March Of The Penguins

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If you have ever wondered why Wittertainees attach their qualifications when contacting the show, the 2005 documentary film March Of The Penguins is the answer.

The film was released (and therefore reviewed) in the UK some time after it had already become a sleeper hit in the US. There, it had been embraced by critic Michael Medved and others of the religious right - who saw, in the monogamous, heterosexual birds raising a chick in a cold and hostile world in which only the strongest survived, a model of a society with which they could identify (remember, the best movies reflect back at us what we bring to them). Mark pointed out that these sentiments were challenged somewhat by the fact that the penguins were only monogamous year on year - “even members of the Rolling Stones can do that” - and that a large number of penguins in zoos around the world are homosexual, a fact that would ultimately result in the collective noun for German gay penguins being declared a “cabaret.”

Additionally, Morgan Freeman’s voiceover invited the viewer to draw out a religious subtext to the images (in particular in a sequence in which a penguin chick freezes to death on the ice) and ultimately, in expressing his own reservations about the way the film had been interpreted whilst at the same time explaining his personal spiritual philosophy, Mark expressed a belief that there was a "greater design" that was behind what the film showed ("I'm sorry?! This happened by chance?!"). When this triggered a response from a professor who took issue with such claims, Mark uttered the phrase “how did the fish get out of the water”? Subsequently, the correspondence poured in, with many keen to explain to Mark exactly how how evolution had, in fact, not only allowed the fish to get out of the water, but to become dinosaurs, rats and Werner Herzog - and, indeed, penguins. A number of those who did so were doctors or professors, who took to appending their qualifications in order to add weight to their contributions. Other listeners joined in, adding their own increasingly banal achievements in fields such as under-10’s football or bronze swimming certificates for comic effect - a practice that spread far beyond discussion around the penguin movie or intelligent design and persists as a running gag to this day.