Handsome Gorilla: Why do we eat up quirky stories from Japan?

What does the West's fascination with colourful Japanese news stories say about us? Researcher Hyung-Gu Lynn weighs in.
Shabani, seen her in Facebook photos posted by Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, is an 18-year-old gorilla with a fan following. (Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens/Facebook)

Shabani is a young male with expressive eyes, rugged features and protective instincts — but he's not your conventional pin-up boy. The 18-year-old gorilla, who lives in a Japanese zoo, has made international headlines with his crowd-drawing charisma and comparisons to George Clooney.

Local fascination with the ape has itself become fascinating to foreign observers, but Hyung-Gu Lynn warns the story shouldn't be taken too seriously. The researcher and UBC professor joins guest host Talia Schlanger to critique the viral "handsome gorilla" narrative. 

(He also points out that handsome animals have human fans in North America, too. Take Menswear Dog, for instance). 

q: Do you agree that the handsome gorilla story is just another quirky story uncritically consumed from a distance? When you read weird news from abroad, do you believe it more easily than stories about your own country? 


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