Thursday, August 13, 2009
"The Beast . . . " : Cheap Thrills on Monster Quest
I enjoy watching Monster Quest, but two things disturb me about the show: the exploitative nature of the program, and the caviler attitude towards animals by producers and many of the guests. Sometimes watching the program I get the feeling I'm at a cheesy carnival or a scene from Freaks, being urged to come inside and see the gruesome chicken woman.
I'm surprised at the lack of compassion and respect towards animals often shown by Monster Quest producers, and by extension, many of the "researchers" who appear on the program.This was very clear in the Hogzilla episode, also the feral dog episode. The other night Monster Quest aired "Killer Chimps" -- another episode that seemed more focused on delighting in horrific attacks on humans by chimps kept as "pets," rather than the insanity and utter idiocy of keeping chimpas as pets in the first place. I realize it's clearly stated that keeping chimps as pets - or any wild, "exotic" animal -- is ridiculously stupid by MQ showing the effects of these attacks, nonetheless, the emphasis seemed to be on the garish and exploitative.
Chimps, who obviously should never be kept as pets, become extremely dangerous when they reach sexual maturity when kept in captivity and not bred with other chimps . One chimp easily has the strength of five men; their attacks are horrific and often fatal. I have nothing but sympathy for the human victims of such violent attacks.
But the chimps who attacked were not "beasts" as referred to in the episode, or even the lurid "Killer Chimps" -- though the program presented cases where, sadly, humans were killed by chimps. However,the anthropomorphization of the chimpanzee as some sort of science-fiction/horror monster, practically giving it supernatural powers of evil intent, is lazy and dishonest and simple cheap exploitation.
Another episode that bothered me was the fish episode wtih the two yee-haws gratuitously handling fish and laughing at their discomfort for no other reason than they could.
I realize it's all entertainment, whether it's Paranormal State, Ghostbusters, UFO Hunters or any show at all. If it airs on television, the bottom line is money. Within that context however Monster Quest has an opportunity to go in a certain direction; they've decided that putting the emphasis on the gross, vulgar and titillating is easier and more appealing than at least a semi-serious quest for so-called monsters. Instead of focusing on the lurid, and putting a "when animals go mad" veneer on things, the program could focus more on the quest and less on the competitive "man vs. beast" angle.It's too bad Monster Quest sometimes chooses to go down this road of sensationalizing animals and making them objects for garish entertainment.
"Hogzilla" Monster Quest clip
Clip from Todd Browning's 1932 film Freaks, with alternate endings. . .
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