I was watching the programme called Wild Brazil last night – nature programme with monkeys, panthers, birds, crocodiles and various other things. As has become customary the footage was exceptional, but there’s something a bit awry with the narrative.

I grew up watching a programme called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. On reflection it was probably a bit harsh for the young (Lions treating waterholes like buffets, etc). Here are the opening titles:

In comparison the narratives of these programmes today seem to strain to anthropomorphise their subjects. There’s a narrative arc to every story line. So you get the exiled male, sad eyed, reaching the “all is lost” point in the middle of the programme and then footage that neatly stitches together to build to the conquering hero.

Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing (and I have absolutely no appetite for violent encounters between animals), but I half expected to see Elton John and a giraffe sharing a piano stool and singing Hakuna Matata at the end.

If technology gives us such incredible access to the wild, shouldn’t we expect realism – and are these actually documentaries (as billed) or in fact simply entertainment?

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