Shark Week…How I Love Thee Despite Your Jaws… Er Flaws

courtesy/craveonline.com

courtesy/craveonline.com

As part of my monthly theme, I found it appropriate to talk about one of my favorite television “mini-series” if you will because of it’s educational value. I love Shark Week and have for many years! I haven’t been the most avid watcher year in and year out. I used to watch all the time as a kid and then took many years off but have been coming back to it.

So why Shark Week? Well it’s like this you see… I grew up in Colorado… a landlocked state but I’ve always had a deep rooted fear of sharks. Doesn’t make sense does it? Or does it? An early viewing, and by early I mean my being in my toddler years, of “Jaws” was a bit traumatizing and so I’ve always just had this unreasonable fear of these incredible creatures even though I was almost never by an ocean. Go figure. I know “Bruce,” who was the mechanical shark used in the film, looks pretty darn fake but hey… when you’re 3, everything looks real. I figure that has to have at least some influence on my fear.

I remember when I first heard about Shark Week on Discovery Channel. I was probably about 9 or 10 and I decided, on my own, that I would watch it. I wanted to know more about sharks. Maybe if I learn something about them then I don’t have to fear them right? I made the announcement to my parents that I would be watching that program and they went along with it. I’m sensing a theme there (if you haven’t read some earlier posts of mine I suppose you wouldn’t understand – just know that my parents are supportive of me in all my ridiculous endeavors and I’m grateful to them for that). I still think it funny that I wanted to of my own accord. No one told me I had to and I wanted to because I thought it would help me. I was a kid… what did I know about using education as a method of reducing fear? What can I say… it just made sense to me.

So this year’s Shark Week… naturally I was stoked! I have learned some pretty amazing things about sharks via Shark Week so naturally I was excited to see what they had in store. Overall, I’m still pleased with what was produced. I do have a few concerns though.

Personally, I liked the Megalodon mockumentary. I felt there was still plenty of science and information about this fearsome critter being presented. It just happened to be presented in a “what if” format. What if Megalodon still roamed the seas and how would we figure it out? To me those were the questions being posed and I didn’t have an issue with that. As guests on “Shark After Dark” discussed, only 7 percent of our oceans have been explored. That leaves a whopping 93 percent untouched and who knows what lives out there. I, personally, don’t believe that Megalodon is still swimming today, but technically, unless it’s completely ruled out, anything is possible. To the best of my knowledge, scientists generally agree with me but again, technically the possibility exists as we really don’t know what lurks in the remaining ocean that we haven’t explored (please keep in mind we do still keep discovering new species).

As for “Voodoo Shark” I really kind of like the idea of myth versus science approach. Myth and mystique, as a friend of mine called it, are a big part of why people are so fascinated by these animals. We still know so little about them that it makes sense to include that portion of it. I know some folks really hated that episode because of the inclusion of locals/non-scientists. Again, here I say what’s the big deal? They do have something to add not only to the story but I imagine they have some idea for how Bull Sharks are as they grew up with them. Bull Sharks have a scary ability to be in both salt and fresh water so those living in the bayous of Louisiana would know about them. I figure science does mean taking into account locals’ points of views right? Team Cajun, as I believe they were called, may have had rudimentary methods but not all of their ideas were so bad. Plus, that episode did have real science that was explored… but remember that science takes time. It’ll probably won’t be until next year when we have some results from what Team Science found. Just a thought.

My one concern about that particular episode was while I like talking about the myths and exploring those ideas, I worry that the fear factor was played up too much. I’ve always believed the point of Shark Week has been to educate and hopefully lessen fear… at least enough to know that sharks are an important part of the ecosystem and must be kept around. I’m a bit worried that “Voodoo Shark” played up the myth a little too much and not enough new information that could help lead to some understanding. I liked it because I loved the idea of having a show about something other than just the mighty Great White, but I worry. Bulls are scary enough as is… is it really necessary to make them more so?

courtesy/huffingtonpost.com

courtesy/huffingtonpost.com

As for the rest of the series – I felt the week got stronger as it went along. I haven’t seen the last two episodes yet so I am taking a little bit of a leap of faith there, but there was even more science being performed/shown and more information being passed along. I do still have some concerns about some elements – in one show, “Spawn of Jaws”  a marine biologist wanted to find out where Great Whites were breeding but at one point he talked with guest Paul Walker about how he doesn’t think that Whites attack people by mistake…that it’s not about mistaken identity. Okay sure perhaps it’s not exactly mistaken identity but as a marine biologist he just now made it sound as though Whites really want to attack people… that concerns me. Who else are people going to believe? Someone who studies these animals or some Joe Schmoe off the street? When a scientist will make sharks look bad that can’t help conservation efforts. This same individual went on to say that he bumps heads with conservationists because conservationists make it sound like people should hug sharks. He made a comment about how sharks should be feared and admired… 99 percent are fine but one percent are dangerous. Okay sure that’s true but it sure seemed like he was advocating for fear and to me fear is what drives people to kill these animals. They’re apex predators… they’re a must have in the oceans to keep a healthy ecosystem. It just made me shake my head.

The other parts I am concerned about related to some guests on “Shark After Dark” and even it’s host. Again, there was just more playing up sharks scary side and almost nothing about conservation and why they’re so needed. Some comments through the series did mention that it’s humans who kill millions of sharks every year not the other way around, but it paled in comparison to the fear factor that seemed to be played up throughout the week. One guest even talked about wanting to kick a shark’s a$$ and that they only bring “death and destruction.” Hmm. Okay so I get it… “Shark After Dark” was more about humor than anything and about trying to draw in an additional, varied group as was the case for all of Shark Week. I don’t mind that really I just hope the real goal isn’t being lost in marketing. There was a definite lack of talk of conservation this time around and couple that with more fear… I just hope it doesn’t undo years of work of trying to show the importance of sharks.

I will say this… personally, I loved “Bob, The Shark.” How fitting it is for a shark to tell some really rather politically incorrect jokes and even some plain bad ones? I did like some of the guests. I do wish Josh Kelly had asked Laird Hamilton about his daughter and her survival from a shark attack…that was a golden opportunity that was missed. I was pleasantly surprised by David Hasselhoff’s appearance and the Shark Porn was pretty funny too. Like I said, I like the idea of broadening the audience I just don’t want it at the expense of the sharks. That defeats the purpose. Overall, I still enjoyed Shark Week and I think nay sayers need to quit gripping so much. There was still plenty of good things to come out of it.

Discovery Channel does have a portion of their website talking about shark conservation. If interested, please visit here for more information.

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