Yes, you read that right. Rats and mice we love.
There are those who feel otherwise, though. But, if we hate rats and mice so much how come we put them in all our TV shows and moves?
Humans are strange beings at times! We seem to be able to love and hate something at the same time; take rats and mice for instance! As you are about to see there are quite a few famous characters from this group yet we also do anything to avoid them in real life and spend huge amounts of money killing them!
Rats have a bit of a bad history with us humans! The black rat (Rattus rattus) was the carrier of the fleas that carried the bacteria that caused the Black Death which was obviously rather a bad period in human history. The now more common Brown rat (Rattus Norvegicus) may not carry the black death but it is still a big problem. Rats breed at a phenomenal rate and they thrive in our cities and towns as they can also thrive in rural areas as long as there is a food source. They can still carry diseases like Salmonella, Weil’s Disease, E. Coli too!
Not only are they actually an issue in terms of health but quite a lot of people are terrified of them as well and for those people there might be some bad news coming! There is evidence to suggest that climate change is going to increase rat numbers, according to pest expert Mark Stanford from London’s Empire pest Control “warmer winters mean rats are breeding more” but there is more bad news! Climate change increases flooding in many areas and Mark also said “flooding will bring the rats out looking for other places to live” and these place might be our homes!
Mice are not quite as ominous as rats in terms of human history, they are smaller and frankly a bit cuter. But they can still infest our homes, eat our food and poo all over the place! On top of that a lot of people are seriously scared (musophobia) of them too!
So how come, with all this negative about rodents so we seem to love them as movie and TV characters? It makes no sense but here are some of our most loved characters based on animals we totally hate! Go Figure!
Let’s start with a classic and a literal sewer rat! Splinter may have started life as a “normal” rat but after coming into contact with the same substance that created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles he became a bipedal Ninjutsu Master. There are a lot of different origin stories surrounding Splinter depending on which movie or series you watch but however he came about and whatever his back story everyone loves Master Splinter!
A bit of a British favourite Danger Mouse is another character that walks on two legs. Originally voiced by David Jason this secret agent rodent and his trusty sidekick Penfold ( a mole) bumble there way around adventures combating the evil Baron Greenback…a humble toad!
This one might not mean a lot to people born in the 90s but ratfans of the 80s fell in love with this rodent who had a “ratcave” under Kings Cross Station and a best friend call Kevin…who also lived in sewer but was a gerbil?! We loved Roland and he was welcomed into millions of homes through the TV and no one thought of the black death at all. There are fan sites for Roland even now!
Pinky and the Brain
These two TV favourites are odd for two reasons.
One, they are mice and yet we loved them and two, they were lab mice!
So not only were we enjoying the escapades of two much-maligned rodents we also kind of ignored the vivisection aspect.
One super clever and one super stupid these two white lab mice tried to take over the world when perhaps they should have settled with a simple escape plan.
Mrs Brisby and The Rats of NIMH
The 1982 animated classic the Secret of NIMH featured a widowed field mouse called Mrs Brisby and a whole host of clever rats. These rats were experimented on (more vivisection) at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and this made them intelligent enough to use electricity and more. Once again there are rats we love but rats that are living under and around us in the way we also seem to hate them doing so.
Remy – Ratatouille
Another double whammy here! Not only is Remy a rat but he is a rat that goes into kitchens where food is prepared and even makes the food. Let’s put that into a real-world situation for a second…a rat, in the kitchen, touching your food!
Not so cute now?
But yet this movie is loved by millions, the character is plastered all over every kind of merchandise you can think of and its not just Remy, there are loads of them!
…and there is more!
Let’s not forget Micky and Minnie mouse, possibly the most ionic rodent stars of all time.
Then we have Mighty Mouse the superhero mouse who flies about saving people. The loveable Jerry from Tom and Jerry, Stuart Little, Speedy Gonzales….the list goes on.
There is one theory behind our weird relationship with rats and mice and it is simply that we deal with our dislike of them by making nice characters. There is an inherent fear of these animals and it could be evolutionarily wise for us to avoid them for our own safety. So, what better way to subconsciously overcome this than to make then friendly, fluffy, heroic and altogether more positive? It certainly makes sense and there is a long line of scary/friendly characters in our movies and TV shows like Casper the Friendly Ghost, The Addams Family, even Gru from Despicable Me is essentially a scary super villain we know and love. However, this trick to make ourselves feel better can go a bit wrong and end up scary anyway.