The Great Penguin Race War

 Anime, Polar Bear Cafe  Comments Off on The Great Penguin Race War
Aug 092012

King penguins hate Emperor penguins. Emperor penguins hate King penguins. Who is to blame?


Yeah, when humans first arrived to Antarctica, the first penguins they encountered were pretty big. Those humans did what humans are apt to do: they associated that size with royalty. These big honkin’ penguins just had to be the kings of the species. Bam! King penguins.

Then some other humans traveled further into the continent, hit the South Pole, and found even bigger penguins? What’s bigger than a king? Kings just rule over countries. Emperors rule over  empires. A king is just some guy sitting on the throne in England or whatever, while an emperor is all Augustus Ceasaring up the place. So yeah, a penguin bigger than a King ought to be an Emperor.

So this is all about human classification. As far as we know, these penguin species didn’t even know each other before humans started  to flock to Antarctica. And even if they did have contact, there’s no sign of hostilities that we can see. So when Penguin and his rival square off in the latest episode of Polar Bear Cafe, the heart of their feud is man-made. They may perpetuate said conflict, but it originates out of human interference.

The same goes for the other penguins that pop up. The inter-species rivalry with the smaller penguins isn’t as heated, but there’s some jealousy and friendly ribbing going on when they compare the spelling of their different genera and the reasons for their names. These penguins lament that their names come from the differences in their beaks and heads– one being damned to have a feminine name regardless of gender while the other two are branded by such minute details as patterns in their head feathers. They’re clearly jealous of the Emperors and Kings for having royalty-based names, so they take to boasting that their genus name is easier to spell.

Again, these names were all created by humans. The penguins didn’t create these names, but they embrace them and have created cultural barriers based upon these artificial differences.

The parallel is pretty clear here: this is some dig on imperialism and shit like that. Those Europeans come barging in, creating political and cultural boundaries where such things didn’t exist before, or combining such things without regard for previously existing differences.

Penguins have been victimized by human imperialism of Antarctica in ways that other animal species don’t seem to have been affected. This could be due to their alien-like status. Outside of insane conspiracy theories and stuff like that, humans never lived in Antarctica. A few species migrate to South America, but for the most part penguins are not a part of the human subconscious. They haven’t been a part of ancient human interaction the way bears and the like have over thousands of years. Even the marsupials of Australia had contact with the natives to that continent, making them a part of one facet of human development.

That isn’t the case with penguins. They’re even more of an “other” than your regular integrated animal. They’re akin to the Native Americans when the Europeans were first traveling to and colonizing the Americas. Penguins are a wholly alien culture, and the colonizing culture doesn’t feel as bad about forcing them into holes they’d never force upon more familiar cultures.

And so the penguins were subjected to harsher categorization than more familiar species, and somehow penguins still embrace this despite it causing rifts in their community.

This helps explain why penguins seem to be second class citizens. Smartphones aren’t made with them in mind because, even with advances being made in animal-human relations, they’re still seen as something  different. That’s probably why someone like Penguin tries to become more like the humans around him. If being a penguin is such a lowly position, he may as well emulate his colonial superiors.

What this world needs is a Penguin Power Movement. Embrace the Antarctic homeland. Swimming instead of flying is beautiful.

Maybe we’re seeing the first steps taking place between Penguin’s nephew and his rival’s son.