Sunday, March 25, 2007

Misery

I have just been watching Meerkat Manor. Every time I watch it, I swear to myself that it’s the last time; it’s just so depressing. At the end of each episode Bill Nighy intones of the “tragedy” or “disaster” the viewing public can look forward to next time. This week, poor Mozart had been expelled from her family and had a miscarriage because of it; the last time I watched, Shakespeare was bitten by a poisonous snake and suffered a long, agonising death. Entertainment, eh?

David Attenborough is the master of misery in the animal kingdom. Each time I watch one of his programmes, I come away wondering how anything survives past breakfast time (if they can even find any breakfast to eat, that is). And I must confess that if I could save an animal from a slow, painful death, I would step in and do so. But I suppose that would spoil the entertainment.

Of course, it isn’t just natural history programmes where the viewing public gets such a kick from the unhappiness of others. Soap operas aren’t exactly a laugh a minute, while people like Simon Cowell have made a mint from being pantomime villains and reducing people to tears and their dreams to rubble.

What is it about the human condition that we so enjoy viewing the pain, discomfort or humiliation of others? It’s nothing new – think about the crowds that gathered for public hangings and the little old ladies who sat knitting while the guillotine fell. There but for the grace of God …

12 comments:

Arthur Clewley said...

know what you mean M&M, the cheetah cub that Simon King helped save when he lost his mother and released into the wild but then got killed by a lion did it for me. Not so emotionaly involved with meerkats though. Not sure the people making that show are experts in meerkats or composers if they called a female Mozart. You're right that meerkat manor is more soap than documentry, might as well watch Bambi

Eurodog said...

Never seen the program you refer to but I find wildlife programs extremely depressing.

Gill said...

I stopped watching nature programmes when I realised there's always a wildebeest being munched on just when you settle down to have tea. Yes I know it happens naturally in the wild but I don't want to watch it every fucking sunday!

There is a huge diversity of animal life on the planet but generally they show the same things all the time. Cheetahs and lions seem to have the cat franchise sorted out. What about margays or snow leopards or British wildcats? I'd love to know more about those.

Or a look at hedgehogs or squirrels or spiders or vipers or bumblebees in detail, without a stupid anthropomorphic cutesy voice over.

Chippy said...

I misread that, M&M. I thought you said you'd step on an animal if you thought you could put it out of its misery. Which, to be fair, in Meerkar Manor, would probably improve matters. I've never watched a programme full of so much trauma and heartache. Well, perhaps Eastenders but then, you couldn't exactly step on Pat Butcher to put her out of her misery, could you?

Karen said...

I agree with my mum - we should programmes about different animals as they all seem to be about the same ones.

I'm not bothered about animals ripping their teeth into antelope etc. its when they're mating that it puts me off my food. Just as much as the pigeons outside my window at work put me off my lunch.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

i happened to read the Sunday Times at the weekend (sorry) and read about a man in the UK killing himself live in a chatroom, whilst people egged him on via his webcam and microphone...still feel sick today. Grim world.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Pig, I read about that one too. It's totally sick, but there seems to be something about humanity that revels in the misfortunes of others.

Now, let's all think happy thoughts ...

Boulmer Birder said...

Hi all,
Gill, there was a great film about Snow Leopards on recently, filmed in the mountains of Kashmir. They aren't as easy to film as a Lion hanging onto a Wildebeests arse. I feel that I know that ditch they fall into like my back garden.

Same with Sharks, Grey Whales or Humpbacks, Polar Bears and if I see another spent salmon howked out of an Alaskan stream by a Grizzly...

What I want to see is the bird or butterfly that is flushed from the water hole by the dying wildebeest before we can get a look. The odd time one is shown no one says what it is...

I'm off I'm starting to sound like Rory McGrath...

Liz said...

It must be incredibly hard being a wildlife photographer/filmer, and having to stand by and watch nature in the raw. It would be a natural impulse to step in and save an innocent, smaller creature.

Anonymous said...

So what do people think about Knut the polar bear ?

Give him a good life ?

Or put him to sleep to save the inevitable pain when he discovers he can't cope with living outside a zoo, not having been trained for the wild by his mum ?

Tricky one, but I think the fact that pandas are often reared in captivity, and now with better success in captive breeding, means the little fella should be given a chance - but with a little less of the 'hand-holding' - he needs to learn a little independence..

mutterings and meanderings said...

I do not understand the mentality of people who say they love animals and support their rights, so they want the baby polar put to sleep. There are some crazy crazy folk in this world.

Anonymous said...

eminem, good point - but I think the people who made this comment could see the danger that the little bear was in danger of being turned into a 'circus animal' for want of a better phrase. And the way such animals are treated in places like India is not a life at all worth living, from what I read.

Thankfully he is now going to be transferred to another zoo and will not be 'killed with kindness' as much, or exposed to the public quite so much. Although I think he will inevitably end up being a kind of 'poster bear' for the danger his cousins are in from climate change.