So my ears perked up last week while I was listening to a report on The Today Show called "Mermaid Documentary Smells Fishy to Critics".
The topic being discuss was the brouhaha caused by a mock-umentary that had aired on the Animal Planet cable station.
Yes, I used the word mock-umentary because it is part of a growing trend of documentaries that appear "real" but are fabricated, fictional pieces meant to entertain. That was the topic up for debate. Animal Planet aired a program that seemed very real and purported that there is actual evidence that substantiates the existence of mermaids. The program, however, was a production that was created to be strictly for entertainment.There lies the rub... due to the documentary style of the program, it didn't appear as a work of science fiction. It appeared as if it was factual. In a statement to explain why the program appeared so believable (if one is willing to make the leap that there are mermaids) The Animal Planet's Executive Producer, Charley Foley said, " We wanted to approach the story with a sense of possibility and a sense of wonder. I think what he means is, he wanted you to run to Twitter and start tweeting "OMG, OMG, there is absolute proof that there are mermaids!!!! I just saw it on Animal Planet!!"
But that brings up the debate, if a program appears to be a legitimate educational based , a news report, or a researched documentary, should the public be advised when it is a science fiction creation meant to entertain.
On The Today Show segment, Josh Wolk, Editorial Director for Vulture.com asked the question "Should a documentary always report if it is fake? He goes on to answer his own question "Technically yes, but then again we are talking about a program about mermaids. I don't see how you could be fooled by this?"
Oh, JOSH....DO YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HUMAN NATURE??? WE CAN BELIEVE ANYTHING!!!!!! THAT IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DOCUMENTARY OR NEWS PROGRAM.
Thought Number One: We Want to Believe
Last week the Animal Planet aired a follow-up to last years documentary "Mermaids; The Body Found". The sequel called "The New Evidence" attracted 3.6 MILLION viewers. The program topped all the previous programming done by the channel.
The show began with what appeared to be footage of a mermaid perched on a rock. Then, it contained an interview with a former NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist that appeared to be willing to stake his career on insinuating that the government was part of a cover up scheme to deny the existence of mermaids".
Then the piece Pièce de résistance...a video of a paranormal investigator, Stephen Hannard, that shows the team of divers in a submersible. Webbed fingers appear suddenly in the window and touch the crafts viewing screen. The creature displays briefly before swimming away.
To be fair the makers of the mock-umentary did put a disclosure at the end of the program that said that the show was science fiction based on "scientific theory". You might of missed it, though, if you blinked.
The added dimension that is unlike hoaxes in the past, (The 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, for example) is that immediately after the show, a lively debate started up on Twitter.
Many viewers posted comments such as "See there really are mermaids!" or "Go ahead and tell me there aren't mermaids after watching that special." or "There are mermaids out there for sure!!!"
Thought Number Two: To Believe Or Not to Believe
So how gullible are we?? Pretty trusting, in some cases. You might remember in February the case where someone hacked into Great Falls, Montana's emergency alert system at KRTV-TV and sent out the message "dead bodies are rising from their graves".
The warning also told those watching to not try and apprehend the dangerous zombies, but to get to shelters and stay safe.
Of course, the station followed up with another announcement saying that there wasn't really a zombie outbreak and the emergency warning was not accurate.
If you would of heard an emergency alert...on something as far-fetched as zombies, would you consider the possibility that it was real because it was being reported from a television's alert system??? (Please, I am begging you to say no...that you wouldn't believe that zombies are loose.)
As for imaginary or mysterious creatures, there seems to be a number of these creatures that people may or
For the non-believers among us...is there a line being crossed with
mockumentaries? ..... OR.... is this just a form of entertainment that is the equivalent to the Enquirer or the Star magazines?
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