Heinrich: About Animals, About Us

I really liked this op-ed piece from Bernd Heinrich, in which he praises the documentary March of the Penguins, while addressing the broader issue of what it means to anthropomorphize animals in movies, and where one might usefully draw the line between things like Bambi and things like Winged Migration: Talk to the animals.

Paradoxically, the cartoonish anthropomorphism of “Bambi,” although it entertained the youngsters, blocked rather than promoted an understanding of animals. In “Bambi” we do not see other creatures. Instead, we are presented humans with antlers, and with our thought and speech. This is what the traditional idea of anthropomorphizing is – expecting animals to feel and behave like humans, which they never will. One look at that penguin with the egg on its toes shows the inadequacy, the outright folly, of wishing they “were more like us.”

Nature is the greatest show on earth, and reverence for life requires acknowledging the differences between ourselves and the animals as well as seeing our relatedness.

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