Sunday, September 18, 2005


So, I finally went to the theater this evening and saw March of the Penguins. I had been wanting to see it for some time--I love nature documentaries as it is--but my interest had been especially piqued because of the recent espousal of the movie by the Christian conservative movement because of its promotion of family values and monogamy--though I would be remiss if I didn't point my readers to other excellent blog entries that blow this idea out of the water, such as this or this.

So when I watched the movie, I went into it looking for something and seeking the answer to one fundamental question: what was it in the movie that that prompted the religious right to wholeheartedly endorse the penguins in this film, as opposed to any other of the 91% of bird species that practice monogamy (although this percentage is far less among mammals), or the innumerable species that show such dedication to their young--even among the world of insects and spiders/. What was it that prompted them to ignore the annual serialization of the monogamy they are espousing, or the complete lack of difference between the sexes regarding their roles as parents?

And not very long into the film, I realized what it was the moment the first egg showed itself on the screen. There's only one egg per penguin pair, remember, and that in and of itself gives it a much more "human" feel. The sight of all those strong males dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the protection of unborn (or unhatched, as the case may be) children must have been like a wet dream for the conservative right. This is what I see when I read between the lines of the "sacrifice, family and dedication" phrase as I try to understand the difference between the penguins in the film and all the monogamous nesting birds out there that have gone heretofore unnoticed--you see a bunch of males who are willing to starve and freeze themselves to death to defend the individual egg.

The eggs--which, incidentally, are the first indication we see of the dedication that has endeared the penguins to the conservatives--are also featured in the New York Times article I referenced above, though in this case as an argument for intelligent design:

"That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat - and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design," [Andrew Coffin] 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."

Everything else on top of this was just icing on the cake for them, even if it is representative of behavioral traits shared by the majority of all bird species, or completely out of line with the values they are trying to promote. They're using penguins to keep them company as they convince themselves that their complete and total obsession with embryos, to the total detriment of any other aspect of life, actually has a precedent in the natural world of "intelligent design."

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