I hate reality video. Nonetheless, every channel has its own reality video shows now. The other day I turned on the Discovery Channel to find a program dedicated to footage of car chases. This particular episode was on Europe’s greatest high-speed chases. Right before I changed the channel, they aired a chase through the streets of London.
Now, this forced me to ask a couple of questions: 1) Why is the Discovery Channel airing car chases? and 2) What is the purpose of a high-speed chase in an island country? Seriously, what is this man going to do? Run for the border?
My problem is not so much with reality television. It’s more with the fact that it’s hard to find anything else on sometimes. If the television won’t entertain me for the half-hour a day that I’m watching it, perhaps I can entertain myself by imagining that reality TV serves some purpose.
For instance, while channel surfing the other day my housemates and I flipped onto Animal Planet, which was showing a video of a zookeeper getting mauled by an elephant.
Which made me wonder, could this be at all culturally relevant? Is there any point in airing videos of wild animal attacks? I decided to investigate.
An article from February 20, 1997 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer claims that the number of attacks by wild animals is increasing. The article states that: “Exact numbers are hard to come by, yet the numbers that are available and the anecdotal news accounts indicate wildlife attacks are on the rise.”
Heaven forbid anyone might overlook evidence as hard and compelling as anecdotal news accounts. Eager to inform myself with more of this compelling evidence, I logged onto www.circuses.com.
Witness the account of JoJo.
According to www.circuses.com, on March 19, 1990 in Loxahatchee, Florida, “An elephant named JoJo injured a handler at Lion Country Safari when she lifted him with her trunk, spun him around over her head, threw him to the ground twice and gored him. The handler had five crushed ribs and a damaged liver and required 23 pints of blood.”
Between the years of 1990 and 2000 there have been between six and 13 reported elephant attacks per year, worldwide. This year, there have been nine attacks. That means that statistically speaking, there could be as many as four more elephant attacks by the end of the year! And according to the Seattle P-I, the numbers will only go up!
Perhaps reality television and reality video are providing a humanitarian service, warning us to stay away from circuses and zoos until the elephant rampage has subsided.
Probably not. The next time I happened across the show, it featured a moose trapped in a swimming pool. Try as I might, I can’t find any good statistics on that.
And far be it from me to give elephants a bad name.
The website also informs us that on February 16, 1998, in Mentor Ohio, “A circus elephant named Tonya panicked while in a high school hallway and forced open a door. She ran a quarter of a mile and damaged a police car before being caught outside a discount store.”
Tonya’s not such a bad seed. After all, most high school students have had a similar experience.
For those of you who are interested, there were also nine reported attacks by primates, two by bears and 22 by large predatory cats this year.
For every one of these shows that goes on television, it seems that there’s another being offered on some direct-to-video commercial. I’m not sure who buys this crap, but it looks like the kind of thing you would put on at a party to give your friends a bad trip.
For me this also raises the question of who edits these videos. I wonder what self-respecting filmmaker would sit for hours clipping together home videos of hunting accidents.
Then I remember that the University of Alabama has a film department, and the world makes sense again.
But just because they make it doesn’t mean I have to watch it. I invite you all to join me in my boycott. For those of you who enjoy reality video, I say more power to you. You can check out the University of Alabama film department at www.tcf.ua.edu.
Beware the wrath of JoJo.
Josh Braun is the Daily Nexus science and technology editor. His columns run on Mondays.