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"The Passion Of The Penguins"

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If you had any doubts that far right religious radicals are goofy, banish them now. The New York Times reports that "March of the Penguins" -- a documentary about emperor penguins and their mating rituals -- has been embraced by the far right as a paean to monogamy, a stable family, intelligent design, and a Christ-like parable. The movie -- a word-of-mouth hit -- is the second biggest grossing non-large format documentary in history (right behind "Fahrenheit 9-11)."

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

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."
For anyone who hasn't actually seen the film, let me tell you how ludicrously wrong they are. (The filmmakers are politely aghast that anyone could draw these absurd conclusions from it.) Coffin's comments are just bizarrely ill-informed (he's a film critic and not, I assume, a scientist).

Indeed, Coffin misleads about the very few facts the film offers up. The movie states at the very beginning that emperor penguins have lived in the Antarctic for millions of years; Coffin ignores that and says only that they've been coming to this particular breeding ground for "thousands of years."

What's truly hilarious is their assertion that emperor penguins represent a lovely example of monogamy. Here's what you actually see/learn in the film:

*Emperor penguins mate once, guard the egg until the baby is hatched and then -- once the season is over -- never see each other or the child again.

*Emperor penguins stand by and don't raise a flipper when their children are attacked by a predator -- one baby penguin is killed and taken away (survival of the fittest, kiddo!), a scene that makes the movie a tad too graphic for young and sensitive children.

*An emperor penguin who loses her egg is seen trying to steal the egg of another.

*Emperor penguins take a different lover every mating season.

These facts are the central focus of the film. To watch this film and somehow see it as an ode to monogamy is to ignore the entire film. It's sad and funny and ludicrous to imagine these people struggling to pull out a "Christian" message and morality from a nature film. They can do it -- if they ignore 95% of the film and the facts. Saying "March of the Penguins" celebrates monogamy is like saying "Wedding Crashers" celebrates the institution of marriage.

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