Pandagate 2011: BBC Blasted for Including Panda on Female Faces of the Year List
This year, the BBC featured a female panda on its 2011 Faces of the Year list—and some people aren’t too happy about it.
Every year, the BBC’s online Magazine puts together lists of who they consider to be the Faces of the Year. There are two lists—one for the men and one for the women—and they consist of 12 faces each—one for each month of the year. The faces chosen could be politicians, or entertainers, or famous, or not famous—just about anyone who is notably for making a significant contribution to the world during the year. This year, though, the BBC’s lists weren’t composed entirely of humans—and for some strange reason, this has the public in an uproar. Drama!
Here’s what happened: This year’s Faces of the Year – The Women list features for the month of December a giant panda named Tian Tian, or “Sweetie.” Sweetie and her mate Yang Guang (“Sunshine”) arrived in Edinburgh in December after an 11-hour journey from Chengdu in western China—an event that was five years in the making, due to lobbying by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the government. Neat? Yes. Problematic? Apparently also yes, because Sweetie isn’t technically a woman.
There’s been a lot of backlash about the inclusion of Sweetie on the list; according to the Hollywood Reporter, such expressions of anger include this tidbit from Labour party MP Stella Creasy: “No offence to Sweetie — sure a lovely panda and best in the class etc — but clue is in the title ‘women’ not ‘female of the species’ of the year.” Note, too, that Sunshine wasn’t included on the list of Faces of the Year – The Men (though many will be gratified to see Colin Firth representing the month of February).
The BBC took the time to respond to the naysayers, pointing out that this isn’t the first time an animal has been included on a Faces of the Year list: “Including Sweetie (Tian Tian) as one of the annual headline makers was a light-hearted addition to the list, and this isn’t the first time it has featured a non-human,” they said, citing the inclusions of Benson the Carp on the 2009 male list and Peppa the Pig on last year’s female list as precedents.
Naturally, the whole debate has already earned a nickname: Pandagate. Really, though, I’m behind the Beeb on this one. For crying out loud, people, have a sense of humor! It’s the end of the year! It’s time to celebrate, not quibble! Who has the energy for that sort of useless fighting? Let the panda be. Just relax and enjoy the end of the year!
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.