms of gender: by dressing one cute bear in a blue shirt and the other in a pink dress, for instance.

The objects depicted in this set, however, are not wearing dresses or shirts (although, as a hardened veteran spectator of the salt and pepper miniverse, I can all too easily imagine someone producing a set that did show cute toilets in clothing and with smiley faces).  So maybe I’m just imposing that whole gender thing on this set.  After all, if you’ve decided to depicted plumbing fixtures that aid in human elimination in a salt and pepper shaker set, are there really any other choices of two objects to depict?  I can’t think of any offhand–it’s hard to imagine how you might go about depicting a hole dug in the floor of the forest.   Perhaps you could include an old-fashioned outhouse?  So maybe the manufacturer of this set, having chosen to do sanitary facilities, was merely lucky enough to be confronted with just two possibilities, one of which is usually associated with males and one which isn’t, a difference which then makes them suitably oppositional enough to act as subjects for tabletop containers of salt and pepper.

I am, once more, taken aback by the idea that you might get some pleasure out of putting miniature representations of sanitary facilities on your dinner table.  A momento mori sort of reminder of our essentially animal nature, perhaps?  Nor do I get the pleasure of symbolically shaking the contents of a toilet and/or a urinal on your food.  It somehow seems to be implying a reversal of the usual order in which the processes of eating and digestion take place. You put what was once food and rink into toilets and urinals; you don’t usually put what was once food and has now been deposited in toilets and urinals on food.  And call me an old-fashioned conservative, but really, why would you even want to?

For a Spicy Experience, First Take the Pants Off

Here’s a little guessing game.  This is a salt or pepper shaker:
blob man

So what do you think its companion shaker might be?  I suspect that most people would guess the other part of this pair would be another similarly doughy creature–possibly, in the light of the associations between salt and pepper and black and white, a black doughy creature.

In point of fact, however, the other shaker turns out to be an item of clothing.  In my last post, I described a set of shakers depicting somebody taking his pants off.  This time, it turns out, we’re dealing with a creature who has his or her pants off already.  And I know that because the other shaker is its pants:

blob pantsThe pants are much too big for the little guy, and indeed, with the set stacked as intended, as in the photo above, it actually seems that what the creature is doing is standing in an oddly-shaped barrel.  But the set was sold in a box identifying it as Salt & Pants.   That black barrel-like thing is, really, supposed to be a pair of pants, as can be confirmed by various web pages currently selling this set:

salt and pants

As the copy in this offering from suggests “This spicy little guy dispenses salt from the top of his head and he’s got something special in his trousers… pepper!”

Salt & Pants is the kind of shaker set known to collectors as stackers or, more specifically, nesters:  The salty guy fits onto, or actually, into the pants.  You can, then, actually put the creature into the pants–dress the creature up just like a little doll.  Or, if your pleasure tends more in the opposite direction, you can start with the pants on and then remove the creature from them.  Actually, come to think of it, and as the Perpetual Kids ad copy suggests, you have to separate the creature from its pants in order to help yourself to pepper–maybe even salt.  So this set then consists of what Robin Bernstein calls scriptive things”  that imply a strangely salacious script of actions for those who might choose to use them to season their food: an act of depantsing.  You don’t get to experience the pepper without first removing the clothing.  Such is life.

My thanks to Asa Nodelman for the recent addition of this set to my collection.

Shake Your Booty

In recent posts, I’ve been talking about animals and other objects depicted in salt and pepper shakers as wearing various items of human clothing.  This time, I’m going to look at  a set that depicts a more or less human-like being who isn’t wearing quite enough clothing.

I begin with the actual shakers:

gnome cheeksReaders who have been following this blog for some time might be reminded of an earlier set of similarly-shaped and equally mysterious shakers:

Not Cute?

These, you may recall, turned out to be the detachable breasts of a peculiarly incomplete woman who was not completed even by them:

The Feminine Ideal?

This time, the strange objects are not breasts–no nipples, right?  But they do in fact turn out to be representations of naked body parts:


Yup, it’s some sort of gnome in the process of mooning us–a vision particularly disturbing from a certain angle:gnome back

This is a shaker set that makes me (and others I’ve shown it to) particularly curious about the answer to the question, “Why would you ever want to have a thing like this on your dining table?  And also in this case, related questions, such as, “Why would you want to shake stuff that comes from buttocks–even imaginary ceramic buttocks–onto your food?  On the other hand, thinking about these buttocks as what Robin Bernstein calls scriptive things, as I’ve discussed in a number of previous posts, I might have to add some further considerations to my earlier suggestion that there might be some pleasure in the imagined violence of shaking shakers that represent things like Aunt Jemima and Asiatic and Aboriginal stereotypes.  What are we to make of the imaginary act scripted  by these things of shaking your miniature booty?

This set, like a few others I’ve discussed in earlier posts, has magnets that keep the buttocks attached to the gnome they belong to.  You can see them here:gnome plus two

I guess that makes them a particularly attractive set of buttocks.

For Those Who Might Like a Fantastic Fork (or a Satisfying Spoon)

In the salt-and-pepper miniverse, it’s not only animals who wear human-type clothing.  Other objects can do it also.  Here, for instance, are a nattily dressed fork and spoon:fork and spoonIn addition to wearing aprons–certainly an appropriate garment for a pair of kitchen utensils–they have also grown arms and legs and even the barest beginnings of faces, thus, supposedly, humanizing them even more.  In fact, however, those weirdly tubular, weirdly awry limbs emerging from the sides of inert forks or spoons, and those strangely primitive faces, seem to me more horrific than human.  There’s something zombie-like about the wild arms and the blank stares.  I can see in this case why it might be tempting to actually put salt and pepper in these objects, because it would be comforting to give them a good shake and thus confirm one’s authority over them, lest they continue to mutate in even stranger and more unsettling ways.  Beware the devious fork, the frenzied spoon.

I do not, incidentally, know why they are sitting on bowling balls.

An Odd (Really Odd) Couple in Lots of Clothing

I’m fairly well convinced that this pair was always intended as a shaker set, because their colour palette is more or less the same:  the same dark green, with dark pink accents–and the smaller one’s face is the same brown as the larger one’s hair and shoes:    
Odd Couple

But for all that, they are surprisingly unlike each other.  One is a bunny, maybe, or perhaps  a mouse–or at least so its perky ears would suggest.  The other?  Well, not only does it not seem as bunny-like as its companion, but if we turn it around, we can see that it has wings like a bug:

Odd Couple Back

So then, is this pair a fairy small bunny and a bug-sized bug?  Or is it a very large bug and  a bunny-sized bunny?  One way or the other, I can think of no explanation for what these two might have to do with each other, or why one is wearing a clown hat and sucking a sucker.

The clown hat might well be the only piece of clothing the bug is wearing–the rest of it might be just naked bug surface.  Oh, except what seem to be a pair of brown shoes.  The bunny, on the other hand, has on, not only a similar pair of brown shoes, but what might a pair of fancy patterned bloomers, a shirt the same green colour as the bug’s bugskin (but which seems to be a shirt because it stoops at the wrists and reveal hands of a different colour, unlike the still-green hands of the bug), an apron, and a bow in the hair near her (I’m assuming) ear.

To add to the strangeness of this pair, the brown dots on the bug’s hat are exactly the same as the ones on his wings.  So perhaps I am wrong in assuming that the cone of his head is a detachable hat; maybe it’s just the permanent shape of his head.  Or more likely, maybe those aren’t real wings at all, but just a costume, another item of clothing that is disguising an actually non-bug-like bunny child.  The two figures do have similar pudgy cheeks and half-moon eyes.

Or maybe not.  Once more, I have to conclude that these animal-like creature wearing items of human clothing in shaker sets are neither animal nor human, but often occupy an eerily ambivalent state of in-between, creatures apparently in the process of morphing from one species to another.  Seen in those terms, they are more like nightmares from horror movies than the apparently harmless cutie-poos a first glance at them would suggest.  Maybe looking too closely at novelty salt and pepper shaker sets like this is not actually a good idea after all.

A Lobster Dressed for Lobster Fishing.

Here’s an addition to my series of posts on animals in human clothing that introduces a new hat but begins with a memory of some old ones. Some time ago, I wrote a post on this blog about these lobsters and their participation in their own death by boiling (see earlier post here):


Back then, I didn’t say all that much about their clothing. These lobster are wearing both chef’s hats and aprons–which bizarrely, makes them human enough to be cute enough so that the fact that they are preparing themselves to be eaten seems somehow perfectly acceptable. That acquiescence in their murderous fate is quality they share with another jolly lobster:
lobster 2This time, the lobster wears a sou’wester, just as does the fisherman who accompanies him. And he seems perfectly happy to sit by that fisherman while carrying one of the tools of the fisher’s lobster-catching trade, an anchor. The fisherman himself carries something that I recognize as another lobster-fishing-related tool–although I had no idea about what it was called or for that matter, what it was for, until Google identified it for me as a float for a lobster pot–i.e., a trap like the one the lobster in this shaker set is so casually and happily sitting on.

Like the two lobsters sitting in the pot, this one appears to be smiling like a human, using the backward-j-shaped slot below and to the left of its eyes. And yet, of course, as I pointed out in my earlier post about the pot-sitters, lobsters mouths are actually at the front-end of their bodies, i.e., in this case, somewhere under the sou’wester. that these lobster should have been provided with an extra and more-human looking (and smiling) mouth is another way beside their hats that helps to humanize them, and make them seem somehow less alien and more like us. Although, of course, I have to ask why we would want to think that way about something we eat. Imagine this shaker set sitting on the table on which you are serving a meal of lobster. It seems to be a way of turning a tasty feast into a horrific act of cannibalism. And yet, somehow, it is meant to, and in actual fact seems to, actually make the lobster less monstrous, and the act of eating it more a matter of just accepting its charitable gift of its own delicious self. That’s intriguingly paradoxical; why would we rather ingest something we can think of as human than something we can think of as clearly not human? Why is pseudo-cannibalism preferable to eating the Other?

A sticker on the bottom of the lobster says that this set was made in China. The writing on the lobster trap identifies it as a souvenir of Halifax NS.

Cute as a Bug in a Rugged Shirt and a Pair of Trousers

Here’s another set of nonhuman creatures wearing human clothing.  At first glance, indeed, this pair of shakers appears to be quite completely clothed:

bugsThey seem to be wearing black shirts with white stripes–their shirthood implied by the fact that their hands emerge from the arms of them.  And on top of their shirts are what certainly seem to be the straps of two pairs of pants–red pants with black polka dots on them. The creatures seem to be holding onto those straps like a pair of yacky old cartoon farmers holding on to their suspenders while they gossip about the weather and the evil guv’ment and kids these days.

And yet: look again.  This pair are meant to represent bugs, I think–possibly ladybugs:

ladybugThe shakers have two protuberances emerging from the tops if each of their heads, sort of like ladybugs, and they have shell-shaped wings–again, sort of like ladybugs, although if those shell-like wings or wing-covers are their ladybug-like parts, then what are we to make of their trousers?  Actual ladybugs are black down there, not reddy-orange and polka-dotted like their backs are.

But in any case:  if those things that emerge from their back are indeed something buggily winglike, or something like the coverings of ladybugs, then their pants can’t be pants, for they are of the same colour and have the same dots on them and so must be an integral part of their bug-like bodies. But then, the pants must be pants, because they have straps that go over their shirts.  But then if they are pants, the winglike or shell-like things on their backs must be fake, not authentic bug parts at all, but merely removable add-ons.  They are merely something else pretending to be bugs.  And yet their face are distressingly bug-like–or rather, distressingly like conventional cartoon versions of bugs with semi-humanized faces.

Oh, and I suddenly just now see that I’ve been taking for granted the fact that these supposed bugs do in fact have hands and arms.  And are capable of holding flowers in the hands.

Okay, then so what are these things?  Not bugs, certainly.  But not not bugs, just as certainly.  Amorphous creatures, then, ambivalently existing somewhere in the mysterious space between pure bughood and pure humanity. They are cute as a bug, certainly, at least on the surface.  But having now taken a closer and more observing view of them I have to admit that I’m beginning to find them more than a little disturbing. Like many creepy-crawly creatures who don’t wear pants, they are pretty creepy, and mostly because they may or may not have pants on.