Killers and Heroes

posted on 9th of april, 2013

As so many nature lovers I enjoy a lot watching nature documentaries in the TV, different channels offer spectacular scenes from all the continents. It is no longer exclusively the habitat of National Geographic: Discovery, Odisea and many others, from the USA, Europe, Japan and other countries delight us with beautiful and breathtaking animal behavior.
Hunting, loving, killing, breeding, feeding and many other situations in the life of wild animals unfold in front of our eyes, we enjoy and we learn at the same time, or may be not?

During the last two years I have observed a tendency to change the strategy of presenting and interpreting those documentaries.
I would call this tendency the "Killer and Hero" style!

There are different ways of understanding the aim of a nature documentary:

you may pretend to wake up love and interest for nature, specially among the younger ones,
or you would like to educate them about the importance of the subsistance of natures normal functions on our planet,
you could even pretend to make the public understand up to which degree we are ourselves part of this nature and therefore the crucial need to respect our planet.

There are quite a number of documentaries which seem to follow this ideals and purposes: the film is been commented either by a voice in the background or the presenter appears visibly during the movie, explaining and pointing out important aspects of the movie we are watching eagerly, helping us to know and understand many mysteries and other incredible situations in which the main character is normally a species well known or an absolut stranger to us.
Our children and ourselves, we learn and enjoy at the same time!
Remember Sir Richard Attenborough?

As pointed out above however, more and more documentaries are beginning to show a rude commercial style which is based on two aspects of the documentary:

The animal which is been described.
The presenter of the documentary himself.

I usually can't hardly understand why a "Killer" Whale should be called like that when this beautiful and amazing mammal just tries to survive by hunting seals, fishes and other species of bigger whales!
As far as I know I have newer heard a deer hunter been called a "killer", or a fisherman a "sardine killer". The dictionary defines the word "killer" as a person or a thing that kills.

So far so good, but how come that human hunters are considered sportsmen, adventurers and even heroes while lions, leopards and the already mentioned poor killer whales are considered as something coming close to a murderer? Let's not forget that when applied to humans the word "killer" is exclusively used for a person who kills another person.

Human beings are the only animals which kill other species (and themselves) just for fun, not because of training for future hunting, not because of teaching their cubs how to hunt by themselves or just plainly for survival.

According to that, who is the one who deserves the appellative "killer"?

Let's come now to some presenters (lately the majority) who like to put themselves as being the protagonists of the situation.
The lion or crocodile is no longer that important, sorry, it's the presenters time!
It sounds even hilarious to listen to some guys over there (profession: adventurer?!) as they talk to the camera uttering unbeatable nonsense like: "here I am alone in this forest, man-eater lions are around, I am risking my life but I am going to do it.." - forgetting that we are not as stupid as to forget that there is a whole team, the sound technician, the guy with the camera, rangers and drivers, director and helpers and who knows how many more people in the background, keeping nicely silent and waiting for the scene to be finished to bring a nice cold beer to the "hero"!

Not to mention the ridiculous fights of the "adventurer" pretending to risk his life while struggling endlessly with a crocodile or snake in strong contrast with the easy way real experts do their job when restraining such animals.
(without shouting, without showing the blood running down from their hand and without rolling in the mud with the stressed reptile).

All this is neither educational, positive nor true but gives a pretty bad image and message to the spectator, specially children, telling them that those animals are more than dangerous. No useful information is given (how can you say something which makes sense while "fighting" with a croc?) and it takes away their attention from the real protagonist which should be nature, education, respect and culture.

Those documentaries are not fair to the animals portrayed, (after all they were happy and calm till this TV team appeared), the least they deserve is to be shown as they are: living beings trying to survive in a world which we humans are slowly (well, not so slowly!) destroying day after day, tree after tree, polluted river after polluted river and rhino after rhino..

Comments (11)

Posted by Physi28 on April 22, 2013
thank you very much for all of your kind comments!
It encourages me to try to write another post soon!
Posted by Yelo34 on April 12, 2013
Thank you! I had never thought of that the way you nicely presented it and it is true! I totally agree with you.
Posted by Vcarmstrong on April 10, 2013
Nice blog. I do have to disagree a little though. Watching my domestic cat Mittens, I can safely conclude that she "kills" mice for fun. She bats them around, lets them play dead for a minute, then pounces on them again. She repeats this routine until the mouse is lifeless and then she just leaves it because it is no longer fun. She never eats them. The only logical conclusion that I can make is that it is fun. You should see the expression on her face!

I think humans and my cat Mittens are "killers". :)
Posted by Toynutz on April 10, 2013
There are still nature programs on television that remain faithful to portraying animals in the wild as they would behave without human interaction. "Nature" on PBS is one that comes to mind.

But from the photographer's angle, nothing beats Art Wolfe's "Travels to the Edge" (also on PBS) for presenting a balanced approach to wildlife photography (and cinematography, since his crew needs to document his travels for the show.) ...And it educates us camera buffs in how to get the best shot, where ever we might be.

[Side note: Although your blog presents an excellent topic for our consideration, you might consider having someone else proofread it before posting. There are many grammatical and syntax errors which detract from the message you're trying to communicate. As for the "killer whale", its more accepted name these days is "orca," although I suppose we could call it the "hunter whale."]
Posted by Cousy86 on April 10, 2013
Great blog!!!Like it very much!
Posted by Lenutaidi on April 09, 2013
Great blog!Great images!I agree with you.Thank you for sharing!
Posted by Laurasinelle on April 09, 2013
Thanks for sharing, great images!
Posted by Gmargittai on April 09, 2013
It is all our fault. These stupid "nature movies" would not be produced unless there is an audience for them.
We should do the same as with drugs or smoking. Just say NO and flip the channel.
Posted by Egomezta on April 09, 2013
Thanks for sharing, I agree with you.
Posted by Perstock on April 09, 2013
Entertain without brain...
Posted by Chanevy on April 09, 2013
Nature photographers and videographers should hold to the same standard as doctors, first, do know harm. It's so sad that these narrators are able to get by with bad behavior.

Comments (11)

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Photo credits: Joan Egert.

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