Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Penguin lust.

September 15th, 2005 · 1 Comment · Movies, Politics, Rants

“Nature is really stupid.”

That was my immediate response to March of the Penguins as Aubrey and I left the theatre. Specifically, I believe I said those words should be included in the film’s title. I may also have used the “f word.” After sitting through it, I couldn’t help but marvel at the hilariously complicated and utterly ridiculous adaptations that had allowed our fine, flightless friends to survive in an environment no sane or benevolent entity would deliberately inflict on a living creature. But evolution doesn’t give a shit about cruelty or comfort or reasonable planning. It just keeps on trucking, letting mutation and death slowly sculpt suitably adapted creatures. Some of the results are cute, many of them are baffling and incomprehensible and some… well, some are just goddamn terrifying. But that’s nature - where you have an equal shot at being a fuzzy, wuzzy ball of adorable OR of being a tongue-replacing fish parasite.

The “cuteness” factor is played up in a major way in March of the Penguins, resulting in the sort of “over-humanization” I complained about in my first review (see previous post). But that cuteness and humanization has also led it to become the second highest-grossing documentary of all time, so what do I know?

Now, it seems, the film has acquired a decidedly darker and more ridiculous set of followers. In the wake of the armies of “penguins are so cute” fans proclaiming the film’s greatness hither and yon, religious fundamentalists have decided to latch onto it and - as is their wont - are taking the whole anthropomorphic bullshittery element to new and relentlessly absurd heights.

From the NY Times:

On the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com, an opponent of abortion wrote that the movie “verified the beauty of life and the rightness of protecting it.”

At a conference for young Republicans, the editor of National Review urged participants to see the movie because it promoted monogamy. A widely circulated Christian magazine said it made “a strong case for intelligent design.”

“March of the Penguins,” the conservative film critic and radio host Michael Medved said in an interview, is “the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing.”

Speaking of audiences who feel that movies ignore or belittle such themes, he added: “This is the first movie they’ve enjoyed since ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ This is ‘The ‘Passion of the Penguins.’” [emphasis mine]

To Andrew Coffin, writing in the widely circulated Christian publication World Magazine, that is a winning argument for the theory that life is too complex to have arisen through random selection.

“That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat - and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design,” he wrote. “It’s sad that acknowledgment of a creator is absent in the examination of such strange and wonderful animals. But it’s also a gap easily filled by family discussion after the film.”

Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, told the young conservatives’ gathering last month: “You have to check out ‘March of the Penguins.’ It is an amazing movie. And I have to say, penguins are the really ideal example of monogamy. These things - the dedication of these birds is just amazing.”

Other religious conservatives have seized on the movie as a parable of steadfast faith. In Sidney, Ohio, Ben Hunt, a minister at the 153 House Churches Network, has coordinated trips to the local theater to see the film. (He describes the organization as a Christian denomination with nine churches spread over Ohio and Minnesota.)

“Some of the circumstances they experienced seemed to parallel those of Christians,” he said of the penguins. “The penguin is falling behind, is like some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like the Holy Spirit.”

Mr. Hunt has provided a form on the Web site lionsofgod.com that can be downloaded and taken to the film. “Please use the notebook, flashlight and pen provided,” it says, “to write down what God speaks to you as He speaks it to you.”

While their ignorance is astounding, it is also a quite precise example of everything that is wrong with proponents of efforts to provide scientific “proof” of metaphysical concepts in general and with defenders of “Intelligent Design” specifically. At all times proceeding from conclusion, they latch onto wisps of “evidence” and present them as solid proof - choosing to ignore entirely the vastly greater quantity of contradictory evidence.

A penguin’s decision to follow a basic biological imperative - creatively edited - becomes an example of “traditional norms” like monogamy and sacrifice. They - of course - ignore examples of the penguin’s near-total indifference to orphans or to young birds attacked by predators. After all, what sort of “normative tradition” would THAT support? And the violent death of mothers desperately trying to gorge themselves in order to feed their offspring or the subsequent starvation of abandoned young in this harshest of environments is also overlooked whenever a discussion of the “awesome complexity” of the Designer’s plan occurs. I’m curious - if man’s suffering is due to the corruption of the human soul stemming from Original Sin and animals are soulless and therefore incapable of sin, what the fuck is up with God being so brutal to these weird little guys?

But it’s the monogamy thing that I find truly stunning. Did any of them actually WATCH the film? Because it’s clearly stated that the birds select new partners annually. THERE’S A WHOLE SCENE ABOUT IT. Perhaps the traditional norm these folks support is SERIAL monogamy - where you only have one partner at a time, but you never stick with them for very long. But that sure does lead to lots of filthy out-of-wedlock penguin sex, so I can’t imagine the Right is in favor of that. And then, of course, we have our gay penguins - no doubt “passionately affirming” the traditional norm of hot man-on-man action in the eyes of conservatives everywhere.

So these penguins are us. Or at least they share our “moral values.” I’m not sure how that’s not WORSE than the idea that we USED to be monkeys, but whatever. We’re all just penguins in the mixed up, ice-crusted hellscape we call life. And if God made us in his image, God must be a penguin. Hopefully, he looks like Opus.

As a brief caveat, I will note that one conservative commentator is quoted in a fashion that - when compared to his fellows on the Right - seems like a blinding flash of white-hot truth:

“If an Intelligent Designer designed nature,” the columnist George F. Will asked recently, “why did it decide to make breeding so tedious for those penguins?”

It’s easy to lump all conservatives and all Christians into the groups that include our most unfortunate and retarded pundits, but it’s obviously unfair to assume that they all wake up in the morning, afraid of God’s wrath or of the fact that - in a moment of weakness - they lingered on an episode of Will and Grace for a few sinful moments while flipping between Fox News and the Trinity Broadcast Network, thus tainting themselves irrevocably with the decadent, exotic mark of homosexual situation comedy. Some of them are, in fact, reasonable, intelligent people who don’t think the Universe was crapped into existence a few thousand years ago by some Almighty Prankster who has subsequently obsessed over who puts what part of their body inside of what hole in other people’s bodies.

On behalf of science and penguins and reasonable people everywhere, I say the following:

It sure would be nice if the non-crazy Christians decided to step up and have a chat with the body politic from time to time.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Beth // Sep 15, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    I’m glad some sane people are left in the world. Its scary how much sway these right wing nuts have, and how many people TRUlY buy into it

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