Sif

It’s Natural History, Dahling

Screen whores. We’re all guilty in some degree of partaking in the world’s newest profession, from the shameless full-on prostitution performed by reality TV stars to occasionally turning the odd trick in a friend’s video or attempt at whacky party photography. It’s our chance at grabbing what we think is a slice of the immortality pie, to be remembered forever; or at least as long as this internet fad lasts or the world implodes due to the weight of stupidity humanity revels in. It’s not my pint of beer but in essence it seems harmless enough to shove your face into a lens and spout shite until you pass out from lack of breath or more likely you realise you have no followers whatsoever. But there is one arena that I am finding myself getting more and more pissed off with these screen whores hogging the vista and that’s the world of nature programmes.

I like the odd bit of TV natural history, nothing to do with birds though the most boring of God’s creations, dancing about like the flamboyant, feather boa festooned junkies from the opening credits of the ‘Starsky and Hutch’ TV series; fuck off Polly, you’re doing my head in. But a bit of the old ‘red in tooth and claw’ is always fascinating and at the same time a bit unnerving to know how much of the world’s fauna has teeth, stings, spines, fangs and weaponised genitals capable of fucking you up big time…and sometimes from under a bog seat. It’s fascinating stuff, though best watched on telly from the safety of a sofa…unless you live in Australia where 67 different venomous snakes, spiders and insects will be living in your furniture and you’re likely to die as soon as you sit your arse down to enjoy ‘Blue Planet’.

Yes, recently there have been some dubious practices used in the filming of these factual programmes, polar bear cubgate and rubber duckgate to name a couple, but generally I enjoy the fayre being offered for my intellectual digestion even if I know it could contain more falsehoods than an MP’s testimony in court regarding her totally not driving the speeding car. One major format flaw has started to get on my wick though, and it is getting more prevalent, the amount of time nature programme presenters are spending on screen instead of the critters that are supposed to be there. Even The Attenborough, the Godfather of TV naturalists and bosom buddy of royalty, seems to be getting his mug in the shot far more often than he used to but he is still far from being among the worst offenders.

The other day I was watching a programme about a jolly trek to an icy bit of the world and it was stuffed to the edge of the widescreen with presenters, everywhere you looked on the frozen scene these feckers were grouped like a waddle* of penguins, all vainly faffing round like a twat** of North Face parkas. Each one of these celebrity critter worriers had their own camera crew to film them; not the wildlife, them. At one point I was subjected to several minutes of a bloke looking away from camera telling me how magnificent the polar bear he was looking at was whilst not getting to see it myself and when the camera was finally turned in the right direction the vastly over venerated mammal had decided to piss off…assuming it was there in the first place of course. I was there to watch animals do what animals do, not be exposed to some piece of photogenic eye-candy who became a household name because they once had a photo of them, taken in the buff whilst holding a squirrel, that featured in the ‘Countryfile’ calendar. Where are the RSPCA when you need them? The poor squirrel looked as traumatised as I felt from just glancing at March 2015.

Another time there were three cameras on a presenter on a coastline as he explained that an Orca was about to beach itself and kill a seal or a caribou or write its name in the sand or something. This screen whore’s head filled 75% of the scene and it was only over his shoulder, way in the distance, you could just about make out a killer whale launch itself ashore where I swear it made ‘wanker’ motions with its flipper…mirroring exactly what I was doing at home, both of us doing it in the presenter’s direction.

Another thing, why do these screen whores have to grab hold of as many creatures as they can, usually after running around energetically in a dark forest wearing an LED headband light like a Hollywood hero wannabe, and lift them out of their natural environment and into their hands? Captured critter and hand are then, as regular as clockwork, lifted toward the presenter’s face (got to get that in the shot) and talked about in great detail so the prima donna gets their fully deserved time in the limelight. I can’t count how many times I have wished the animals (who always appear far too placid – ‘druggedgate’ perhaps?) would sink their teeth or fangs or barbed tails into flesh and rid us of one of these screen whores whilst educating us as to how the venom of the two-toed screaming death scorpion, for example, actually works in real-time and HD.

Pay attention natural history programme makers because here is how it is going to be from now on. Some of you already follow this format and can stand down, it’s not you who need to take heed. Wildlife films shall only contain wildlife, even if it is about our dull avian brethren, not one human shall be in the cast unless they are getting eaten or stung or knocked about a bit by the real stars of the show. A narrator shall be employed, one with a voice of worth not some reedy, whining YouTuber; Charlotte Greens and James Masons are the lowest bars we’re setting here. Said narrator shall be given a knowledgeable script of facts containing no speculations as to the emotional state of the animal being filmed or what could have been its fate had it been born as an estate agent in Devon. Any background music employed will be subtle and of a volume that does not drown out the narration and have the viewers struggling to hit the volume control before being rendered deaf. All fucking simple enough, see it fucking happens. I have obviously missed my calling as a producer.

As for the now redundant presenters I am not completely unsympathetic to their plight, I know from experience (much experience) that losing a job is not fun. And having their access to media exposure suddenly cut-off could be an even worse fate as far as they’re concerned; their ‘look-at-me’ gene being under-indulged will cause all kinds of psychological problems. I suggest they all be placed in an enclosure with one web-cam to fight over and we can study at first-hand how survival of the fittest works in the world of Homo sapiens when things get primitive. In a Big Brotheresque way we will stream the resulting live feed to tigers in Bengal and whales in The Arctic Ocean and poison dart frogs in the Amazonian Rain Forest, it’s about time the animals we have spied on for so long had the opportunity to have a laugh at how our ridiculously shallow species behaves for a change.

*Actual collective noun for penguins, though I think ‘packet’ would be better.
**Not a collective noun as far as I know, but it should be.