Alright. Here’s the video. Yes, I realize that the subtitles are in Japanese (I think), but that’s because this documentary, called “Mermaid: The Body Found” never aired in North America (although according to Wikipedia, it’s going to). The video is about an hour and a half long. You don’t need to watch the whole thing to get the gist of it, but watching it all is fun – if frustrating. EDIT: Well, it was bound to happen – Discovery Communications has ordered the video to be pulled from youtube. Sorry guys, you can’t see it here any longer. Here’s a link to Discovery’s press page with their own ridiculous write-up about their ‘tantalizing’ new fake-u-mentary.
Yep. Mermaids. Animal Planet did a ‘documentary’ on mermaids. The whole thing is riddled with baseless speculation and (admittedly great) CG scenes of ‘mermaids’ going about their day-to-day lives. In many respects, this video is similar to an earlier ‘documentary’ also made by animal planet called ‘Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real‘ which asked the question “If dragons had actually existed, how would they have evolved?” While the acting was crap, the CG was good and the story was fun and intriguing. It was also stated explicitly at the beginning and end of the movie that it was a work of fiction. “Mermaids” was less explicitly advertised as such – and in some places blurred the line between scientific fact and fanciful imagining. At times I couldn’t tell if the show was trying to be serious or not. And that confusion was the cause of my frustration.
I actually have nothing against these sorts of ‘documentaries’. They allow people to engage their imaginations and they introduce new audiences to the mythologies and fables of our many civilizations. I wish people would do more of them and include mythological creatures from a wide array of cultures.
I only really have a problem when this sort of speculative fiction is dressed up as something more serious (and real), as in the case of History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” or pretty much anything History does that discusses Atlantis. Yes, these things are fascinating and thrilling to think about – ancient civilizations and otherworldly visitors – but if we have no evidence of their existence, then why try to pretend that we do? If National Geographic wants to do a documentary about searching for Atlantis, or if Animal Planet wants to talk about mermaids then fine, but don’t insult the viewer by insinuating that anyone other than fringe writers actually take this stuff seriously.
PS: In “Mermaids”, the writers suggest that the infamous ‘Bloop’ recording is thought to come from an animal of some kind. That doesn’t seem to be the case.
LENGHTY EDIT INCOMING:
I feel that I need to add a fairly large chunk of text to this initial post. One of the things that troubles me the most about this ‘documentary’ is that at its core, it seems to be endorsing the long-debunked ‘aquatic ape’ theory of human origins.
The aquatic ape hypothesis has been around for a while. Put simply, the hypothesis holds that rather than evolving on the plains and savannas of Africa, humans instead evolved along the coasts, where they adapted to a life at least partly spent in the water. According to the hypothesis, humans evolved hairless bodies – a unique trait among primates – so that they became more efficient at swimming. Humans evolved the ability to hold their breath for long periods so that they could dive deep into the water to hunt fish, and our brains evolved from eating shellfish and other marine life.
All of that sounds plausible, except that there really isn’t any data to support it. We evolved hairlessness to better regulate and dissipate heat while exerting ourselves (although it is more factual to say that we are still covered with hair, it’s just that most of it is exceptionally fine and probably vestigial).* Our brains evolved alongside our inclusion of meat into our diets, and was accelerated with the discovery of cooking.
It’s worth noting that the “Doctor” who claimed that the ‘Bloop’ was a language in the film doesn’t seem to exist, and the man identified as Dr. Paul Robertson is actually an actor. When I dug around online, I found a couple of websites related to this topic that had large Homeland Security and Department of Justice seals on them and notices of seizure printed beneath them. After looking up the relevant statutes, it appears that the sites were shut down because they are under investigation for conspiring to defraud the United States of America, as well as for making fraudulent claims about the United States of America. EDIT: As a helpful commenter noted below, the websites in question are actually owned by Discovery Communications LLC, the parent company of Animal Planet. So bullshit fake DHS shutdowns designed to give the impression of a cover-up as part of a viral marketing strategy for the movie. Classy.
As I said in my OP (original post for you old-timers and internet newbies), I don’t really have a problem with these sorts of faux documentaries, provided that they are up front about what they’re doing. I do have a problem with them when they present their case, then try to cover their butts at the end by saying (as this documentary does) “Hey, some of this documentary is fictional, but the navy is totally behind whale beachings! Also, the ‘Bloop’ is real (but we made up the whole “it’s a language” thing). Oh, and the people we showed in the film? Yeah, they’re not affiliated with it in any way, nor did they give their permission to be depicted in it, and also we used actors and made up a script for them to say.”
It’s no wonder this show never aired in the United States. (Edit: It has now) If someone informed me that some random show used my name and made me look like an absolute crank, I’d be suing the hell out of anyone attached to the project.
*Saladin, Kenneth S. “Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function 6th Edition”, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 2012, Pg. 192
[Edit 08/12/12 @ 10:31 PST] Well, looks like the mystery of the Bloop has been solved. It’s not a giant squid, or a Kraken, or some secret illuminati/alien base of operations; it’s an Ice quake. Good times.