I freaking love miniature things. I mean, we all do, right? I don’t think I’ve met anyone who didn’t experience at least a little bit of a thrill from seeing a teensier version of something that exists in much larger form in real life. It doesn’t matter at all if the regularly-sized item is cute or not, there is just something about the small-scale version that makes people smile. Little green army men, cars the size of a book of matches, model airplanes, mini muffins, miniature golf – everyone has a miniature they adore. My favorite is a miniature coffee cup so tiny you’d need a pipette to put any coffee in it. Even my husband, who would probably never admit to calling anything “cute”, has shown a fondness for miniature things. One of his favorite souvenirs from our honeymoon in Greece is a miniature donkey holding sacks of flour, positioned on the front dash of his Jeep. The Jeep is very manly. The donkey is very cute. But WHY? Why the heck is that little donkey, or any other little miniature, so adorable? Let’s explore this.
Our brains like to see the whole thing, from every angle, all at once. One of the most familiar examples of a scaled-down model being used to see a big picture is a dollhouse. Seeing all of the rooms at once, the whole house in it’s entirety at the same time, has remarkable visual appeal. It’s soothing to see how all of the rooms and all of the furnishings flow and fit together. Similarly, a scale model of the planets helps us understand the solar system in terms more familiar to us, that we can better wrap our mind around. We can process the entire picture as a whole better than the disjointed parts.
Divots, bumps, blemishes, or other imperfections aren’t nearly as noticeable when they are slight. A large donkey can be pretty disgusting, with its clumps of matted hair, dirt and hay stuck to it’s tail, and large globs of poop trailing behind it. If we imagine my husband’s dashboard donkey as being an actual living donkey, just tinier in size, the clumps of hair would be less noticeable, the dirt would be inconsequential. The little pearls of poop might even be considered dainty. At the very least, they would be much more convenient to clean up.
Being able to easily manipulate an entire object in our two hands gives us a sense of authority. Control is something many of us crave, particularly when we feel like we’re constantly grappling unwieldy baggage of the physical kind or the emotional sort. When we manipulate our miniatures, we can control where the army men fight, where the couches are set, and even how fast the planets orbit the Sun. We could crush that little donkey with our bare hands if we wanted to, and even though we probably wouldn’t really do that (because it’s too cute), it gives us a bit of a power trip to know that we could.
My husband never would have purchased a toy donkey, no matter how cute it may have been, if it didn’t have sentimental value. Not only was it a memento from our honeymoon, it also holds cultural significance. He is Greek-American and he grew up hearing the stories of his parents riding their donkeys through the Greek mountainside, as an integral part of the traditional marriage custom. When looked at from this perspective, it’s no surprise that he holds that image dear.
Everyone gets enamored with tiny objects. Their miniatureness demands attention. We look at diminutive donkeys and ogle their adorableness. We look at teeny tiny coffee cups and giggle at the absurdity. “No one could actually use that coffee cup! It would have to be refilled 3803985024953 times!” We can’t stop staring. Everyone has a favorite miniature – what is yours?