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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Comparing the Market
I was going to write a fascinating account of getting my ears pierced for the first time this week, but the experience was so exactly like what I'd imagined that I somehow stymied myself. At any rate, I'm happy to report that, pace the ear-piercing scream in Among Others, my magical powers stand much where they did.

(Contrariwise, I feel very sorry for the mother in this year's John Lewis Xmas advert, who tragically loses the ability to see her young son's pet penguin as anything other than a stuffed toy. Made me sniff.)

Other signs of Christmas: the stencil they use at Costa for dusting chocolate onto cappuccinos now resembles a reindeer head. And the German market has appeared in the centre of Bristol. I was in town on Tuesday night with my friend Maryam (to watch Gone Girl), and saw the wooden stalls being swiftly and efficiently erected under floodlights by - yes, the adverbs are a giveaway - real Germans, working out of a real German lorry. It had never occurred to either of us that it was a German German market, rather than being stored eleven months of the year in a trading estate in Solihull. This somehow feels much more festive.

I don't think the mother loses the ability to see the penguin as other than a toy. First we see the penguin from the boy's POV (real) and then at the end from the mother's (toy). That the penguin is shown as real when others are around doesn't negate this, so long as they're not looking at the penguin. It's exactly the same principle on which Hobbes the tiger in Calvin and Hobbes was done.

I note that the penguin is an Adélie: these, like Emperors, live in Antarctica itself, and consequently require sufficient cold that they're rarely if ever seen in zoos. But as they are the species of penguin in the illustrations to Mr. Popper's Penguins, they have ever since been, in my eyes and I guess many others', the default penguin.

My first thought was of Calvin and Hobbes, too.

I just wanted to push back against the interpretation that would privilege the adult's perspective as the true one (i.e. as a "reveal"), by noting that the reverse is equally workable. But you're right of course that it's not necessary to privilege either.

I suspect that the "reveal" was intended as the true interpretation, because the toy version only came at the end as a surprise. Calvin and Hobbes was never written that way.

However, it can work as an ad by that interpretation. It's a combination of:
1) (intrigued) "Why does that boy have a penguin? Oh, it's his toy that he's imagining real."
2) (the sales pitch) "That boy loves his toy penguin so much, he thinks of it as real. Why not make him happier still by buying his penguin a mate?"

That happens in Mr. Popper's Penguins too. The male penguin becomes sad and molting. So Mr. Popper gets him a mate. The two immediately perk up, and soon there is a flock of little penguins. Then they all form a circus act.