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Happy Feet This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The penguins are coming. Have you noticed? You can hardly walk into a store without being bombarded by penguin merchandise. With the advent of three entirely penguin-based movies (and others with penguin characters), it’s safe to say we’ve gone south, very far south. You see, these penguins have a secret agenda. They are not what they seem. These penguins are making a political statement.

“Happy Feet” takes an obvious stand on several potentially controversial issues. The environmental overtones are the most obvious. Human environmental exploitation is clearly vilified. Corporate business is held directly responsible for killing the penguins’ food supply. A montage of clips shows evil businessmen debating the issue of penguin salvation with environmental activists, and makes all businesses out to be profit-hungry and callous. In the mind of any child watching “Happy Feet,” big business and capital expansion become obvious evils, but then what wouldn’t seem evil compared to a cute little penguin?

Although individual humans are empowered as the potential saviors of the penguins (and other endangered species), it’s only through subscription to the green activist ideal that this can occur. By associating a happy ending with environmentalism, the two not only become synonymous but the story also gets its inspirational and uplifting moment quota filled.

The movie also emphasizes racial diversity, yet in such a stereotypical way that it almost negates its political correctness and washes out the banner of diversity that Mumble (the main character) champions. The Adelie penguins are clearly Latino, almost to an offensive degree. A couple of rapper penguins are represented as the token blacks of the emperor colony. The mobster Skua Bird could be considered Italian with a stretch of the imagination. Even the elephant seals have a nondescript blend of accent somewhere between Scottish and Irish. However, promoting diversity and acceptance, Mumble is praised for being different (thus satisfying the mandatory PC inspirational factor requirement of children’s movies).

In addition to some loaded environmental issues and a few comically disguised racial ones, the movie takes an anti-organized religion tone with the characterization of the aging patriarch emperor penguin, Noah the Elder. Indeed, the traditional faith of the penguin is made to seem puritanical, standing in the way of the ultimate progress and salvation of the penguins. Could his name be pure coincidence? The religious guru, Lovelace, the Rockhopper penguin, is clearly an Elmer Gantry-type character. What absolutely isn’t coincidence, however, is the long, zoomed-in shot of a Christian chapel on the outskirts of the human camp responsible for the exploitative fisheries.

Environmentalism, racial stereotyping and organized religion are terribly heavy topics for a children’s movie. Is this not-so-subliminal message being regurgitated and pushed down the throat of the nation’s children by fluffy, dancing penguins? Parents surely don’t expect this from these well-dressed, little aquatic birds. Maybe penguins are just too darned forgivable. Maybe the cute and cuddly act works too well. But these cuddly radicals cannot be trusted. You’ve been warned.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

rfltori said...
Oct. 12, 2011 at 9:37 am:
I watch Happy Feet a lot. This is a good movie. I like penguin who was tapping. I would suggest people watch this movie.
 
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sarsar said...
May 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm:
I love the review and love the movie! it was so funny!
 
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Xavier S. said...
Apr. 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm:
funnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy=] i luved this movie same with the review
 
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Mrs.TRC said...
Dec. 15, 2008 at 4:54 pm:
OMG this movie was amazing
 
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