It’s a good year for fans of adorable talking British bears. In January, Paddington 2 hit U.S. theaters, earning universal raves and scoring Hugh Grant a much-deserved BAFTA nomination. Now, Disney has dropped the first trailer for the upcoming Christopher Robin movie (in theaters Aug. 3), which follows an all-grown-up Christopher Robin as he reunites with his childhood BFF, Winnie the Pooh.
You would think that having two movies in one year about small fuzzy bears would be a good thing. Some people, however, have already taken to drawing comparisons between the two. Twitter is already abuzz with arguments over which bear is better. There are accusations that Pooh is merely capitalizing on Paddington’s moment. Before long, someone will probably mock up T-shirts with #TeamPooh or #TeamPaddington.
Which is why I am here to say: Let Paddington and Pooh be.
At first glance, it’s easy to see why you might conflate the two. Both Paddington and Pooh are quintessential symbols of Britishness and beloved by children around the world. For decades, they were both legendary figures in children’s literature before making the transition to the big screen. This year, they’re both starring in films in which they teach British humans how to imbue their busy lives with a little kindness and child-like wonder. Also, neither one wears pants.
There are, however, key differences between the animals. Pooh, of course, is an anthropomorphic teddy bear who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, while Paddington is an actual living bear, currently residing in London. They both like the color red, although Paddington prefers to wear it on his head and accessorize with a blue coat, while Pooh would rather rock a knit crop top. And although they both have a fondness for sweet, sticky foods that come in a jar, Pooh is the more traditionalist of the two with his preference for honey. It’s Paddington who likes marmalade. Duh.
Perhaps most importantly, it is not in the spirit of either Pooh or Paddington to create divisions. Both bears share a philosophy of kindness and integrity. As Paddington says, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” There is room enough in this world for two small, fuzzy, extremely polite British bears without pants.
Besides, it’s not like bears haven’t always dominated the entertainment industry. Sure, people may love their talking dogs and grumpy cats and forgetful fish, but bears have been a pop culture staple ever since Goldilocks first waltzed into the Three Bears’ home and scarfed down all their porridge. Somehow, there is room enough in Hollywood for Po from Kung Fu Panda, Baloo from The Jungle Book, and Iorek Byrnison from The Golden Compass. No one ever told Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House that he couldn’t top-line his own TV program just because Fozzie was already cracking jokes on The Muppet Show.
It’s an exciting time for bears in Hollywood! Ted broke new ground as the first teddy bear to headline his own R-rated movie a few years back. The screaming bear from Annihilation has been earning rave reviews. And of course, it was a bear who helped Leonardo DiCaprio win his Oscar for The Revenant. An actor is only as strong as his scene partner, even when that scene partner is an enormous grizzly.
So let Paddington and Pooh live. We, the media, need to take it upon ourselves to not pit these two bears against each other. We should be encouraging more ursine actors in film, not tearing them down with constant comparisons to their peers. We are lucky to live in age where we can have two films in the same year with adorable British bears spreading positivity and joy. Paddington and Pooh would want it that way.