An Editorial: What Impact Will Finding Bigfoot Have?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 10th, 2011

An Editorial: What Impact Will Finding Bigfoot Have?

by Loren Coleman

Today, Sunday, July 10th, is the finale of the first short season of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot. The latest program merely continues with the pattern of the others, to wit:

Jul 10, 10:00 pm & 11:00 pm E/P
(60 minutes)
Finding Bigfoot
Alaska’s Bigfoot Island
A call from a concerned mayor brings Matt Moneymaker and his team of Bigfoot Research Organization experts to the island of Prince of Wales, Alaska. The island has a long history with the beast, but a recent spike in activity has the townspeople on edge.

It seems like a good time to take a longterm look at what influence and impact the Finding Bigfoot series may have on the future interactions of television and cryptozoology, especially as they relate to what educational role Finding Bigfoot is filling for youthful students of cryptozoology and hominology.

So, here are some initial thoughts on the series.

It is popular. This popularity means many people are watching it, and it will be taken as a reflection of what “cryptozoology” is.

Television, even reality television, is not a good mirror of the real world, and certainly not of cryptozoology. Matt Moneymaker’s personality is shown, but it is demonstrated in the extreme. The heavy editing of the series in post-production sensationalizes the search for Sasquatch. This has its pros and cons for the world of television. Certainly ratings are up. But it does not actually show what happens during most serious pursuits for cryptids in the field. More waiting, more questions that are not leading ones, and more scientific openmindedness occur.

The passion of the team is conveyed. That is a positive and real. It is hopeful that people who are brought into the show’s viewing audience will critically watch the program, come away with an interest in the topic, and do their own reading and research, if they wish to get involved.

The unfortunate reality, however, from dozens of people whom I have discussed the program with, is that it appears many people who like Bigfoot are watching this series as if it was a train wreck. They are tuning in to laugh at the antics of the team, feel better about themselves as they are using the show to figure out what they would not do, and just can’t believe some of the things they are hearing. But, guess what, they click it on again. At the Animal Planet end, the company doesn’t care why people are watching it.

Just as crowds gather to watch a burning building, people are returning, week after week, to tune in to Finding Bigfoot to watch the craziness. The quality of the program, the underlying “evidence” of Bigfoot demonstrated, may in actuality be very low, but that is not translating into low viewership. It is entertainment, pure and simple, and it has little or nothing to do with any high standards of cryptozoology that are taking place on the show.

People have told me they watch to see what is the newest outrageous thing or incident that Matt Moneymaker says or does. Do you think that the production team is going to edit these out in future episodes? Of course not. The meal ticket for this program now is the sensational, ego-driven nature of Moneymaker. Rumors that he was being kicked off the program or not being brought back for Season Two are just that, rumors. Matt is this program’s moneymaker. He is the reason it is the number one series currently on Animal Planet.

How will the reaction to this series translate across the media world? More cryptozoology-oriented programming, no doubt, with more human conflicts and comedy sub-themes will be approved for shooting.  More explorations of the dark belly of Sasquatch searching will be proposed in movies and books.  

Hopefully, a novel reaction and growth spurt will develop quickly. Soon insightful films and documentaries shall appear too, but only the most thoughtful of producers will clearly see that this is the next step in the evolution of this genre. They will not be boring documentaries, but exciting forms of programming that will capture the passion of the search, which in reality is the underlying strength of Finding Bigfoot.

The most negative thing about the series is how it is undermining good field techniques. Even children and young people watching this series have told me they feel they are not learning how to properly interview witnesses. Instead, they are seeing how theories and bias are getting in the way of relating to the people who are telling of their encounters. Clearly, Finding Bigfoot, while popular, is revealing vast gaps in possibilities in further programming, and someone is going to rush in to fill those voids. Entertaining and engaging series, without laughable human conflict, are waiting in the wings.

The success of Finding Bigfoot, therefore, will make this next dynamic leap in cryptozoology programming possible. And, at least, for that, we must thank Finding Bigfoot.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

25 Responses to “An Editorial: What Impact Will Finding Bigfoot Have?”

  1. L Surface responds:

    The real negative effect of the show will be to send hoards of people into the woods howling and screaming, trying to copy what they see on the show.

    Matt and his team seem to overlook the fact that they are not the only ones who can scream and howl like a bigfoot. When they announce to the whole town where they are going in advance, it gives the pranksters the perfect opportunity. And even when their triangulation shows that the return calls are coming from the road, they still say “that’s a squatch”.

    This is going to cause a lot of noise contamination for people who have been seriously studying Bigfoot audio for a long time.

  2. MountDesertIslander responds:

    Unless the BFRO comes up with a body, alive or dead, there is no good way for this to end for the casual enthusiast. The manner in which this series has been edited makes Matt and his crew appear to be way too willing to accept anything as proof of a ‘squatch’ in the area. In spite of how they come across on camera I am confident that the Finding Bigfoot cast all know that compelling evidence is a long, long way from proof. I wish the use of the word ‘proof’ and other absolute terms during their ‘in context’ asides could be moderated.

    In spite of the obvious sensationalism, I like the program. I like it a lot, but, in the way that I like chocolate candy. It’s an indulgence, not a meal.

    In the end, anyone who utters the word bigfoot in casual conversation is going to find themselves in the position of either defending the series or trying to explain away the obvious enthusiasm the researches have for seeing bigfoot around every bush. The producer’s creative editing and the insertion of canned audio is enough to make a teetotaler crave a stiff drink. By this unbalanced, and unsympathetic portrayal of their associates, Animal Planet has done a disservice to BFRO and the armchair cryptozoologists around the country. But, at the very least, there’s a starting place for a conversation now. That’s something.

  3. wolfatrest responds:

    As far as the ratings go, I don’t contribute, I’ve tried to watch the show but haven’t made it past 15 minutes yet. I imagine the exact same thing will happen here as happened with paranormal research when Ghost Hunters became such a huge hit. A lot of people will head out thinking that what they see on the show is “normal”. Unfortunately I expect the number of people lost in the woods to take an extreme jump very soon. Hopefully the search and rescue teams are gearing up for this spike. More people in the woods seems as though it would increase the chances of finding that holy grail of bigfoot research, a body. More people in the woods also seems as if it would increase the chances that our large, hairy kin will move farther back into even more remote locations.

  4. Victor VonDoom via Facebook responds:

    so far…none. i find the show insulting.

  5. loyalfromlondon responds:

    Like most people who have had encounters with Bigfoot, I watched the first few episodes with a mixture of anger and frustration over just how unreal the reality part of Finding Bigfoot was.

    But once I got it through my head that this wasn’t going to be a sincere, complex, challenging documentary series, I was able to sit back and have a cheap laugh at it all.

    I like the show. Not as much as Lost Tapes or MonsterQuest or Destination Truth but I like it. It’s a silly frothy show, nothing more, nothing less.

    I will add that I don’t think Finding Bigfoot will lead to better, more authentic cryptozoological programming which is perfectly okay. Maybe a web series is a better route for that type of show. And if it’s popular enough, it’ll find a home on NatGeo or History Channel.

  6. Ryan E Peck via Facebook responds:

    Moneymaker is way too quick to claim evidence was caused by sasquatch. Renae seems to be the only level headed researcher on the team.

  7. Chris Ortega via Facebook responds:

    Finding Bigfoot will do the same for legitimate Sasquatch research that Ghost Hunters did for legitimate paranormal research…discredit it, and make people laugh

  8. Mausinn responds:

    “People have told me they watch to see what is the newest outrageous thing or incident that Matt Moneymaker says or does.”

    That about covers it. Gary Busey, Charlie Sheen, and now Matt Moneymaker. This is nothing more than idle entertainment, never meant to be taken seriously, much like MM and TB. Since this show has started, I can’t look at a picture of MM with out seeing the spirit of P.T. Barnum.

    What impact will this show have? It will have the same impact that all the other “reality” shows have. It will make the field that much more trivial and a caricature of it’s real self. Sadly, the viewing public will see this show and believe that this is how it really is, and that the “actors” are real players in the crypto field.

  9. Kahil Nettleton responds:

    I see it as doing more harm than good. There is far too many claims of non-facts being facts. It would be a wise choice for them to tone down the ego of Moneymaker, at least on the show. He knows that the things he states about bigfoot are either false and/or cannot be backed up with facts.

    When they think they are hearing or seeing something that may be attributed to bigfoot, they need to not just jump to the conclusion that it is without a doubt a “squatch”. They need to debunk things better. Yes, they kinda do that now, but in the end, even after showing that it could in deed be a human, Matt and others end up claiming that it is a bigfoot. If they are always going to come to that conclusion, then what is the point of debunking it? I think that is one thing that separates this from the likes of Ghost Hunters. The team on Ghost Hunters debunk things and throw it out as even being evidence of the paranormal and only accept things that they cannot reasonably explain. Yes, GH is sensationalized too, but they are at least enacting the scientific process better.

    In the end, Finding Bigfoot needs to have more science and less science fiction. If Matt and the rest of the team are truly sincere in their search for bigfoot, then they need get people to watch the show for the scientific search of the creature…not to see and laugh at the outlandish, ego driven and made up claims by Moneymaker. Otherwise it will jut be that much more difficult for the scientific community to take those who are sincere in the field seriously.

  10. Chris Brown via Facebook responds:

    This show is a travesty for anyone seriously interested in proving the existence of Sasquatch. To Moneymaker EVERYTHING is a ‘Squatch’ and the fool ended up chasing his own echo an episode or two back. I hate when they say ‘Squatch’ it makes me cringe, you could make a good drinking game out of it though…

  11. RaceBannon responds:

    Most of us on here has entered this field in some form or fashion. For me it was being 9 years old sitting in the back seat of my Uncle’s car at a drive-in theater outside of Greensboro, NC watching the 1972 release of “The Legend of Boggy Creek”. That was my “entrance” into the world of Bigfoot. Finding Bighfoot will be the same for many, a starting point. They will learn and grow from there if they are REALLY interested.

  12. Fred123 responds:

    “That about covers it. Gary Busey, Charlie Sheen, and now Matt Moneymaker.”….You left out Anna Nicole Smith and Jersey Shore. Ask yourselves a question, if even people who are convinced that Bigfoot actually exists are laughing at this show, what do you think the non-believers are doing? I don’t think that this show will result in people rushing into the woods to search for Bigfoot anymore than Anna’s show set off a stampede of folks looking for crooked pharmacists. If anything the skeptics will become even more skeptical. The most that cryptid fans can hope for is that they don’t make too much of the Bigfoot body/DNA stories that have been circulating here, because if that story doesn’t pan and out (and I probably should have said when, not if), the skeptics will be laughing harder than they did at the Halloween costume in the freezer.

  13. gridbug responds:

    Can we put a moratorium on the word “squatch” please? It’s fast becoming synonymous with Moneymaker and his asinine backwoods antics and it’s only a matter of time before it catches on with the casual public, which will in turn only exacerbate an already increasing annoyance. This goes for the equally stupid “squatchy” as well. The less the real, legit and serious crypto community utilizes Moneymaker-speak, the better off we’ll be for it.

  14. Artist responds:

    Let’s not overlook the possibility that these shows – of Cryptid, UFO, Alien, Ghost or whatever Paranormal-themed genre – may help the curious, skeptical and critical public to understand just how difficult these evidence searches are, how daunting and dangerous they can sometimes be, how unpredictable their targets are, and how seldom everything “comes together” to produce the holy grail – EVIDENCE!

    Both investigators and targets have to be in the right place at the right time; weather has to cooperate; equipment and power sources have to be assembled and powered up and working and ready to deploy instantly -sightings typically last for only a few seconds, so if one recognizes a distant target (in dark, rainy and spooky conditions) and remembers the camera at all, by the time the device is retrieved and turned on and aimed and focussed… it’s all over!

    Logistical challenges must be met, with transportation and communications and clothing and food & drink and sanitary facilities and property owner contact and negotiations and… the list is long.

    And after all that, capturing of acceptable evidence is rare – remember that we are dealing with mystical subjects here, and if it were easy to meet all those challenges and solve the mystery to the satisfaction of science and armchair critics out there, everybody would have been doing it for years and there would no longer BE a mystery!

    So. If you critics think it is easy, and that you know how to do it better, get out your checkbook and hit the road. You’ll return exhausted, emptyhanded, disappointed and frustrated… but (perhaps) with more tolerance and respect for these shows.

    See how that works?

  15. Mïk responds:

    Whoa! Back ’em up, buckaroos. This show will have a serious impact on the Bigfoot culture because of all those complaints stated above. There will be more people stomping through the woods, scaring any creatures further back into the dark. There will be more people sending up and hoaxing their buddies, and the media. There will be more false info and horror stories spread across the land. BUT, there will be more people contemplating, and discussing Bigfoot. More people looking at the available “facts” (really, Kahil, what facts besides footprints, are there? Wood knocks? screams? photos? Videos? All are in question until someone documents bigfoot involvement) and deciding what is really out there. THAT’S the impact this show will have. More people, who haven’t given ‘Squatch’ (being a PNWer, I prefer that title) any more consideration than ‘bloody bones in the woodshed’ (a campfire spook tale). This show has taken our buddy and put him in the front of mainstream America and said, “well?” So, again, I say, to the naysayers up there; settle down, the show ain’t gonna find bigfoot any more than Ghost hunters find ghosts. It won’t be so hard to put serious discussions of cryptozoology on TV because of it. It’s Bigfoot on TV! Enjoy it.

  16. Redrose999 responds:

    Not much more I can add here. Loren covered it all. Hopefully we’ll see some better programs following soon. I think we’re headed into a “bigfoot” fad now, and it would be cool if they could back it up with some well done and well researched TV programs.

  17. Duncan Hopkins via Facebook responds:

    i watched an episode and then erased the record settings on my DVR.

  18. Nny responds:

    I love Loren’s optimism.

    that said…

    “Paranormal-themed genre – may help the curious, skeptical and critical public to understand just how difficult these evidence searches are, how daunting and dangerous they can sometimes be, how unpredictable their targets are, and how seldom everything “comes together” to produce the holy grail – EVIDENCE!”

    But Finding Bigfoot shows EXACTLY how ‘easy’ it is to get ‘evidence.’ Every sound, broken branch, dead animal, video with something questionable…. it’s ALL a sasquatch. I guess you haven’t watched the show. It’s really easy for them to find ‘evidence.’ And I haven’t watched for years now, but I think Ghost Hunters turned into the samething… everywhere they go is haunted now and they get tons of ‘evidence.’

    I hope the sarcasam is read. Lots of Paranormal-themed genre shows show exactly how NOT hard it is to find evidence. If the shows consistantly found nothing, they’d be gone(RIP Monsterquest[and I know they did find a couple things]).

    “Both investigators and targets have to be in the right place at the right time; weather has to cooperate; equipment and power sources have to be assembled and powered up and working and ready to deploy instantly -sightings typically last for only a few seconds, so if one recognizes a distant target (in dark, rainy and spooky conditions) and remembers the camera at all, by the time the device is retrieved and turned on and aimed and focussed… it’s all over!”

    Except on TV where the few seconds of distant targets are always shown to hype the shows. Finding Bigfoot, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, etc.

    “So. If you critics think it is easy, and that you know how to do it better, get out your checkbook and hit the road. You’ll return exhausted, emptyhanded, disappointed and frustrated… but (perhaps) with more tolerance and respect for these shows.”

    I’m not sure what critics you’re referring to…. as I don’t think I’ve read one single serious comment on this site where anyone has said ‘Finding evidence seems so simple.’ But about getting out the checkbook and hitting the road… yeah, that’s exactly why a lot of people wont or can’t do it. Not enough money, not able to take time off from the day job of Finding Income to go and search for the mythic creatures.

    For the record, if anyone wants to finance a trip, I’m very easy to get along with and would be more than glad to tag along. 🙂

    “See how that works?”

    Not really. The shows make it look very easy to find evidence. I think enough people with more than a passing interest in the field knows the opposite.

    Maybe you mean proof. Because, I’m going to generalize, none of the shows have found proof of anything. And that’s why they’re still cryptids and paranormal. Because they can’t be explained away and have yet to be proven.

    Did I make any sense?

  19. Dolph USMC responds:

    This show is taking genuine, credible, Bigfoot research in the wrong direction. The methods the team uses, and their reasoning for what is, and isn’t, actual Sasquatch evidence couldn’t be more flawed. The only person on their team that I might listen to, or halfway trust is Ranae. She seems to be the only one that can be halfway objective when viewing, or listening to, evidence.

    While there are many things that they can, and should do, to be taken more serious and to possibly be successful in their search. I will just list 2 most basic.

    First, I would stop having these town meetings, and then go out and do a night hunt. All they are doing is announcing to hoaxers that they are out in the woods searching. At least to the objective viewer it appears this way, and a skeptic would point out the validity of any prints, etc… because of this.

    Second, and this is most basic, when you’re in the woods searching for something that doesn’t want to be found, you need to be DEAD QUIET!!! Take it from me, I’m a former Marine Scout Sniper, and that the 1st part of training you learn because to be noisy is to be dead. As much racket as that team makes, they’d be lucky to see a deer.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth, oh and one more thing. PLEASE, stop calling them Squatches! It makes you seem even more unprofessional and a joke.

  20. blackstar responds:

    I want to present a challenge to Matt and his team: DO A SEARCH DURING THE DAY FOR A BIGFOOT!. Since no one has solid evidence this creature exists, quit referring to it as a Nocturnal animal. You have to prove the existence of a species before you can determine its habits. Dont spout off “facts” about it being mostly active at night. If it’s mostly active at night, why are most “sightings” on the show reported during daylight? If most “sightings” are during the day, why aren’t you out filming during the day? A night shot on a thermal camera isn’t going to really add much credibility to a discovery of a Bigfoot. You need to get a clear shot, during the day, with other witnesses present.

  21. Navman responds:

    I’d have to agree with most of the posts above, specifically Dolph USMC’s. Here is a comment I posted in response to an earlier article about this show that seems to apply to this editorial as well:

    “I hate to be remotely critical here because I’m extremely interested in the subject of Bigfoot, having grown up in Washington State. However, I hope none of these people ever have to rely on their skills as hunters to find food because they will starve.

    “If there are Bigfoots (Bigfeet?), and if they are wild animals as the four people on the show claim, then they will never see them… these folks are the noisiest people in the woods I’ve ever seen (heard?). All the radio chatter back and forth, the walking around at night, screaming and cameras are going to scare away every wild animal within a couple of miles.

    “As an avid hunter of North American big game, I can tell you the best thing to do would be to set up a blind (preferably high up in a tree) and sit very quietly for hours on end over a period of several days or weeks. Crashing around through the woods at night is not a very effective hunting technique. As a military member I can tell you, patience, stealth and concealment are also the best thing for hunting anything that may be remotely human.

    “I realize that patience, stealth and camouflage doesn’t make for very good TV but if you’re serious about finding a wild Bigfoot, the bumbling about in the woods at night isn’t going to do it. Try watching some hunting shows on the outdoors channels and pick up a few tips.

    “My interest in “Sasquatch” was heightened after an interview I conducted with the late Dr. Grover Krantz when I was a student journalist at Oregon State University in the early 90s. I would suggest following his example and offering more scientific evidence rather than footage of four city folks crashing around in the woods.

    “Entertaining show, and I get a kick out of the bumbling around in the woods but I’ve seen nothing to even close to solid evidence yet. As long as I keep watching, I’m sure the BFRO and Animal Planet won’t care that I’m not convinced.”

    I just hope, as L Surface pointed out, that this doesn’t encourage a bunch of yahoos to invade the American wilderness shouting, howling and bumbling around looking for Bigfoot… especially during deer season.

  22. BJM responds:

    Talk to locals…check
    Thermal imager…check
    Bobo re-enactment…check
    Squatchy area…check
    Creepy feeling…check
    Howl at the moon…check
    Attribute everything to a Sas…check
    MM talking with exaggerated hand motions…check
    Actual evidence…

  23. Steve Golden via Facebook responds:

    The bigfoot calls are something special. I expect the only thing to come creeping out of the woods will be grumpy campers awakened by some moron shrieking at night.

  24. Daryl Cline responds:

    I think the show did more harm then good. Waaaayyyyyyy too much hype and misleading. Of course that is what I saw of what I watched. What I saw is the reason I did not watch more. I got tired of the phony scared or startled looks on their faces every time there was a sound. Leading the uninitiated in reality TV (Not really reality) to gasp themselves and stay tuned through the scary eye and the lame commercials. Sitting on the edge of their chairs just waiting for the bull to come back only to be disappointed. Still apparently they fall for it every time. They present it as a documentary when all it is, is little better then Si-Fi. The big harm I see is all the drunks with guns who will be anxious to go “Kill me one of them there bigfeet things”. Believe me I know several. Moneymaker in my opinion Is in it for the money no matter the damage it does. Just MHO. There are some reports on BFRO’s websites from this area. From the mountains I have been hiking, backpacking and 4X4 driving in since a little kid. One major report has got what appear to be major contradictory flaws in the description of the area of the incidence. Only someone intimately familiar with the area and has been there would know that. I have contacted them about this to explain to them the flaws which may be unfamiliarity with the area by those involved or a plain hoax by those involved. I have yet to receive a reply from them. Since the ones reporting the incidence gave GPS co-ordinates it is obvious that the BFRO investigators did not even look at the map of the area or they would have seen the discrepancy between the co ordinates and the physical description in the report. The two are about 7.2 miles apart as the crow flies through extremely rugged, steep terrain. I have hiked all through the same spots as described in the report. It is probably just innocent mistakes caused by unfamiliarity along with alcohol and drugs on the part of the reporters but BFRO doesnt seem apparently to care. Science is about getting the little details as correct as possible. Not just getting roughly in the ball park. This makes me wonder about their sincerity. Maybe they are too busy scamming the general public and making tons of money to care about the facts anymore. I dont know. again JMHO.

  25. ithilien responds:

    like ALL paranormal television, the best and only good part of the show is always at the onset, visiting the site and interviewing witnesses. if they could just do that for 60 minutes they would have something. everything else, from, in Finding Bigfoots case, double m’s howling to the quirky comraderie of bobo and the tall chick, falls flat.

    i watch the witness accounts and then move on.

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