An Antananarivo Epiphany

I am a natural entertainer.
Aren’t we all holding pieces of dying ember?
I promise secret propaganda.
Aren’t we all hiding pieces of broken anger?
“Kremlin Dusk” – Utada Hikaru

Madagascar 2

Madagascar starts as the fourth biggest island in the world. It’s appraised in middle-school geography classes as a habitat for many unique animals and plants. Coelacanths swim in its waters – a creature suspected to be the living survivor of the Jurassic ages. And Antananarivo is the name of the capital; a name drenched in magical aura – the reason why it’s randomly taken as the title of this writing.

Madagascar gains its fame in today’s pop-cult life through the funny cartoons made under its name – the tale of four animals: Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, Marty the Zebra, and Melman the Giraffe, who wishes to go back to Africa, their homeland, but ended up crashing in Madagascar, a magical land reigned by the kingdom of meerkats (or lemurs). As a comedy, Madagascar enhanced its everlasting chime of vivacity with those unforgettable moments when the animals sing “I Like to Move It!”. All of this remains the same in the sequel, Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa, where the animals tried to fly back to the States but ended up crashing at a beautiful spring in an African preservation park – which turned out to be their ‘hometown’.

After weeks of watching dramatically intense movies such as Towelhead, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Taxi to the Dark Side, and L’ Appartement, I went along with the family plan to watch Madagascar 2. I thought it would be a nice, fun break from all the weight of movies I watched previously. The prospect of fun seemed even brighter as we spotted Julia Perez in the Paris Van Java mall parking lot. A cameo, I thought. It was a boost to my supply of luck, so I was looking forward for good things to happen.

Enjoyable things tumble into place. “Yes!” I screamed at heart. Madagascar 2 was so amusing. These animals and other characters surely brought lemonade-freshness in their movements and crazy antics. The penguins were seriously psychotic, as was the militant Granny. The dancing lion was enjoyable, Melman’s hypochondriac misery was silliness with a soft spot, and Gloria’s & Moto Moto’s flirting was hilarious in that classic smoochie tone. The movie made my day.

An embarrassing dollop of cream atop of all the fun experience of watching Madagascar 2 would be the fact that the most memorable moment in the movie for me are these several scenes:

1. Success of Sacrifice!
When the spring dried and left the inhabitant of the animal preservation into a state of life-threatening scarcity, the ever-so-crazy King Maurice came along with the idea of offering the God of the Volcano a sacrifice. It was such a coincidence that the moment a sacrifice was thrown into the lava (it’s a shark!), Alex and his dad managed to remove the dam clogging the spring’s water source. They yelled, ‘the sacrifice worked!’

The package is comical. The accusation is implicit. The satire is subtle yet precise. Isn’t this a behavior pattern of many religious believers? There are many coincidences that naturally happen but then claimed by some people that it’s a success of the prayers or rituals they performed in the past. I would take into account what Richard Dawkins largely criticizes in his book The God Delusion as ‘the miracle phenomenon’; more extensively, by experience, is outside that context, where I’m daily exposed to claims made on one’s fortune and misfortune. Hidayah is the biggest example of where many coincidences are made miraculous, and if not miraculous enough, exaggerated. As the practice shows no sign of fatigue, the impression made by this scene of Madagascar 2 tastes like a mango sorbet of truth.

2. Gloria and Melman!
Inter-species love blooms! How beautiful! People around me mutters, ‘what would their children be like?’ with a hint of discomfort as a reaction to the seemingly-blasphemous love blossom we just witnessed. What immediately comes to my mind upon seeing this scene is a message that Mariah Carey draws strongly, emotionally, and full of hope in her video clip, “Through the Rain”: interracial love! Negative racism is something that always bug me, so this message coming across is beautiful.

3. Granny’s Speech
This is rather blatant. When some tourists get stranded in Africa, they start to build their ‘survival camp’ under Granny’s lead. Hint that Granny’s speech of survival and hope was a resemblance to USA, since her pose, as indicated by the shadow animated behind her, was that of Statue of Liberty’s. What turned out instead of that ‘survival camp’ was a threat towards the ecosystem. Ha! That spells something political and environmental!

4. Alex’s Dance as Peace-offering
Alex’s dad, and the lion tribes in general, naturally likes to play it hard. They fight. Alex, instead loves to dance. When Alex and his dad got stuck in a life-and-death situation with humans, guess which one works. The dance! Especially in tribute to the bloody eye-for-an-eye happening in Palestine right now, I think another message sent by this movie, specifically through this scene, is how peaceful and jovial things (even those as naïve as a dance) is usually the one that contributes ultimately to peace. This scene is like Gandhi on break-dance.

Exiting the cinema, I was inspired. I didn’t expect such strong moral chimes in a jolly, happy-go-lucky walk to Paris van Java, a consumerist’s hideaway where philosophical dawnings would normally be the least possible thing to happen. Then again, it gets me thinking, did it REALLY happen? Or am I overthinking much?

One of my most fundamental resolutions of 2009 is being less overthinking. Friends call me rational and tactical. For some, a party pooper (ha!). I can’t help the Asperger’s, for one, and if not, the hypochondria. I ‘calculate’ parties, occasions, things I do, as to how much benefit I would harness in contrast to how much time and money would I spend. Then I’m stuck in the clouds of thoughts and ended up being in another dimension: a dimension of endless calculus. So I plan to shed it. The first tiny step is Madagascar 2. Some 2 hours of fun, happiness, all those small but sunny things.

My experience on Madagascar 2, as unfolded in the four-pronged 2nd bulk of this writing, wasn’t any close to ‘small but sunny’. During the Gloria and Melman scene, I even went as far as thinking about the dubbers: Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer. CMIIW, but it’s a black-and-Jew relationship? Cool message, I thought. The prospect of such thoughts to appear is rather like a nightmare. Is it a trap of overthinking and details to unaffordable scrutiny?

I’m not that good a debater, I’m not that wild a critical thinker. Then it’s ironic on how critical thinking is a huge portion of the brain pie. When for some I’m a whiner, then I wonder, where’s the fine line between a critical thought, a criticism, a question, and a whine. Is there even a line?

On the drive-home from a philosophy class, along the roads of Cicadas and Kiaracondong that’s occupied with the still of night, me and my friend often stare at some mang sekoteng, angkot drivers, or other people hanging out smoking in the comberan-puddled sidewalk. We wonder, if we were like them, what would we think about? Are we complaining about our selling sekoteng, one day gets frustrated on the absence of profit maximization? Are we ever to think about our position in the hierarchy of humanity and our purpose of life? If we don’t think at all and just live on the daily life, you know, waking up with some kids, working hard for the day, etc, wouldn’t it be simpler and neater? Indeed that means being less critical: to religion, life, and all that philosophy; but at the same time devoid of the whines that occupies sometimes too omnipresently.

Self-help, which is how this writing starts to sound like, is like durian. Pungent to some, but deliciously inspiring for others. A radical’s mind would pretty much possess the same trait. It floats in and out of whining. I’d say that in the non-whining mode, it would usually be brilliance. How this inconsistent trait functions at default is a drag to the extremes.

Jacques Derrida stated that the way a text is perceived is largely autonomous to the system of the reader. Tyra Banks’ tagline in America’s Next Top Model is about being ‘fierce!’. Thus, if the reader drags it to the extreme, prepare for how the situation – even the blandest of texts – becomes fierce; either the skyscraper’s-idyllic-view or traversing the underworld. Bear!

That’s where the critical whining magnetizes the best and worst out of an innocuous and otherwise-pretty life, as portrayed in the animations of Madagascar 2.


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