Shark Week is upon us, and I thought we would celebrate with some new Thresher the Pajama Shark cartoons. But I have not drawn them yet, so let’s start with a classic post.
Back in August of 2o13, I was one of the many people who fell hard for the mockumentary called Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives. Yes, I am an idiot, and I wrote what I thought was a pretty funny little essay about it. And here it is. I feel obligated to point out that I spelled the word “Megalodon” incorrectly throughout the entire original post. This has been corrected.
Megalodon: the Monster Shark Lives. Might as well get the embarrassing admission out of the way first: I fell for it. Like a bag of rocks. It was late, and I was tired, but still … This “documentary” ran last week as part of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. That alone should make a rational person suspicious, Shark Week being the lowest common denominator of TV documentary festivals. I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to it, not being terribly interested in sharks. (At the time I wrote this. I am more interested now.) But I am interested in “living fossils”, Lazarus taxa, survivals, and cryptids of all kinds. So, yes, I would watch a show about surviving Megalodons.
To my credit, I missed the very beginning of the program, including any disclaimers that may have been offered when it first ran. (The rerun I watched earlier today had several, all very carefully weasel worded to avoid saying “This is a big fake. You idiot.” in all capital letters in a bold face font while meaning exactly that.) But there is still no excuse for my original reaction.
Reasons I, as a rational person, should have known that Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives was a work of fiction the first time I saw it:
- The attack on a charter fishing boat off the coast of South Africa that begins the story is identified as taking place on April 5th, 2013. There is no way a two hour documentary could be built around “real time hand held video” of the attack in time to be a featured attraction on Shark Week the first week of August of the same year. Lead time, anyone?
- And about that video footage–how ethical is it to show violent images of the bloody demise of actual people, as opposed to fictional characters, on prime time television? Might that be considered exploitative, or a gross violation of personal privacy? Basic cable channels may not be a bastion of all that is great and good about the human experience, but even they have programming standards and practices.
- The “lead scientist” is way too good looking. And a little too glib.
- Also, the half a whale washed up on the Hawaiian beach is vividly bogus.
- This. That’s a megalodon photographed off the coast of the Cape during World War II by the crew of a German U-Boat, with another U-Boat conveniently in frame to show scale. It’s probably the same megalodon that ate those people last April. Sure it is.
My only justification is that I really wanted it all to be true because it’s a good story: mysterious, bloody and deliciously creepy. The last minute of Megalodon is truly great television. Not true, but great television.