Wild America,
a TV series riddled with trickery
by
Dr Beetle
This popular series of nature documentaries was created and narrated by Marty Stouffer for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in America. Unfortunately, the documentary team faked many of the more vigorous scenes in the series to get the action and death humans want to see in others so they can get their warm inner glow. For example, it was revealed that in one scene the filmmakers had tied down a rabbit by hidden cord so it would be killed by an agitated raccoon. In another scene they staged a fight to the death between a mountain lion and lynx, animals that would normally never mix in the wild or do something so pointless, unless confined so that escape was not an option. Apparently, Stouffer saw nothing wrong in taking a tame animal out for a 'walk', and if chased by a nearby wild predator, filming it for your viewing pleasure! PBS later found fault in at least 15 out of 110 episodes, which is probably an underestimation.

In another PBS documentary series called Nature, the show depicts a bear capturing and savaging a young fawn. Nature at its most 'red tooth and claw'. But a careful check of the tape by another skeptic showed that the fawn was indeed tethered to the ground so that the action could be captured on film. The big bad bears actually feed mainly on plants, insects carrion, and only occasionally live mammals.

These discredited episodes are in same league as some of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and various Walt Disney (more beetle) Adventure world shows. For example, Marlin Perkins had a tame bear dumped in a Florida swamp, so that Jim and the team could heroically rescue the bewildered bear using boat and lassos (although I must admit, most of their shows appeared genuine and enthusiastic about nature). This reminds me of the Alby Mangels series filmed in Australia, where a companion dog was secretly pushed out of a car at speed, as though it had gone berserk through hunter instinct to capture a kangaroo fleeing from the car. The scene was about as fake as his 'happening' across the various beautiful ladies who would join him for that particular episode's safaris.

The bias against nature is more sophisticated these days. More recent filmmakers will claim they no longer stage their stories. I doubt this. Yet another way to misconstrue nature is by taking lots of footage. Then, back in the editing room, the documentary team can sift through to find the most action packed or clumsy scenes. For example, if an editor has footage of lions killing antelope, then 90% of the events might show a clean kill where the skillful hunter quickly seizes the throat of its prey. But if there is another scene where the chase went longer than usual and showed the lion grabbing the back or hind legs of an antelope (perhaps by an inexperienced lion), which scene do you think will make it onto the documentary? It will be the one that portrays nature as aggressive and cruel. Another way to push the 'struggle to survive' line is to give doomsday commentary or twist to what should otherwise be interpreted as natural and reasonable behavior. Some animals also play rough, giving a documentary team another opportunity to misinterpret nature, by describing their frolic and bluff, as aggression.


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