• The politics of penguin pleasure: why animal sexualities matter to humans

      Emanuel, Nicole; Schell, Jennifer; Heyne, Eric (2021-08)
      This thesis is about what it means to think with penguins. It explores the ways in which we form ideas about these animals, and how those ideas can impact our beliefs about our own lives, penguins' lives, and the kinds of relationships that exist among humans and non-humans. It includes a survey of penguin representations across media and culture, particularly focusing on children's television and movies, nature documentaries, and non-fiction accounts of polar travel. While these penguin-centric texts can vary strikingly in tone, the penguins themselves appear again and again in an appealing light. Across a wide range of time and media, penguins are frequently portrayed as spunky, determined, and battling incredible odds to survive. That popular image of the plucky penguin has lent itself surprisingly well to debates about the naturalness of same-sex parenting in human society. The film The March of the Penguins (which was embraced by conservative Christians for its depiction of "traditional family values") and the picture book And Tango Makes Three (about two male chinstrap penguins who managed to successfully hatch an egg together at the Central Park Zoo) illustrate two sides of these public conversations. As the close reading and theoretical analysis performed in this thesis indicate, both views fail to truly understand penguins as living, courting, mating, reproducing beings. The behaviors of these actual animals are far too complex and varied to reduce to an alignment with either side of this fight over human concepts and morals.