To pander : to give in, to acquiesce, to conform to a system.
Challenging the pink flamingo for the honour of being the animal existing most and more numerously as simulacra than in real life, (where the ratio of representation versus real is greater than 1), the (Giant) Panda icon is branded and bandied about for causes as various as cigarettes, oyster sauce, and of course the WWF, where it summarily represents the fate of all animals.
Evidently the panda owes its versatility to multiple factors. The most obvious, is its black and white markings: the panda is a living representation of Yin Yang philosophy- that in every-thing exists something of its opposite. The physical might of the bear, contrasted with it’s ostensibly non-violent lifestyle and vegetarian diet, reinforces this union of opposites. The panda’s facial markings give it the illusion of having big eyes, evokes a attraction/nurturing (parent-baby) response from humans, and the panda has a pseudo-thumb – an elongated wrist bone – with which humans can identify. With pandas, we see an anthropomorphic being, a liminality, a demigod seducing our animal nature.
So, who or what is the “Don’t Panda”. To pander, a verb no longer commonly used - though we perhaps do it more and more - is to indulge, gratify, comply, yield. Thus, perhaps it’s this era of systemic commodification that the Don’t Panda is railing against. A protest against superficialism and specious meaning? If, pushed to its maximum saturation, the panda image was used to describe everything, it would lose all associative meaning, and so wouldn’t pander to any single idea or commodity. It’s omnipresence would signify, like Andy Warhol’s bedroom wall of televisions, the over-arching mystery of life, the unintelligibility of ‘everything considered at once’. It is to this mystery that the Don’t Panda adduces. A champion of magic and imagination, The Don’t Panda, and he will tell you himself, doesn’t pander to reason.