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Gay Penguin Entertainers Must Not Pander to Stereotypes
2002-02-26 14:28:17

Crazy But True
Football is like fishing. Drinking by another name.
-- P a u l


An open letter to Wendell and Cass: Let me start by saying that I am a big fan. I have not had the pleasure of seeing your live act at the New York Aquarium, but I think it is just wonderful that homosexual flightless aquatic birds such as yourself have been able to appeal to audiences across the East Coast, and even to tourists from more distant locales. It is really great that onstage opportunities are opening up for entertainers of all species and sexual persuasions.

However, I was deeply concerned and saddened by several aspects of a recent Telegraph feature profiling your success. It was clear from the article that your act depends heavily on stock, stereotypical caricatures of gayness that greatly misrepresent the rich diversity of the LGBT community. For example, your keeper is quoted as saying that "Wendell is very nervous; always has been. He's on edge all the time," while Cass "tends to be a rather aggressive bird." Is this really how you want gay penguins to be portrayed in the media - as limp-finned, neurotic males and burly leatherbirds eternally acting out the tired roles of femme and butch? In this day and age, I think we deserve better from our role models, be they fish or fowl.

Also, from your keeper's description, it sounds as if much of your act depends on a single gag. I am referring here to your nest together. "They're currently in a dispute with another couple over their nest," says the article. "It seems to be one of the most desirable places in the penguin enclosure." I'm sorry, but this just makes me cringe. Must every fag in comedy be a bitchy interior designer? You have the entire varied tapestry of gay penguin life to take as your material - why must you settle for the easy laugh?

I have considered the possibility that you were misrepresented in the Telegraph profile. After all, an aquarium representative is quoted as saying "They even have sex, though I don't know how successful that is." It is obvious that you are still surrounded by bigotry, Wendell and Cass, and perhaps there are shadings and subtleties to your work that straight humans refuse to acknowledge. I salute the grace and perseverance that have led you to succeed where so many other gay penguin entertainers have failed. But please, consider the responsibilities that accompany your newfound mainstream acceptance. Don't reinforce prejudicial stereotypes against gays.

Thank you.

Sincerely, Siduri

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.


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