Discovery’s Shark Week has Betrayed the Sharks
Shark Week is now Sharknado without the cyclone, and Discovery should be renamed The Hyperbole Channel
I used to love Shark Week. Like many people, I have been slightly obsessed with sharks all my life. That’s Steven Spielberg’s fault. I saw “Jaws” as a boy and it absolutely terrified me. I’ve since come to appreciate the film for the master class it is, and learn new things from it every time. It’s a brilliant brilliant movie. Too bad the sequels all suck.
But my point is, the movie ignited my fascination with sharks. I devoured (no pun intended) everything I could find about them. Posters, toys, books, and the entire collection of The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau encyclopedias filled my bedroom. I came to love sharks, not just respect them.
So when the Discovery Channel started with Shark Week so many years ago, I was there with bells on! You wanna teach me about Great White migration patterns? Oh hell, yeah! You want to show me about the sharkfinning travesties? You gonna ask me if I’m going to stand by and do nothing? Oh hell, no!
You were so brilliant at first, Shark Week. You showed me the world of these majestic animals. You let me see how they lived. You answered questions I had always wondered about. You made me fall in love with sharks all over again.
Discovery Channel, you and I used to have a special relationship. You brought me beauty in a bad world. You helped remind me that if you understand what scares you, fear can give way to reason. You showed me that with education, there is diminished terror. I loved you for that.
These last few years though, Discovery, you’ve been pissing me off. Why would you screw around with Shark Week like you have? All of a sudden, instead of a celebration of marine beauty, I’m seeing sensationalist Blair Witch styled shark-as-slasher-film bullshit? Why? Why would you betray me like that?
A better question; why would you betray the sharks? Shark Week is meant to celebrate these animals, to show how they are important. Where Jaws portrayed sharks as evil, whether or not that was either Spielberg’s or Peter Benchley’s intent, Shark Week brought the truth. It examined the beauty, not the horror. The truth, not the schlock.
Not anymore. Damn it. So, yeah, Shark Week has been going downhill these last few years, but I still held out hope for this summer’s version. It was quashed right away with the first offering schlepped up by Discovery: “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine.”
I’ve not seen such a pile of bullshit outside of Fox News, which, by the way, only tells the truth a fraction of the time. Fellow writer Kyle Patterson-Vierthaler even shows how Fox News has a tendency to first scare viewers with something, in order to sell them something that eases their fear. “OMG, the economy is tanked and only gold is worth anything! Hey, here’s a commercial for gold coins!” Explains a lot about that channel, and Discovery is following suit.
With “Shark of Darkness,” Discovery set the tone for Shark Week, and it wasn’t a good one. When you hit Info on the remote about the show, it talked about a 30, no, 40 foot Great White shark that had been terrifying South Africa for generations. Now, an attack had been captured on camera. Watch and see!
What followed was the biggest load of poorly conceived fiction I have ever seen about sharks, masquerading as some kind of documentary. Nobody can ever complain about how Spielberg damaged the reputation of this magnificent animal after watching this mountain of bullshit.
Here’s the deal. Apparently there’s this enormous shark named Submarine, we’re talking bigger than Benchley’s protagonist, attacking a whale watching cruise boat earlier this year. Because apparently a giant shark systematically eating a bunch of people, including a businessman from Colorado, would not have made worldwide news.
Considering the bad reputation sharks already have, that’s an impossible proposition. I love sharks, and there is no way a story about a real life Megalodon-meets-Freddy Krueger would ever get by me. I have enough friends posting random shark videos on my social media profiles to absolutely guarantee it.
No. I am not an expert. But I am an enthusiast to the Nth degree, and I am damn hard to fool. I double check everything I see on the Internet which, unfortunately, means I’m in the minority. I’d never heard of this story, and for good reason. Because it didn’t happen! Discovery made the whole thing up!
It’s one thing to take liberties with the details. It’s quite another to say that a 40-foot shark with a propensity for swallowing people whole is a totally real thing. Oh yeah, Submarine is also incredibly intelligent and able to sneak up on you, because he can hang motionless in water for extended periods of time! Then he separates out people flailing in the water and…
No. It’s just too ridiculous to even continue with. If the purpose of Shark Week was originally to inform us about sharks, this was an utter failure. If you want to make up a fake story about a giant serial killer with fins, that’s fine. Throw that on SyFy, with Sharknado, Sharktopus, Sand Sharks, Sharks on a Plane, or whatever silly shit they’re playing from day to day.
Do you know why I don’t have a problem with SyFy’s shark movies? They don’t pretend to have really happened. If there are people out there stupid enough to believe that there are giant killer fish being carried in a cyclone towards them, maybe you shouldn’t put equally ludicrous bullshit on the Discovery Channel.
That commercial for Shark Week with the guy waterskiing on the backs of two sharks was actually showcasing the level of reality presented this year. It’s not only beyond disappointing, it’s wasteful and damaging. Sharks aren’t doing too well these days. Many species are on the brink of extinction.
Fanning hysteria about these animals, portraying them as hunters and killers of human beings is incredibly irresponsible. There should not even be one show on Shark Week falsely portraying them as monsters. Not all Shark Week shows did this, but one is way too much. And it wasn’t alone.
Why would Discovery Channel do this? Ratings. Truth is secondary to money. Look at your Facebook newsfeed for proof. Click here to see the most incredible thing ever! You won’t believe what happens next! This guy completely nails this! Such and such talking head destroys such and such politician! And so on and so on.
This is the world we live in now. There’s an all around battle for our attention from television, from the Internet, from radio, even from (gasp) the people in your life! Headlines need to be more and more sensationalistic. Click-bait and hyperbole rules the day. Quality content is a distant second. This is not a new phenomenon.
As such, Shark Week has followed suit. See the monster killer shark that ate a boatload of whale watchers! Look at us pull some fake story out of our ass and run with it! We gotta make money here kids, no time for research! Who’s got the Sharknado special effects guy’s phone number?
So if the media has become more and more fragmented, that means it’s up to all of us to find good content. If Discovery is going to screw up Shark Week, then I will make my own. You can too:
Here’s some amazing videos of diver Ocean Ramsey, as she swims alongside Great White Sharks.
Here’s some brilliant marine photography by Shawn J. Heinrichs.
Follow these people down this rabbit hole to some brilliant work. Seriously breath taking stuff. You’ll see the majesty and beauty of these magnificent animals the way they should be presented. They will inform you with artfully executed work. Shark Week may have dropped the ball, but these folks can still bring you wonder and amazement.
If Shark Week is going to show SyFy movies as their content, that only means SyFy gets my viewership. Unlike Discovery Channel, SyFy isn’t lying about what they are showing you. And their special effects are better too.
“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom profit that loses. ~ Shirley Chisholm
Chad R. MacDonald
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