Flamingo Pride

I really liked this short animation, thought it was funny and sweet. But in the Q&A afterwards, there was a variety of interpretation of it that was surprising.

Largely dialogue-free, Flamingo Pride focuses on one grumpy and withdrawn curmudgeon in a flock of queer flamingos, who sulks all through the Pride party. He clocks a beautiful female swan flying past and follows her to the resolutely heteronormative pond nearby. There, his overtures of romance meet with mockery from the surrounding fowl, and as his attempts become more desperate, hilarity ensues. The final shot is of the demure swan emerging from the reeds in dominatrix gear with a kinky look in her eye.

I thought it was funny. My reading was that the main character was bi, and feeling alienated at the solely gay-focused Pride party, but then seen as way too queer when in straight spaces like the pond. I thought it was about crossing social boundaries, built up by conscious and unconscious biases, one which the swan’s kinkiness shows are artificial – normativity doesn’t represent the diversity in straight sexuality either.

But perhaps that reading has a lot to do with my own experience. In the Q&A, the room read the main character as straight, and the depiction of the queer Pride party as somehow comparably exclusionary as the hetero pond was seen as controversial. When checking out the creator online, it seems a lot of people found the animation to be actively homophobic, showing an oppressed straight main character isolated in a gay world. I was really surprised by this, because the queer flamingos are joyous and always trying to include him in their revelries. Unlike the birds at hetero pond, the flamingos don’t mock him for pursuing the swan, or hinder him in any way. It’s totally ok for him to do his own thing, and the worst they can be accused of is not realising the type of loud party Pride they are enjoying is maybe not for everyone.

The other criticism is that it deals too much in stereotypical clichés, like the pink flamingos as gay, the fact that Pride is shown as such a monolithic party experience, the flamingos act in a stereotypical way. In the absence of dialogue, the animation is reliant on visual cues, and clearly there is a good argument to be made that in this case those have been exaggerated to a potentially offensive level.

I dunno, maybe it depends on the context in which you are watching it. I saw it as part of a series of shorts celebrating queer experience, so I took it in a positive light. And being bi, that’s what I saw in the story, a grumpy bisexual.

I can only speak for myself, I thought it was funny.