The 2005 smash hit documentary “March of the penguins” was a interpreted as ‘proof’ by the religious conservative right, proof that all of their pre-existing prejudices were supported by nature. Their argument went something like, ‘we are right because nature said so’. Compelling. Taking this logic, I started to wonder to myself what else nature could teach us.
The film was taken as proof that they were right about global warming, right about intelligent design and perhaps most importantly (for them), right to support ‘traditional family values’.
The conservative film and radio critic Michael Medved went on to describe the ‘March of the Penguins’ in the New York Times by saying that it, “passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing”. Curious.
The chances are you can spot one or two problems with this assertion. But just in case…
I wonder what they think make penguins so special? Why would they want us to take our sexual and social moral guidance from penguins over any other members of the animal kingdom. For example, I wonder what Medved and the Christian right would have us learn from the practice of traumatic insemination as exhibited by the spider ‘Harpactea sadistic’? I am just asking.
Maybe I misunderstood them, maybe it was not nature per se with all its arsenic, venoms and traumatic insemination, but it is something specific about penguins that we should be learning from. Well…
If, for some inexplicable reason, you did chose penguins as the one true incarnation of natural morality, you may still stumble across one or two problems. The Natural History Museum has recently unearthed research (that supports a body of research compiled over the last fifty years) about the Adélie penguin’s sex life. To say it doesn’t sit comfortably with the Christian right’s outlook is an understatement.
The research notes, “the frequency of sexual activity, auto-erotic behaviour, and seemingly aberrant behaviour of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behaviour”. Wow.
Scott’s team’s research didn’t stop at sexual norms. It notes, the penguins would gather in “little hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity”.
Is anyone else having fun? Nature…that’s right, nature tells us its natural to hang around and annoy inhabitants with “constant acts of depravity”. Friday nights will never be the same again.
So if nature, and by “March of the Penguins logic” – the Christian right, would have us believe, necrophilia, sexual coercion and ‘gangs’ are all to be welcomed as ‘natural’ phenomena.
I wonder if anyone has contacted Michael Medved for a comment?