Paul Theroux's article about geese in Smithsonian
The seven-page piece reveals Theroux's observations from raising various goose species in Hawaii, his opinions of E.B. White's characterizations of animals and Theroux's disdain from anthropomorphism. He politely rails against assigning human emotions and motives to animal behavior. I liked the ranty bits but did wince a couple times.
The article's subhead described "March of the Penguins" as "a travesty of science," and I was particularly intrigued about that bit. The novelist wrote
The literature of pets, or beloved animals, from My Dog Tulip to Tarka the Otter, is full of gushing anthropomorphism. The writers of nature films and wildlife documentaries are so seriously afflicted in this way they distort science. How many ant colonies have you seen on a TV screen while hearing, 'Just putting that thing on his back and toiling with his little twig and thinking, I've just go to hang on a little while longer,' speaking of the ant as though it's a Nepalese Sherpa.Agreed, parts of that movie annoyed me because of the anthropomorphism. I don't agree, however, with the claim that the movie remained in theaters for 23 weeks solely because of the Christian theme assigned to it by some groups. I think Theroux's off-base.
Possibly the creepiest animals-presented-as-humans film was March of the Penguins, a hit movie for obviously the very reason that it presented these birds as tubby Christians marooned on a barren snowfield, examples to be emulated for their family values. When a bird of prey, unidentified but probably a giant petrel, appears in the film and dives to kill a chick, the carnage is not shown nor is the bird identified. The bird is not another creature struggling to exist in a snowfield but an opportunistic mugger from the polar wastes. We are enjoined to see the penguins as good and the giant petrel as wicked. With this travesty of science people try to put a human face on the animal world."
It's entirely possible that moviegoers were entranced by the glimpse into the Antarctic landscape and wildlife. Your thoughts?