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Friday, September 21, 2018

Opinion

Discovery swallows chance of regaining reputation after ‘Eaten Alive’


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Kirin Daniels/The Cougar

There’s plenty to hate about what has happened to modern television, such as cable companies, reality shows and really bad attempts at geek talk. TLC has become a joke of a “learning channel,” the History Channel shows anything but history and now Discovery has stepped up.

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Ancient Aliens” might end up looking like art once Discovery airs a special episode of “Eaten Alive.” Discovery claims that the show will feature Paul Rosolie being swallowed alive by an anaconda while wearing a snake-proof suit.

The description might sound interesting at first glance, but it doesn’t take much thought to realize how asinine the entire premise is.

As news of the episode has spread around the Internet, many have found themselves upset with Discovery’s decision to create such an episode. A petition to keep the episode from airing has obtained over 30,000 supporters on change.org  One prominent supporter, University of Alabama Professor Stephen Secor, has reached out to both the website and to other news outlets, with his experience.

According to an email to Business Insider from Secor, any attempt by the anaconda to swallow a live man would stretch the snake’s esophagus to the point that it would be very easy to tear. Thus, it would be especially dangerous to the animal if Rosolie is to be pulled out.

Discovery was not ignorant of the danger or the potential backlash that this stunt could bring. According to Secor, Discovery had reached out to him to be an advisor for the show, due to his studies on the digestive tract in snakes and his previous experience as a consultant for the film Anaconda.

“I was extremely disappointed that when given an opportunity to produce a show that would highlight the amazing biology of this animal, that Discovery went with a production that is only based on fear and sensationalism,” Secor said. He ended up turning the job down.

Not only is the stunt dangerous for both the man and the animal, but it also fails to provide any educational value for viewers who may actually be interested in learning about anacondas. Years ago, Discovery gave us Steve Irwin, who would wrestle with crocodiles for the sake of education. Now we are given stunts for the sake of stunts.

Although Discovery claims that the episode will promote conservation, it seems as though the act is more likely to promote fear and misunderstanding of the creature instead. Anacondas are not known for attacking, or eating people, although some media has promoted perceptions to the contrary. Instead of educating the public on the aspects and abilities of the anaconda, it seems that Discovery is appealing to and encouraging the fears and misconceptions around the creature.

Discovery, along with other formerly educational channels, have lost their purpose in informing viewers. Entertainment and ratings have taken priority, leading to a rise in absurd and inane content, such as fake documentaries.

Fake documentaries like “Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives” and “Mermaids: The Body Found” — although potentially entertaining — have absolutely no educational value. Some have actually misled people.

According to a poll, 71 percent of Discovery’s viewers are unaware that the Megalodon is extinct after viewing fake footage that suggests otherwise.

Perhaps it is because Discovery is desperate for views that it resorts to misinformation and spectacles. Whatever the case, perhaps the current backlash Discovery is receiving for its “Eaten Alive” episode will bring about some kind of awareness to its executives.

Spreading ignorance under the guise of science fiction might be looked past, but it seems that Discovery has reached the public tolerance limit. Hurting an animal for ratings has backfired, and rightfully so.

Even if the anaconda never actually attempts to swallow Rosolie in the episode, which will likely be the case, Discovery’s insinuations and advertising are at least further evidence of their poor decision making skills. Provoking the wrath of upset animal lovers is not what an educational channel ought to be doing — intentional or not.

Perhaps a good boycott and petition will remind the channel of what it used to be and what it was once capable of doing. Compared to its glory days, it seems unreal that it has stooped so low.

Please, Discovery, stop the stupid decisions. Learn from these mistakes and go back to your roots.

Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering senior and may be reached at [email protected]


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