Mermaids: Nonsense or Nuisance?

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on June 3rd, 2013

Thanks to Cryptomundian dconstrukt for the heads up on this article:

Animal Planet has raised quite a furor over its airing of the “speculative” documentary “Mermaids: The New Evidence.” Capping its annual Monster Week, a network once known for safari shows and puppy bowls is turning over increasing amounts of its broadcast time to cryptozoology shows like “Lost Tapes,” “Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real,” and “Finding Bigfoot”.

In fact, “Finding Bigfoot” was at the center of another, similar, controversy reported last year by Entertainment Weekly as TV critics turned skeptics, forced Animal Planet president Marjorie Kaplan to offer a vague defense of the show as “an exploration of the secret corners of the planet,” since it lacks anything approaching hard evidence.

Should They Have Aired It?

Animal Planet has 3.6 million reasons (as in viewers!) why they should’ve.

There’s really nothing wrong with using actors to re-enact scenes for a documentary. But where is the line? “Unsolved Mysteries” gives a framework for its actors to pretend they were criminals, but actors on “Mermaids” pretend they’re scientists with nothing but a tiny caveat in the credits to suggest it’s anything but 100% fact.

Animal Planet’s first “Mermaids” installment, “Mermaids: The Body Found,” garnered 3.4 million views during its U.S. telecast premiere on Sunday, May 27, 2012. After the airing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had to release an official statement putting it, in unequivocal terms, “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.” Marine biologist David Shiffman wrote an article for Slate explaining why we should stop worrying about mythical sea life and focus on the damage being done to the sea life we know exists. He talks about fisheries where up to 90 percent of a catch is made up of unintended victims. Not the commercial fish, but “endangered sea turtles and sea birds as well as marine mammals.”

Read the rest of the article here.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

15 Responses to “Mermaids: Nonsense or Nuisance?”

  1. gridbug responds:

    I do agree that there are current, real world issues with the aquatic life forms that live and die thanks to man’s interference, but I saw the mermaid docs as harmless entertainment that may actually (hopefully) inspire support for the causes that have been initiated to protect our sea life from our destructive behaviors. You have to be made of stone to not feel anything at the sight of beached whales and dead sea lions, and knowing that we’re the ones responsible for destroying their ecosystem and essentially condemning them to death is very disconcerting. (Personal note: on a recent trip to Point Dume -up the Pacific Coast highway in Malibu- we saw two dead sea lions on the beach and it was indeed depressing.) As far as the crypto angle goes, it’s my own belief that mermaids probably don’t exist (at least not in the way that’s commonly accepted) though I don’t doubt that there are most likely as yet undiscovered creatures in the dark depths of our oceans.

  2. Pete Fischer via Facebook responds:

    Instead of a channel known for its documentaries investing in apparent fiction, why aren’t they pumping serious cash into the research of Bigfoot…I’m not just talking about Bobo and his friends walking around the woods screaming into the darkness and I am certainly not talking about some fools that would paint the believing community as a bunch of trigger happy Larry The Cable Guy- Musky Allen/ Rick Dryer idiots. I am talking taking science to the woods and taking this topic seriously. …like Jeff Meldrum. Discovering proof of a wood primate in North America would be monumental in the halls of science.

  3. Evso Rivers via Facebook responds:

    Cheers Pete you have these actors playing serious science and mocking the world.not once was there a disclaimer yet there were serious accusations made ie the comments by homeland security and so on.I really believe there is a conspiracy of ignorance in the discovery of Bigfoot. Like in UFO cases give real journalist false news and discredit them and give a raving lunatic real info to make it seem so crazy it couldn’t be true.what would this country do if we discovered an upright race of giants who think and live seemingly in our backyards. What are they afraid of.they will either prove it to be fake or make the discovery of a lifetime.

  4. Van Lightning via Facebook responds:

    I dont like fakery of any kind. And I think its pretty weird that animal planet attempts to pass this off as genuine.

  5. Jeremy Shea via Facebook responds:

    no different than any show on mythological animals. Its all just entertainment.

  6. Jeremy Shea via Facebook responds:

    bigfoot doesn’t real.

  7. gridbug responds:

    I would LOVE to see a Crypto show headlined by Jeff Meldrum and Anna Nekaris. Fresh faces, serious and thoughtful commentary, no sensational nonsense. Though a recurring appearance by Franklin Ruehl would be pretty awesome too.


  8. springheeledjack responds:

    Well I’m glad people are getting ticked at this. While I have no problem with shows for entertainment, the “mermaids” show crossed the line. It was absolutely a mocumentary that tried to pass itself off as real. I remember watching the first one and looking before hand to see whether it was a documentary or just a Lost Tapes kind of thing and no where on Animal Planet’s site or other would they say. Only in the credits that rolled after the show was over did it have the disclaimer about being fictitious (though I figured it out the minute they showed any CGI relating to the mermaids–not to mention the way the show was portrayed).

    If they would have sold it as a Lost Tapes style, I would have been fine with it, but it was the cheap way they tried to make it look and feel real is what ticked me. It was a misrepresentation and I felt like I was at the circus in a side show tent.

    What angers me the most is that Animal Planet treating real cryptozoology that way just to make a dollar amount only demeans the efforts of real investigators to hunt for real cryptids. Animal Planet is using people’s interest in the weird to make money at the expense of the its viewers instead of pursuing creatures.

    Needless to say, I did not watch the second show.

    Animal Planet: Surprisingly Hypocritical.

  9. HulkSmashNow responds:

    Animal Planet has a show coming on about a guy building treehouses for people. What does that have to do with animals or the planet? The station has gone far afield, but they are raking in ratings and money, so there’s no impetus for change…yet.

  10. Evso Rivers via Facebook responds:

    Bigfoot doesn’t real? Learn some vocabulary then get back to us til then …SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!

  11. volmar responds:

    If The History Channel can air specials on UFO’s, why can’t Animal Planet have Mermaids or some folks ‘squatching’ in Finding Bigfoot? Do you expect a TV station to have the same scientific parameters of an university? Come on… A TV show is only entertainment, guys!

  12. mcw2112 responds:

    I totally agree that Animal Planet’s fake documentaries were a disgraceful ploy to grab ratings. Way, way too many people didn’t see the tiny disclaimer at the end and as a result way, way too many people believe this drivel is real. The whole thing was shameful in it’s attempt to actually fool people. Hell, I like entertainment as much as anyone, but don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining. I never believed any of it from the word go, mainly because of the so-called ‘footage’ that was so obviously drenched in a lot of ‘reality’ cinema tricks. (If some kid found a living mermaid on the beach, certainly the first call he’s make would be to the local TV news guys).

    It’s clear that Animal Planet intended people to swallow this garbage hook, line and sinker – and that’s just what happened. Sadly enough,these days people will believe anything they see, even knowing full well that computer graphics can create anything from dinosaurs to dragons.

    The difference between this and History Channel’s UFO specials are that, by definition, UFO’s do exist. If something in the sky cannot be identified, then it’s a UFO – that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an alien craft. Couple that with the fact that many, many military witnesses have seen unusual things in the sky (and on radar) and there is no need to trot out any actors pretending to be ‘experts’.

    I would submit that, unlike Bigfoot believers, there is only a tiny percentage of people that actually believe that mermaids exist, and an even smaller percentage that claim to have seen one.

  13. volmar responds:

    TV is entertainment. Always, and they are not expected to tell the truth, the whole truth so help them God. People that believe Mermaids are real because they saw it on Animal Planet should know better. The real problem is that lots of people can’t distinguish fact from fiction. It’s easy to blame TV for some folk’s lack of common sense…

  14. alan borky responds:

    Craig I first became aware of Nessie as a kid of about five when I asked me Mum why there was a picture of a dragon swimming on the back of a box of Sugar Puffs.

    Not long after the Patterson Bigfoot film became huge news and I also became aware of UFOs as possible visitors from other worlds.

    There’re those who claim such memes’re actually the causes of delusions but even if it turns out such things don’t exist I experienced the possibility they did as literally mind expanding.

    So the people criticising the likes of this mermaid mocumentary’re missing the point.

    To kids everywhere that documentary will’ve been experienced as a kind of shattering of the scales over their eyes that all there is to the world is what we’re allowed to see.

    In time many’ll grow up and repudiate such possibilities as delusional but many won’t.

    In the Sixties Star Trek was mocked by the majority as silly throw away mental bubblegum yet many kids who watched it went on to become scientists and even astronauts as a direct result.

    Others went into the arts and the media and now Sci Fi and the occult’re almost the norm where TV and Films’re concerned.

    Contrary to the imagining of many nerds what actually shapes the world isn’t correct usage of technical jargon or banning misleading mocumentaries but what set the imaginations of our kids on fire.

  15. MattPriceTime responds:

    I just think it should have had a disclaimer like Lost Tapes or the Dragon one did at the start. I see nothing wrong with mocumentaries, as long as they admit to being what they are.

    As far as the one comment, TV isn’t all entertainment. You do know there are news programs, documentaries, etc. If a channel wants to air something not just an entertainment show, there is nothing wrong with that. What got people worked out is that the channel known for mostly being factual programming put one of their mocumentaries without the big disclaimer at the start we are used to.

    On the subject in general, i see something laughable, and it’s not the mermaids per say. If the community here can adjust to looking for creatures said to exist by reports, then why can’t mythological creatures be held to the same scrutiny? They had reports all the same. Whether you chose to believe or not is your own choice, but an undocumented species held by the world to have existed, is just as researchable as Bigfoot, Nessie and the CHupacabras. You can’t just split them off with no good reason.

    On mermaids themselves, i’ve personally wanted to close the door on them (if they exist) being half-fish. Since it makes zero sense when nearly every depiction and stories give them traits that would make zero sense if it had anything involved with a fish. if mermaids exist they would be mammals. There other wise would be no reason for them to have mammary glands, have their tails move in the same way aquatic mammals do unlike fish and have any mammal like behaviors as always documented in mermaid legends. The model on Animal Planet’s show really doesn’t even make much sense from a speculative biology standpoint.

    I’ve not convinced myself mythological creatures exist but i’m quite sure there are patterns here too many people are ignoring. Our understanding of hybrid rules isn’t still exact. I feel there’s plenty more room to speculate on this. The Toast of Botswana (Goat/Sheep Hybrid) leaves a lot to speculation. Given two animals thought to be too far apart genetically to produce offspring does and makes a hypersexual result. My that sounds pretty familiar in mythology, since pretty much all the creatures said to be half-man and half-something else have hypersexuality as a trait. (aka centaurs and satyrs)And of course all of them would be in theory too different to ever produce offspring with a human.

    I guess i’m leaning on the magical barrier where humans don’t want to admit their animals just like everything else and aren’t special. But someone has to stand up over human ignorance. I may not be convinced they aren’t just silly old myths, but if we want to talk speculative biology, how the hell some people want to ignore stuff like this and sweep it under the rug is just plain embarrassing.

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