March of the Morons

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march_leadThe 78th Academy Awards proved evermore predictable this year. Once again, Meryl Streep was nominated out of pure reflex. Once again, speeches were cut short by the band. Once again, it was an entire evening of self-congratulatory dick sucking by people a million times richer and more beautiful than you or I. Yet, if there is one Oscar tradition stronger than any other, it is the inevitable honoring of a film or actor "brave enough" to tackle the subject matter of the mentally challenged. The illustrious list of trailblazing actors includes such luminaries as Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, and Sean Penn. Given this history, is it any surprise that March of the Penguins took home the gold statuette for best feature documentary? That's right, dear reader, I propose you add to that list of lovable "special" subjects the Emperor Penguin. 2005's most beloved documentary is, at its core, a movie about retarded animals.

But wait! you cry. I saw that movie. It was an uplifting testament to the powerful bonds of family that exist throughout Nature. Nay, I say! Nay! Hidden behind all the schmaltz is little more than a glorified Animal Planet special with Morgan Freeman's magniloquent narration tacked on. Look past the hype and you'll find a documentary containing some admittedly impressive footage of wildlife survival in the harshest conditions on earth with a healthy dash of pretension. Then, and only then, will you realize that the regal penguins it features are in fact quite retarded, their kumquat-sized brains having hardwired them to follow the same unnecessarily perilous mating ritual year after year.

The film is perhaps best interpreted as a parable warning against the dangers of groupthink. The sight of a single file line of penguins hundreds of tuxedos long plodding towards the worlds least hospitable breeding ground did not inspire me to think about the marvelous souls of these majestic idiots, as so many reviewers have suggested. Instead, I found myself imagining the conversational exchanges between the birds in the middle of the pack.

Penguin #1: (to the bird in front of him) Hey, do you know where we're going?

Penguin #2: Don't ask me. I'm following this guy. (flaps a wing towards the bird in front of him)

After nearly two hours of this, you begin to wonder when the one smart penguin is just going to tell the group to fuck itself and say Screw you guys, I'm going home. But no. One after another, they each follow the bird in front of them to the same bullshit mating area 50 miles from the nearest food source. You kind of start to wonder if there isn't a valid reason to why they are the only frigging animals in sight for miles. It seems that penguins have less intelligence than plankton.

It should come as little surprise that my interpretation of the film is not shared by its many fans. Some groups on the Christian right have latched onto the film and attempted to make it last year's Passion of the Christ under the premise that it is evidence of intelligent design and promotes strong family values. I would argue that these are merely feeble attempts by so-called "family groups" to foist their own agenda onto a piece of media - a piece of media about imbecilic flightless birds - to suit their own purposes. So, penguins pick one mate per season, hatch an egg, barf in the chick's mouth for a month, then wait till the baby can take more than ten steps on its own in polar temperatures before abandoning it and repeating the process the next year. There's your evidence of Emperor Penguins as model family units that we should all emulate. I, for one, am not convinced.

What if this cursory analysis or cinematic Rorschach test was applied to other elements of the film? Let's look at the shots of hundreds of male penguins huddled together against the wind, slowly rubbing against each other to generate friction and stay warm. Does that last shot description maybe remind you of another Oscar front-runner that Christian groups have railed against? Transplant the scene to a tent in Idaho, add flannel, a smoldering campfire and you've got Brokeback Penguin: a nature doc glorifying homosexuality with hot male-on-male penguin action beautifully photographed in the friscalating dusk light.

That's ludicrous, you say. It sure is. But no more ludicrous than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences blindly honoring every Oscar sycophant who plays a mentally disabled individual. I'd venture to say the Academy even assumed the filmmakers themselves were at least partially retarded until we all discovered they were just French during their acceptance speech.


  • 1

    classic kennedy, keep up the good work! how often does your column come out

  • 2

    I'd cream on Fergie's lovely lady lumps any time. We're talking about Fergie the Dutchess of York, right?

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