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.
- [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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Isn't it Danish not Megan? 220.127.116.11 05:30, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
- No, Danish has longer hair. 18.104.22.168 05:37, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
That is a good point on the point for "Is it Danish, or Megan?", but Danish would have probably helped Black Hat kill the penguins. Another thing to add is Danish won't react like that, but Megan would be more likely.
- Also, if it were Danish, she would have a good come back for black hat. 22.214.171.124 13:54, 15 August 2014 (UTC)BK
Would Movie Ages (http://www.xkcd.com/891) be just as pertinent, if not more so, than Timeghost? Should we include a reference to it in the explanation? 126.96.36.199 14:08, 15 August 2014 (UTC)DBrak
- Good idea. I think we should, so I've included that reference now.
--Das-g (talk) 14:42, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
This is totally off-topic, but I can't help myself. I remember reading somewhere that the film was made by a French team (I think) and they realized they had a hit on their hands. But when they were negotating with a distributor for the USA market that it was demanded that all reference to the penguins' amazing behavior being due to their evolutionary development had to be removed. "Evolution" was a dirty word for the USA market. --RenniePet (talk) 22:28, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
- I don't think RenniePet's comment is off-topic; the same audience that they deleted "Evolution" for used it as an example for family values and ID - is the "Oh God" dialog an allusion to whether Black Hat been playing God? --FractalgeekUK (talk) 00:17, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
- I found a NY Times article on the evolution point: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/13/science/13peng.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print 188.8.131.52 01:23, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
A thought: possibly at least partially inspired by much-repeated note about current events as of the time of writing -- with Lauren Bacall's death, all the people mentioned in Madonna's Vogue are dead. 184.108.40.206 03:33, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Finally, we get some Black Hat antics! Have you noticed that Randall has lately done less Black Hat comics? Or is just me?
220.127.116.11 20:43, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Am I missing something? Nobody seems to ask WHY Black Hat apparently killed the penguins or even HOW (?!) 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- There is nothing in the comic, or in any other comic that would indicate why or how he would have done it, or even if it was just a mistake. So what should we include? Anything would be speculation. That Black Hat might do it just to make Megan sad is enough reason for me. Also he might just come to her to apologize just t make her think he is joking with the feeling old. Last point could be that he might not even have killed them, but when Megan spoiled his joke by realizing that he was trying to make her feel old, he quickly invented the killing story to upset her anyway. The title text kind of reinforces this, since he then anyway get to tell her she should feel old. --Kynde (talk) 14:38, 10 November 2016 (UTC) (Just added this idea to the explanation...)
Does Black Hat's statement necessarily imply that ALL the penguins were alive until recently? The article seems to state so on two or three instances and even goes to rebuke that position, but it is more probable that Black Hat was talking about all penguins that survived until "last night".
- Black Hat first refers to "all the birds," then says that "they" were alive until last night, so it's at least reasonable to read it as meaning they were all alive. Nitpicking (talk) 18:16, 8 December 2021 (UTC)