Monday, January 21, 2013

Messin' With Science

While on my sick couch I got tired of watching the news on television, and set out to scan for a channel of pure, non-controversial entertainment. I stopped on Animal Planet to watch a team of intrepid hunters as they expertly tracked their prey.

Oddly, I didn't see a single rifle or sidearm between the four of them. A curious omission for a band of hunters whose quarry could rip off a man's head without breaking stride. Theoretically.

They were hunting for Bigfoot.

I was transfixed. I must have watched five straight episodes of the Finding Bigfoot marathon. It turns out five episodes was more than enough to understand the gist of this show.

Each episode starts with a reported sighting of the mythical beast, often with grainy, blurry video. The team tracks down and interviews the source of the report and attempts to validate the sighting by recreating the circumstances. Then they wait until dark when they split up to run around the woods in infrared light, hooting at the top of their lungs. They call this activity "squatching". During this time they almost always hear Bigfoot, but they never, ever see him. The episode ends with the team congratulating themselves for another successful expedition.

Evidently, their definition of "success" is completely uncoupled from the name of the show.

What's striking about Finding Bigfoot is the veneer of scientific respectability supplied to the endeavor by calling it "research". When in fact it's three fat guys whose belief in Sasquatch is absolute, joined by one female "scientist" who isn't quite convinced yet.

I don't know whether to feel sorry for the woman for having her views constantly dismissed and ridiculed by the men on her team, or pissed at her for ceding any credibility to these guys whatsoever. As nice as it is to see a female scientist on television, the treatment she endures by her "teammates" resets any progress made by women to 1972.

It's obvious she's there as a token voice of reason, meant to balance out the crazy. And it's obvious that task is too much for one person alone to handle.

The other members of the team dismiss her as mean and insensitive when she implies some redneck is probably making up the story of his bigfoot encounter. Then they dismiss her as obtuse and ditzy for not immediately jumping to the conclusion that every howl in the distance or snapping twig is "so obviously a 'Squatch".

But then, if she really is a scientist, why doesn't she try to bring the discipline of the scientific method to "squatching"? Since stomping around the woods making as much noise as possible obviously isn't working, why does she never suggest, just once, that they set up in one place, camouflage themselves and the camera crew, and try to be as quiet as possible?

I suspect it's because that would be too boring for television. Then again, doing the same thing over and over again without success gets kind of boring too.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that "success" in this case doesn't mean "find the beast" but "produce another episode under budget."