1408: March of the Penguins
|March of the Penguins|
Title text: You ARE getting older, though.
Several of the xkcd comics outline ways to make people feel older by referencing various pieces of popular culture which feel ingrained and "recent", and revealing the time that has elapsed since their release to be longer than expected (for instance, 1393: Timeghost and 891: Movie Ages).
This appears to be what Black Hat is doing as he walks in on Megan to announce that all the penguins from a 2005 documentary March of the Penguins about emperor penguins are dead. Megan is familiar with these sorts of antics and assumes Black Hat is indicating that the film is so old that the lifespan of emperor penguins is less than the time since the documentary was released. Frustrated, Megan simply acknowledges Black Hat's statement by agreeing that everyone is aging. Black Hat, however, reveals that he is not trying to make her feel old, because the penguins were all alive "last night" and all died in one instance since then and thus not from old age.
His announcement that he is "trying to apologize" creates the obvious inference that he caused the penguins to be killed (either intentionally or by mistake). This gives the situation a much darker tone; especially since Black Hat likely is not truly apologizing, as he is very unapologetic in his "classhole" tendencies, and just wish to mess even further with Megan.
Emperor penguins actually live about 20 years on average, so presumably, barring any intervention by Black Hat, most of the younger penguins and many of the older penguins in the movie are still alive as of the time of release of this comic in 2014 nine years after the documentary was released.
The title text emphasizes that whatever the penguins' fate, we do get and are getting older. This is presented as a last jab by Black Hat as he departs just to make Megan feel a bit worse. So in the end this comic did try to make the reader feel older.
This also presents an alternative take on the entire comic: Black Hat came in to make Megan feel old because all the penguins of the movie is actually naturally dead of old age, predators, disease etc. And if she likes the movie, she would not have realized that it was almost nine years ago she saw it, and the feel old by realizing how time passed. But she ruins Black Hat's moment by realizing what he is trying to do. (As opposed to what he manages in a comic like 493: Actuarial, that might also make you feel old). So instead of saying yeah you got me, he quickly invents a story that they actually all lived last night, and then takes the blame for killing them just to shock Megan.
This fits with the title text, as he then manages to make a jab at how old Megan should feel anyway. Another point is that it is both totally unrealistic that Black Hat could cause all these penguins to die simultaneously as they would be spread over a large area of water and ice in the Antarctica. And secondly, although the movie was released in January 2005, the team behind it had filmed the penguins for 13 month prior, so some of the penguins in the movie must have been adult back in 2003. So it is not only nine but rather eleven years ago and several of the penguins in the movie must have died of natural causes prior to this comic, although not all! But Black Hat's fake statement indicates that all of them where still alive yesterday.
The worst part of this is that it seems like Megan believes him, but she of course also knows him to be a classhole (see for instance 596: Latitude) and might believe him capable of locating and exterminating all the penguins from the movie over night...
- [Black Hat walks towards Megan who is sitting in an office chair at a desk working on her laptop.]
- Black Hat: All the birds from March of the Penguins are now dead.
- [In a frame-less panel only Megan is shown. She sits back from the laptop taking her hands down on her legs. Black Hat replies from off-panel.]
- Megan: OK, I get it. We're all aging.
- Black Hat (off-panel): What? No.
- [Black Hat is in the frame again holding one hand slightly out towards Megan who has turned around in her office chair and is now facing Black Hat.]
- Black Hat: I'm not trying to make you feel old. They were alive last night.
- Black Hat:I'm trying to apologize.
- Megan: Oh God
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