Sunday, January 25, 2009

Planet Earth

I was raised in a one-TV household, without cable. My parents did not really buy videos, and the our collection consisted of "beauty and the beast," "the empire strikes back," "a muppet christmas carol" (obviously watched year round), "mary poppins", "the chronicles of narnia" (BBC version), and "fievel goes west." SO, when I got home from college and found that my dad had not only purchased a new high-def TV, but ALSO the whole planet earth series, I was not only dumbfounded, I found myself suddenly addicted.

I was enraptured, as most are, by the artistry of the "documentaries," and watched an episode a night (or more) until I had completed the series. Now, admittedly, I was late in the game, and most of my friends had already seen them, but they were still willing to encourage my enthusiasm.

So, recently, when I found myself in a frat house, (one I didn't belong to), surrounded by a cloud of smoke and stoned boys, I was relieved when what they decided to watch was planet earth (as opposed to watching any will ferrell comedy, a ufc boxing championship, or worst of all, deciding to play halo 3).

However, I realized something while I was watching planet earth this time. I realized that I thought that I really didn't like how it depicted nature and the great outdoors. I thought, "Planet Earth, not unlike fashion magazines, gives an unrealistic view of what is actually present in the real world." I know it doesn't really claim to present how the earth really is, but we've got a nation who undeniably believes a lot of what they see in the media, especially when they see it on channels like the discovery channel.

I know that "art" is supposed to show people what they don't always notice. A photograph can capture a moment, and a painting can capture an emotion, and likewise, a film can capture something in such a way that we(the viewers) see it differently. And that is ok. Art IS supposed to be able to show humans something that is not ordinarily visible to the human eye. However, I don't think people really think of Planet Earth as being art. But perhaps that's okay.

Planet enthusiasts love the show, because it is entertainment that is also propoganda - it gives people motivation to save the world, to love the world, etc etc. The famous dying polar bear scene has shocked a lot of new people into becoming aware of global warming (or perhaps even believeing it exists). However, I found myself thinking that most people may be dissapointed when they step outside and see the world that they have saved, and it looks nothing like the world in planet earth.

The cameras and filters used in this show not only make the colors different, using heat filters, spotlights or night cameras at night, but they also, in the editing process, speed up or slow down movements in nature. The tide coming in, the sun on the sahara, the fog on the desert mountain, these are all images that we cannot actually see with our human eyes. If we go out into the planet earth, we will not be able to see these things. Also the zoom feature has allowed the show to show images that real live humans could never see - from the macroscopic to the microscopic.

SO, Is this show creating an unrealistic view, that will lead to dissapointment when confronted with the real world?

After a while, I actually came to the conclusion of, "probably not". I don't think anyone can quite capture, even in video, what the "awe of nature" feeling really is. Maybe the great outdoors will not be quite as visually stimulating as Planet Earth makes it out to be, BUT, I am positive that no one will leave dissapointed. Because you may not see the same fantastic images, but the feeling of awe and wonder of the real world will far surpass what you could ever see on a television.

SO, the fact that the images of Planet Earth may lure people into traveling, camping, expiditioning, etc, is actually okay, even if it seems like it is using a false pretense, because the real thing is actually just that good. (for the record, this is where the other kind of human cheese comes into my blog). SO, i'm done hating on planet earth. I worked through the hating, so to speak, to realize that I probably really don't have anything to worry about. hurrah! Go Planet!

*Another note: Another reason people, myself included, are apt to hate on planet earth is because people sit at home watching television instead of experiencing the "real" thing. but this is a different blog for a different night. we'll question that kind of "reality" later.

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