“Flipper and Eve, not Flipper and Steve”
Gay penguins probably have it a lot better than many homosexual couples. They aren’t asked which one is the man in the relationship, nor do they miss out on the legal benefits of marriage. Gay penguins enjoy the freedoms of not being stereotyped or having to act a certain way to fit in. However, if more and more penguins begin coming out, society will find a way to force them back in their little penguin closet.
“Pawnee Zoo” was the season two premiere of Parks and Recreation. Following a highly disappointing season one, the small town of Pawnee, Indiana had a lot riding on the season two premiere. The episode begins with an unnecessary rap by Leslie Knope, a hardheaded public servant who has devoted her life to ensuring the parks in Pawnee are as great as she remembers them. The true plot unfolds when Leslie, in a stunt to promote the Pawnee zoo, performs a penguin wedding. The penguins begin to consummate their wedding while Leslie reacts with an uncomfortable smile. Perhaps the perfect example of Leslie Knope’s luck is when the zookeeper informs the children that the two busy penguins are actually male.
After being congratulated by the gay community of Pawnee and by her coworkers for taking a stand, she is quick to deny any claims for supporting a crosscutting issue. The Bulge, a local gay bar, invites Leslie to be the guest of honor for the night. While on a gay high, she declares herself the queen of the gays. Her Ru Paul studded day dreams are quickly ruined by Marcia Langman, an outraged member of the Society for Family Stability Foundation. Leslie is then invited to speak on Pawnee Today, where she is publicly asked to resign. In the final scene, Leslie has the two penguins strapped into a carseat while en route to Iowa, where gay marriage is legal.
The episode sheds light on a quite controversial topic in America both during 2009, when the episode originally aired, and throughout the turn of the century. By using penguins, the episode is able to push a disguised agenda.
As the penguins begin to express their love, Leslie tries to save the situation by lightening the mood and making them an example of celibacy until marriage.
Leslie’s attempt at saving the situation takes a sharp left turn when a young scholar asks a question that we have all wondered while watching an R-rated film at least once while in elementary school.
The first political attack is seen when Leslie’s co-worker congratulates her for taking a stand and sticking her neck out. She is quick to deny taking any sort of stand, because as she explains later that the people of Pawnee don’t like politicians who take a stand or believe in any type of cause. The episode aired just a little before the one year anniversary of the most historic elections within the United States. Gay marriage was a huge issue during the 2008 election, with each candidate hesitating to give a direct statement on the matter in fear of losing supporters.
A look at the fear that politicians have for losing their constituents is shown in the picture to the left. Leslie, just like many politicians, wants to thrive in the mainstream in order to get her future agendas passed. Although she is portrayed very liberal, she is afraid of supporting gay rights within a small town like hers. Many politicians have done the same throughout history. Senator Larry Craig, a republican from Idaho, was charged with disorderly conduct when he attempted to solicit a male undercover police officer for sexual activity. Senator Craig has been known to have supported several anti-gay laws, yet one would think given his preferences, Craig wasn’t voting in his own best interest.
Leslie at this point truly didn’t mean to cause an uproar among the community. She doesn’t even know her town had a gay bar. However, an invitation to be the guest of honor at The Bulge promised a night of fun.
Although she went to the party to tell her “fabulous fans” that she wasn’t trying to take a stand, Lady Gaga’s music paired with the free alcohol began to change her mind. Her breaking point was when everyone in the bar began chanting her name. She no longer held back. She began to enjoy the party thrown in her honor and had a great time. When she took the microphone, she also took a stand.
Politicians often change their minds, or retract statements, when there is a shift in popular public opinion. This practice is often referred to as “flip flop” politics. “The shift has come rapidly; it was just in 2013 that a majority first supported same sex marriage.” (Kumar)
When the majority changes its view, politicians have no choice but to flip flop on their decision. Leslie, while under the influence of her new fans and appletinis, changed her stance on the issue. “And just a decade after opposition to gay marriage helped Republican George W. Bush win re-election, his political guru said he could envision one of his party’s presidential hopefuls in 2016 supporting same-sex marriage” (Kumar). Politicians are often scrutinized for their political standings. A great example was when John Mccain was interviewed on the topic of gay marriage on the Ellen Degeneres show. The topic was approached by Ellen as “the elephant in the room.”
Both Ellen’s show and the fictitious “Pawnee Today” are great examples of shows that have one clear agenda. On “Pawnee Today,” Leslie is asked to resign, annul the wedding, and reimburse the taxpayers the cost of the penguin wedding. All the calls coming in were “surprisingly” anti-Leslie.
A famous phrase used against marriage equality, “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” is referenced in this episode. Leslie is shown looking at the penguins, happily in love. The scene shows the simplicity of the relationship among the penguins and raises the question of how something so simple and “cute” can be denied to some people.
After some reflection Leslie decides to drive the penguins to Iowa, where gay marriage is legal. This scene could be alluding to the practice of many gay couples of crossing state lines in order to get married. As Leslie sprays the penguins with cold water, she feels a sense of accomplishment knowing that “at least they’ll be together [in Iowa].”
There is a separation between the personal beliefs of a politician and the political beliefs of his or her party. The need for balance between being too far left or too far right has been the cornerstone of every successful political campaign. Politicians need a sense of security among their constituents before they can get their agendas passed. In 2012 President Obama finally came forward with openly supporting gay marriage. A simple act of love between the two penguins caused an entire town to divert its effort to stop the “abomination.” The episode raises the question “If gay sex happens within the animal world, isn’t it a part of nature?”
A very common argument against gay marriage is that it’s “unnatural.” The “unnatural” argument seems like an argument that was supposed to be a place holder argument that just never found anything to replace it within the heterosexist agenda. Something is defined as natural if it exists in or is caused by nature, and not made or caused by human kind. Normal is also a word that is often used to describe individual behavior that conforms to the most common behavior in society. Since natural and normal are synonyms, what is a norm in society is considered natural. Ironically, something that is not caused by human kind is considered natural. The contradiction in the definition of the word is enough to know that defining something as “natural” or “unnatural” isn’t enough to decide if it should be allowed to persist in society.
Kumar, Anita. “Rainbow Revolution: U.S. Welcoming Gay Marriage, Changing Politics.” Rainbow Revolution: U.S. Welcoming Gay Marriage, Changing Politics. McClatchy DC, 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.
Ellen Degeneres Personal interview. 5 2008.
“Pawnee Zoo.” Parks and Recreation . NBC. 17 Sept. 2009. Television
Gerstien, Josh. “President Barack Obama Evolves Again on Same-sex Marriage.”POLITICO. 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.
Poehler, Amy (2014–10–28). Yes Please. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.