Animal Inventory Blog

Keeping track of animals in popular culture.

The Next Big Thing: Panthers

Posted by lisagbrown on November 11, 2007

A number of years ago I noticed an unusual trend. It seemed to me that every few months a new animal would become the trend du jour. I’m referring to the strange phenomenon whereby a particular species of animal becomes hip. Every knick-knack shop in the neighborhood becomes overrun by the image of a monkey. Or a wolf. Or an owl. Images of the animal appear on clothing, journal covers, home furnishings, even dinnerware. The animal is absolutely everywhere, often at the extreme exclusion of any other species. Even the nature section of the bookstore tends to reflect these trends, suddenly exploding with must-have tell-all books about the species-of-the-moment. I’m sure this phenomenon has occurred for decades–even centuries–but I can trace my own awareness of it to the proliferation of Paul Frank monkey paraphernalia about four or five years ago. (Full disclosure – I’m not immune to the lure of monkey products. I own a number of Paul Frank goods.)

This afternoon I discovered the Next Big Thing. According to the December 2007 issue of Lucky Magazine, panthers are It. With sincerity and delight, the magazine informs its readers that, “This jungle cat signifies luxury, much the same way zebra or leopard prints do, but with an added twist of menace. Its sinuous shape is appearing on a wide range of items, and whether on a diamond-encrusted pendant or a simply cut cotton tee, the effect is elegant, slightly dangerous, and fabulously rich.” The magazine goes on to describe the panther as a “leaping predator,” “majestic,” “lurking,” “slinking,” and “snarling.” I don’t know much about big cats in general, but I definitely understand the way that Lucky is trying to sell the animal to me by both reinforcing and defining the panther’s traits. Most specifically, Lucky highlights a definitive relationship between the panther and wealth. Perhaps this will drive the audience into stores on a quest for panther goods, so that they can project the kind of luxury and majesty the panther embodies.

You can thank me later for informing you of this trend so early on. In the months to come, as you wear your pantherized nouveau riche status on a chain around your neck (and embody the alarmingly sexualized sinuous qualities of that slinking cat), just remember who told you about this trend in the making. And when panthers start appearing on pillowcases, lampshades and coffee mugs, you can feel confident in the fact that you knew the animal way back when, before its 15 minutes of fame, before it got rich and started hanging with the Hollywood jet-set, way before the panther was It.

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