The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

18 September 2005

A lot of flapping

For some reason, elements of the right wing have seized upon the notion that March of the Penguins somehow is an endorsement of contemporary conservatism.

As ideas go, this one is for the birds:

Consider: During its box-office run, Penguins started drawing comparisons with Fahrenheit 9/11, solely in terms of both movies being high-grossing documentaries.

But I guess this basis for comparison was too subtle for some people. Following the "if you’re not with us, you're against us" philosophy, suddenly everything about the two films went head-to-head. Basically, conservatives have grafted an anti-Fahrenheit mask onto a nature documentary.

And of course, the penguins' black-and-white symbolism probably helped forge this outlook.

If you really want a penguin story with some potential political connotations, I commend to you Chuck Jones' 1950 classic short 8 Ball Bunny, in which Bugs, having made a promise to a lost penguin to take him home, escorts the poor little bird all the way back to the South Pole, where there is, of course, an actual pole. The bird starts crying — this being the Antarctic, the tears fall as ice cubes — and when Bugs asks what's wrong, the penguin reaches into his top hat (well, they are formally dressed) and produces a theatrical handbill, in which it is revealed that he was born, not at the South Pole, but, uniquely as penguins go, in Hoboken, New Jersey. "I'm dyin'!" screams Bugs, and we know that he knows that he's provided too much of the wrong kind of help at too much expense to himself: you can almost see Daniel Patrick Moynihan calling for benign neglect in the background. Or, alternatively, 8 Ball Bunny shows the folly of tailoring one's actions to preconceived notions about individuals. Take your choice.

Posted at 8:15 AM to Dyssynergy

TrackBack: 7:07 AM, 19 September 2005
» So Much for Penguin Monogamy from Yippee-Ki-Yay!

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Having grown up on the Warner Bros. shorts (on TV, before kidvid really took off), I remember "8 Ball" fondly.

I've always wanted to find a way to grab a sound clip from that particular short: The one from the menacing hobo, where he says, "Pen-goo-ins is practically chickens". It comes to mind every time I go to a hockey game, and my team is playing the Pittsburgh Penguins...

Posted by: CT at 9:34 AM on 18 September 2005

You'd think that a movie where fuzzy little birds have to waddle hundreds of miles in the ice and wind just to get laid, would actually mock the concept of an *Intelligent* designer.

Posted by: aldahlia at 10:17 AM on 18 September 2005

Wait a minute. You mean it's not supposed to be hard to get laid?

Posted by: CGHill at 10:20 AM on 18 September 2005

I've seen this around rightwing blogs too. I've even seen people say "ooh, it's all about the wonderfulness of monogamy!" My first thought is that anyone who gets that from a penguin movie is nuts. My second thought is that these people must be desperate, which doesn't give me much hopes for the conservative movement. Of course, hopelessness is part of being conservative -- I'm more conservative than a lot of so-called conservatives, so I should know. People will always take the easy way out and avoid anything that looks like it will take hard work and discipline (eg.: sleeping around and "play" marriages that end in easy divorce as opposed to staying chaste until marriage and then staying married).

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 11:26 AM on 18 September 2005

First I've heard of this meme. My chances of living the rest of a long and happy life having never heard of it, has just gone down the tubes.

Things like this are why I'm so proud to be anti-social.

Posted by: McGehee at 4:31 PM on 18 September 2005

If someone does actually manage to make a movie that presents objective reality unwarped by any kind of utopian ideology, wouldn't it be a conservative movie by default, since that's basically what we're going for as a movement (return to a pre-Marxian state of normalcy)?

Posted by: Dave Munger at 6:16 PM on 20 September 2005

Hmmm. I'm pretty sure that if I made a list of Favorite Marxes, Karl would finish well below either Zeppo or Richard.

That said, I'm not one to agitate for more "conservative" movies; the public votes with its box-office bucks and its DVD dollars, and that's good enough for me. And I'm just cranky enough to believe that a film that's wholly opposed to everything I hold true can still be worth watching. (Not that I make a habit of seeing a lot of such, but you get the idea.)

Posted by: CGHill at 6:45 PM on 20 September 2005