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Archive for March, 2002

A New Breed

Posted by acdtest on March 24, 2002

A New Breed

[Column originally published (print) March 1999]

like TV wildlife films. Truly I do. And I’m grateful for them as well. How else would I experience all those natural wonders? Without TV wildlife films I’d have to go out there, wouldn’t I. Out there where the animals live. Out there in steamy jungles, fetid swamps, dank forests and bone-chilling waters. Out there tramping through pouring rain and blazing sun; through sandstorms and blizzards. And when I wanted to rest I’d have to make do with makeshift shelter: no air conditioning, no running water, no toilets, no Seinfeld reruns. It’s enough to make a civilized man shudder and slop his café brűlot about.

So, you see, TV wildlife films really are a favorite of mine. But something odd has happened to them. Not all of them, of course. Just the new breed of them.

Consider, for instance, that particularly irksome sort of TV wildlife film where predator animals who hunt mammal prey larger than field mice seem to get their food ready-killed as if by magic.

Here’s the predator stalking his prey (there’s always lots of stalking). Then he leaps, and before one can say, Grub’s up!, quick-cut to predator contentedly enjoying his meal. Apparently, the prey, rewarding the predator for all that assiduous stalking, has considerately dropped dead of its own volition, thereby saving the predator the trouble of having to kill it.

Or a common variation on this: The prey escapes, thereby assuring us the predator is only rarely successful, and most of the time most of those sweet little prey animals will get to go home to their sweet little families. In this variation the predator is either shown prey-less, or shown eating prey we’ve not met previously that has expired by one means or another at some location well out of our predator’s reach. Our predator wouldn’t think of actually killing anything. No indeed. He’s the Immaculate Conception of his species; totally without stain; a Disney character incarnate.

Now, I ask you: Is this in any way reasonable?

Well, I suspect a reasonable portrayal wasn’t a major consideration here. After all, these are new breed TV wildlife films, and we must keep our impressionable kiddies from seeing killing of any sort, mustn’t we? I mean, it’s so…so…, well, violent.

Consider another irksome bit: The penchant with this new breed of TV wildlife film for chronicling animals who live in herds, pods, groups or colonies. Aloof, rugged, animal individualism is out. Team and group animal cooperation is in.

Like with penguins. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see any more bloody penguins. You’ve seen one penguin, you’ve seen ’em all. And no more seals, either. Except, that is, when they’re shown being made dinner for sharks. Or killer whales.

I like killer whales, actually. They’re neat. Even though they do their killing and traveling in pods. Killer whale wildlife films are neat, too. Come to think of it, most whale wildlife films are neat. Except, of course, the new breed sort where whales are invariably shown in the company of wonder-struck humans, whose awe-laden expressions of wonder are meant to show their deep and abiding fellowship with whales in particular, and with wildlife and Nature in general. In the company of these the whales are invariably reduced to objects, and despite what the enthralled humans may imagine, there’s no fellowship at work here at all. Whales, believe it or not, have no time for humans. We’re useless to them as food, and they don’t need or want us for companions.

Trust me. You can take my word on this.

And I want to say here as well, and in no uncertain terms, I’ve about had it with the simian crowd, too. The whole lot of them, along with their disgusting habits. They look and act too much like us, if you ask me. Putting them on display is nothing short of a direct rebuke. There’s no need to remind us that not very long ago we were up in the canopy doing our thing hanging from some tree branch or other, all the while gesticulating and gibbering away mindlessly. We don’t need reminding. We may have done away with scrambling up trees and hanging about on tree branches, but all the rest of it is still firmly intact. Just look around you if you doubt my word.

And there’s even more irksome. Piling fresh insult upon insult sufficient, there’s a seemingly endless array of new breed TV wildlife films featuring lions. You know about lions, right? They’re the branch of the cat family where the pride females, acting in community, not only birth and care for litters of cubs, but do all the hunting as well, while the solitary and shiftless male lounges about being generally useless until he’s needed for stud service.

Now, what’s the deal with that? Thinly veiled neo-feminist polemic ŕ la Dworkin, McKinnon and Walker?

Spare us. Save it for the gang up in academia where it might be appreciated.

Lastly, as if all these irksome bits weren’t irksome enough, there’s that final bit of irksome that’s perhaps the most irksome bit of all: The terminally annoying and ineluctable filmmaker’s environmentalist message that comes at the end of the new breed TV wildlife film much like the prayer meeting comes after the soup at a Salvation Army soup kitchen.

The animals, it seems, are disappearing. Not of their own accord, nor by Darwinian imperative either. No sir. They’re disappearing because of us. It’s all our fault, rapacious cretins that we are. We shoot them dead for fun and profit. We maim and destroy their habitats. And we do it all wantonly and sans even a trace of conscience.

Listen up!, New Breed TV Wildlife Film Fella. I’ve some urgent news for you. You’re making your pitch in the wrong venue and to the wrong person. The guy you need to talk to doesn’t watch TV wildlife films. He’s too busy. Out there. Shooting the animals. Screwing-up the habitats. Despoiling the rain forests. You need to confront him mano a mano and convince him of his unconscionable behavior, not me. I’m one of the good guys.

So here’s the deal: You put some good, honest killing back into those TV wildlife films, knock off the thinly veiled PC/New Age propaganda, and deep-six the sermon, and I swear to never shoot another tiger or cut down another tree.

How’s that for fair?

Sounds more than fair to me.

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