July 29th, 2010
This video we did in 2008 is THE reason why Discovery Channel should not be propagating the fear and destruction of sharks with their annual Shark Week. What the video says is hard to even fathom — that humans have so emptied the oceans in the past 50 years, you rarely see sharks in the open seas today.
If you want a responsible, up-to-date for the 21st Century perspective on sharks, I strongly recommend you watch Sharkwater. I was deeply impressed with the job Rob Stewart did in hitting exactly the right note for how we should perceive sharks today.
As for Discovery Channel, they need to move on to fulfilling Mike Judge’s visionary movie, “Idiocracy,” by finally producing the show that America truly wants — “Ow, My Balls!” They are just the guys to make it.
One man against a money machine. After a career as a nature documentary filmmaker, Chris Palmer is now a professor at American University and using his years of knowledge and dedication to speak out against the careless video exploitation of nature. Discovery Channel is the focus of his editorial in Huffington Post. But do people at Discovery Channel even read?
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DE-EVOLUTION OF THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL
In the beginning … there was the brilliant documentary “Cane Toads” — the first real “hit” for The Discovery Channel. That was the mid to late 1980’s, when cable television was gloriously new — back when I was glued to my control box with 15 switches that had three positions allowing for 45 channels on my TV, though it was tethered to the set with a wire so you couldn’t go far — it was the pre-remote days.
Back then, the enormously talented Australian filmmaker Mark Lewis produced his landmark movie, “Cane Toads,” which is a quirky, very funny, very clever movie about the natural history of the introduced toads in Australia which the fledgling Discovery Channel acquired and showed. For a brief shining moment there was a ray of hope that this new cable channel was a pathway to enlightenment about nature that would stand for all things good in trying to halt the decline of the world’s natural resources.
But it didn’t last long. Entropy took over, as it always does.
Sadly, the story mirrors the decline of William Paley’s CBS News as told by David Halberstam in “The Powers That Be” — a sort of cautionary tale that I have pointed to multiple times here on The Benshi and in my book. It’s just a sort of iconic progression — “Idealists find new modes of communication, grand dreams and aspirations are laid out, real world settles in, audience decides they’d rather watch sex and violence, television folks give them what they want, and the idealists end up at the bar drowning their sorrows and complaining (btw, I’m a member of this latter group)”.
Such is the case for the Discovery Channel these days. Their most popular shows involve plundering ocean wildlife (“World’s Deadliest Catch”), plundering forests (“Ice Loggers,” “Swamp Loggers,” basically anywhere miserable that there are loggers), and then fanning the flames of mass fear and hatred of sharks with their flagship yearly extravaganza, “Shark Week”.
And for every Shark Week series they produce, they have trained their publicists how to explain to the public that watching people getting mauled by sharks is good for the planet, claiming their programming creates more concern and interest in sharks. It’s no different than the guy in my film school class who made a student film that included a graphic rape scene that was simply pornography but he explained it to the faculty as helping people understand the wrongness of rape. Right. Guess which industry that guy is making his income from these days (hint: you can see his “work” on your hotel television adult channel).
At any rate, Chris Palmer is doing an heroic job of being one of the few voices speaking out against the tackiness of the Discovery Channel. He’s written a number of powerful editorials about it. Here’s his latest about Shark Week.