We can’t seem to get over our obsession with the caveman, who has appeared on screen since at least 1912. In fact, anthropologist Judith Berman has written that a new caveman character has been introduced into pop culture every year since World War II.
DreamWorks’ The Croods, directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco, presents the most recent version of prehistoric man; Grug, is a responsible father facing such dad-like issues as a teenage daughter who just wants to be her own person. He transcends the behavior expected of a typical caveman, but his character design doesn’t evolve past a stereotype that is largely of our own making.
We’ve distilled an entire subspecies of human down to a single iconic image, one that is perpetuated year after year through film, animation, comic art and bad Halloween costumes. The caveman is always brutish, dressed in some type of fur loin cloth and possessing limited intelligence. Some stereotypes of prehistoric humans are certainly based on archeological facts: the structure of the skull, anatomical proportions and pelt-based wardrobe. But other stereotypes, such as wielding clubs, communing with dinosaurs and pulling women by the hair, are our own projections of prehistoric behavior.