I sat rapt in front of my TV on Sunday watching the latest installment of the BBC/Discovery series “Life”. The first thing that comes to my mind… “WHY was Oprah chosen to narrate!?” Naturally, I waited for the insects special to air before I blogged about this, but having to listen to Oprah for the last few weeks has been scratching at the back of my eyes. I guess I could have gone out and purchased the BBC version with the iconic voice of Sir David Attenborough instead…
To get a better grip of just how obnoxious Oprah is, you can watch the same clip on Discovery. I have never considered Oprah to be anything close to scientifically minded – and her lavish support of Jenny McCarthy proves the point. For those who are not up to date – McCarthy is the leading proponent of the anti-vaccination movement. You can even go as far as attributing her PR campaign to preventable deaths. I’ll have to return to this subject another time.
Back to the topic at hand. There was some incredibly stunning insect footage, and a few vignettes about insect life I might not have otherwise ever seen. It seems like the US version of Life has been slightly re-written with zero factual contribution. Basic lines are changed from “she was not in the mood” to “uh-oh, looks like a headache”. Seems like a step down to me, albeit a tiny one. I was also a little annoyed with the continual focus on vertebrates – birds that eat flies, bears that eat honey, lizards that mimic Carabids – and anthropomorphizing intention, e.g. the ants “crowning achievement of large complex communities… the closest thing in nature to human cities”. While it may be true that giant ant colonies superficially resemble human cities, I wouldn’t call them the “crowning achievement of insects”. Mind boggling in complexity, yes – but overshadowing other non-social adaptations? This all boils down to a false premise that evolution is striving for human-like qualities and is directional.
But nothing to be overly critical about. Given the diversity and complexity of the insect world, I wouldn’t have even been happy with two weeks of solid footage. I would love to see what was left on the cutting room floor!