After Animal Planet premiered its new special for Monster Week, “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” on Sunday, Twitter was soon flooded with speculation about whether the aquatic humanoids were real. It’s no secret that the half-human, half-fish beings are fascinating to most, but their existence remains entirely open to debate — at least among those with vivid imaginations.
Sample tweets follow. From what I saw on the feed as well, there were many who are completely credulous and clearly can not differentiate between the fact and fiction.
This was a particularly good one. She has a science background and likes River Monsters and some other parts of Monster Week. But not all of it.
She didn’t like the way snakes were portrayed in “Devoured” and thought they did a poor job of explaining why the big snakes had to be killed.
“Devoured” seemed to be woefully devoid of statistical information, which I found to be an issue. Actual snake attack statistics would have been a huge help in my overall opinion of the program. How many humans actually get attacked by constrictor-type snakes a year? Of those, how many of them were attacked in the United States? How many of them died? How many of them were maimed? How many of them are going to make a full recovery and have a few scars and a scary story to tell? If you’re going to tell me that snake attacks on human beings are a problem, I’d really appreciate knowing how big of a problem it really is.
She also didn’t like the hype like this:
“Monster Week” is slated full of programs like “Man-eating Squid”, “Invasion of the Swamp Monsters” and “Invasion of the Mutant Pigs.” It’s a trend that I don’t like very much, to be honest.
As for mermaids… she said it would have been more suitable for the Sy-Fy Channel.
[...] Earth has thousands of other “monsters“ that Animal Planet could be shedding light on and fostering some understanding towards, instead of telling some wonderful stories magnificently dressed in the trappings of science. Then again, the bulk of the specials that are being run for “Monster Week” don’t seem to have been made with the intent of trying to help people learn more about the animals around them. That’s a shame, because people are great at fear-mongering all by themselves, they honestly don’t need media to help them with that.
This review liked the show and I get the intent. I agree it would have been great if it was a gag revealed or clearly fiction.
Of course, calling Mermaids: The New Evidence real is like calling professional wrestling real. There’s a semblance of truth behind the assumptions, but the theatrics are intended for pure entertainment value. An unknowing audience member probably feels duped, but honestly, it’s time for TV viewers to take a breath, offer a smile and simply enjoy the possibilities. Both of these mermaid programs have fun playing with our expectations, knowing exactly what type of footage would entice us in this YouTube generation. I applaud the producers’ cleverness, much like I would have applauded Orson Welles’ radio program about aliens in New Jersey.
Is it real? Is it fake? These are interesting questions, but they completely miss the point of the specials. Mermaids: The New Evidence is entertaining, engaging and convincing. I’m not sure if mermaids were/are real, but I want to believe. The special taps into that childlike wonder we all used to have, when the world of the mystical realm wasn’t too far away. As our society has grown up and we require everyone to be so mature, we forget the ability to let loose and ponder the possibilities.
But I had to leave a comment (it may or may not show up). I think shows like this cheapen the efforts of actual science and allow people to misunderstand nature and discovery.
I’m not a fan, Animal Planet. I find your efforts appalling. What’s wrong with REAL animals? I’m sick of these lame shows about fake ones.
UPDATE: (29-May-2013) It was their biggest ratings success. Read that article and despair as they are committed to whoring themselves out for more ratings. Science be damned. Shame on you Animal Planet. What do you say to those people you upset with your misinformation? With your unethical tactics? I sort of want NOAA to screw Animal Planet. You might as well be Weekly World News – a joke.