REALLY Shark Week? – From Megalodon to ‘Submarine’, Discovery Channel’s Fake Documentaries Continue

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Now this article might seem a little ‘out of the blue’ to my usual readers – no pun intended –; but it’s about something very near and dear to my heart: honesty. When blatant lies and made-up tales masquerade as ‘the truth’, there is no telling what kind of repercussions there could be. So when a channel that prides itself on ‘enlightening people’ purposefully puts forth horrendously false information just to boost ratings, they end up doing more harm than good.

I’m of course talking about The Discovery Channel’s yearly week of programming known as ‘Shark Week’. Last year many viewers, news station and scientists called the network out publishing a fake documentary, which reported that the massive prehistoric shark known as Megalodon still lived. With Discovery Channel priding itself on intellect and facts, it was appalling to think they would air something filled with doctored photos and actors pretending to be doctors. Well it looks like Discovery doesn’t care about enlightenment anymore – or their viewers – since this year a sequel to that Megalodon special is scheduled for later in the week entitled ‘New Evidence’; but that’s not the worst offense.

Before viewers could sit down and watch any FACTUAL shark programs, Discovery decided to kick off the week with a new special entitled Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine, which – you guessed it – is another fake documentary. Though unlike its predecessor, this special doesn’t mislead viewers by jumping to conclusions; but actively gives viewers information that is not only false and contradictory; but is also impossible.

When Docu-fiction Goes Wrong:

The whole idea of making mythical/extinct creatures seem real began in 2004 when a British Docufiction came out on Animal Planet, called Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real and was marketed as a ‘What If’ Dragons actually existed. The program was honestly amazing and was up front about its purely imaginative nature. It actually took a realistic approach to dragons and drew upon actual mythologies and cultural tales interwoven with evolutionary chains and designs. Though despite all this believable information, the title and constant disclaimers assured audiences that this was purely speculative/imaginative.

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A couple of years later in 2012, the same company – Darlow Smithson – produced a show entitled Mermaids: The Body Found, which went right to Animal Planet. Much like the Dragon special, the program took an evolutionary approach to discern how mermaids could have evolved/ Though unlike it’s predecessor, it’s name was never changed to reveal its ‘hypothetical’ nature and was treated as more of an announcement special. In fact, the show even put forth doctored photos and evidence to make their fake case more compelling. They even went so far as to put up a website that claimed to be barren because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seized their property and claimed their site – but “a look at the code behind the page reveals it’s still held by the parent company of the Animal Planet channel, Discovery Communications, which bills itself as ‘The World’s #1 Nonfiction Media Company’.”

It wasn’t until the end of the program that a brief disclaimer was aired to show that everything you just witnessed was a bunch of actors and dramatizations. Though no matter how outraged viewers were at this ‘fake documentary’, things were about to get much worse when Discovery Communications decided to air a documentary about an actual creature on their longest trusted channel.

2013 Reception/Outrage:

When the Discovery Channel aired Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives during their yearly special Shark Week, many people believed this was an announcement special. Between the doctored photos and lack of substantial disclaimers, people assumed this was a factual program. I mean who would believe The Discovery Channel would air something knowingly fake. Well, as you can expect people were outraged. They even had a different production company, which is apparent by the complete lack of ANY scientific conjecture. Dragons and Mermaids might not have been true; but they used actual science to make them seem plausible. The Megalodon special showed fake attacks and awful CGI imaginings of events.

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The only time a disclaimer was aired was at the very end of the program for 3 seconds. Though you can’t really considering it a full 3 seconds because it was flashing. That’s right, a multi-sentence, small font, light color disclaimer was flashing on screen. I’ve seen legal contracts with more apparent fine print than that.

Everyone from CNN to The Daily Show pounced on The Discovery Channel for their blatant deception. Discovery barely replied and seemed to almost flaunt their trick by showing in poll results how 73% of viewers believed them. Though as the old saying goes: ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ….”. Well, as you can imagine Discovery is releasing a sequel to the Megalodon special entitled “New Evidence”, which once again misleads viewers right by the title itself. Though – as I stated originally – this year Discovery is going even further by kicking off the week with Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine. Though this show doesn’t just make stuff up; it actually says things completely contradictory to known facts.

“Yeah, why did everyone think that? Because you said they were real! The fact that 73%of people believed you doesn’t make them stupid; it makes them trusting good people.” – John Oliver

Repercussions:

The purpose of Shark Week has always been twofold: to entertain people with sharks while promoting a healthy understanding of them. After the film Jaws, people developed an intense fear/hatred of sharks; and that continues till today even though we kill approximately 25 million sharks for every one human killed by a shark. So by airing more and more of these fake documentaries – they no longer have the right or class to be called docufiction – they’re missing one of the prime purposes of Shark Week. Though this year is worse than ever as some of the facts in Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine actually promotes an irrational fear of hatred for sharks even worse than Jaws did all those years ago.

Uploaded 2 weeks ago huh? And this person's only video? Coincidence? Yeah Right!

Uploaded 2 weeks ago huh? And this person’s only video? Coincidence? Yeah Right!

Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine gave plenty of false information. The first of which was how ‘Submarine’ apparently eluded sonar by remaining perfectly still and vertical. Plenty of other crazy ideas were put forward, like how Sharks apparently learned from whales and decided to nudge it’s victim away from the other drowning people. The show proclaimed that this shark was ‘displaying traits we have never seen sharks display before’. Of course we’ve never seen these traits before; because they’re not true!

The footage used in the show is actually searchable – much like the Mermaids one – but upon closer inspection you can see all the glaring falsehoods. For starters, the person who uploaded the Sinking Ship video only uploaded that one video and became active only a few weeks before the show aired. Also, the footage itself – if true – is just inhumane. When we see the shark nudging its victim away from the others, the helicopter just watches and films rather than attempt to save the man or any of the other survivors. There is no concern or fear for possible victims in all this footage. It seems as long as they got the shot, that’s all that matters. Though the CGI masquerading as actual footage is laughable at some points – like the disappearing buoy.

Though the worst portion of this program had to be when the show actually started proclaiming that Sharks had a taste for humans and purposefully went after them. The title itself even paints the picture of a vengeful shark, which is entirely false. The image of a vengeful man-eating shark is the very image we have been trying to undo ever since Jaws; but this show just reignited that irrational fear.

Thankfully most people recognized this show as fake. Though even if one person believes this special is true, that is still too many. Sadly, it’s a lot more than one. Most might have recognized it as fake; but there are some people who believed everything. Worst of all, some people have already begun posting hateful things about sharks and how we shouldn’t waste any time trying to save these ‘evil creatures’. I get this is all a quest for ratings; but this ‘week of awareness’ is starting a witch-hunt that will hurt an already endangered species.

*facepalm*

Really people? *facepalm*

Alternatives:

Beyond the fear mongering and blatant lies, I don’t understand why The Discovery Channel feels they have to use these fake programs. What’s next, Air Jaws with CGI too? There are over 400 species of sharks and yet the majority of Shark Week is Great White, Great White, Great White. What happened to the shows that actually … oh hell, gave facts. What happened to teaching people about sharks and how they’re not vicious killing machines that only want blood and death.

Apparently @KrissiBex. That must be it

Apparently @KrissiBex. That must be it

Even the Megalodon special is laughable because there actually is a fair amount of REAL evidence that can be discussed. I’m not saying Megalodon is still out there; but there is evidence like teeth found by the HMS Challenger which were only 10,000 years old – much more recent than its supposed 1.5 million years ago extinction date. It might not be a doctored photo of a giant fin by a fake German Nazi Uboat; but at least its real. They could even have a special on what we DO know about Megalodon, which is actually pretty sizable. Even if we forget Megalodon, there are tons of other prehistoric sharks that can be explored. Whether the bladed fin Stethacanthus or the aptly named ‘Shark from Hell’ Helicoprion – known for having a buzz saw like appendage on the front of its bottom jaw – there is tons of information about sharks past and present so why must they rely on making things up.

Seriously, there's a reason he's sometimes called the 'Shark from Hell'

Seriously, there’s a reason he’s sometimes called the ‘Shark from Hell’

I know all of this and I’m just a simple, well read panda who happens to remember Shark Weeks from years ago. So imagine how amazing and beneficial Shark Week could be if they had ACTUAL marine biologist and paleontologists to discuss all the latest shark discoveries that have been made in the past 10-15 years. It’d be better for the sharks; and people would actually learn something – which I HOPE still means something. The only Shark Week program I’m going to watch this week is about DeepSea Sharks, which should actually be informative. Beyond that, I won’t waste my time on those fake documentaries and refuse to contribute to Discovery’s ratings for those awful programs.

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If you want to actually support sharks – and learn a thing or two, go check out Shark Defenders and Shark Savers to see how you can make a difference. And for those of you who love sarcasm as much as I do, be sure to trend #FakeSharkWeekFacts on Social Media. It’s will help protest Discovery’s lack of scientific integrity and is a lot of fun.

Sharks love it when Pandas take Selfies with them! #FakeSharkWeekFacts

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17 thoughts on “REALLY Shark Week? – From Megalodon to ‘Submarine’, Discovery Channel’s Fake Documentaries Continue

  1. Thank you! There is some one else sane out there! Well written and i wish every person that watches shark week could read this!

  2. Give me a break. It’s called “Shark Week” because the subject matter is sharks. Megalodon is a shark, isn’t it? Personally, I loved last year’s “mockumentary” on it. I also loved “Mermaids: The Body Found” and the one about dragons. Sure, they weren’t real, but neither are movies like “Jaws”, but no one has any complaints about that, do they?

    People get too worked up over fact and forget about how fun fiction can be. The oceans are so big and so very little has been explored, so how do you know Megalodon, mermaids, or “Submarine” aren’t prowling around in the depths somewhere? It was people like you that relegated the Giant Squid to myth and legend, yet you were made complete and utter fools of when one washed up on a beach.

    Try to have an open mind.

    • Did you even bother to read the article? lol

      It’s not these shows existence that I’m saying is bad. It’s the fact that this show has information that isn’t based in guessing but is actually completely wrong and paints a completely untrue picture of sharks. Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and SyFy shows can of course be welcome to do that. And it is fun to joke with it. But when it is shown like this on discovery channel, this all becomes treated as fact. Again, Jaws was a film. This is a mockumentary pretending to be science. It’s like if you were in a doctors office and a man dressed as a Dr came in and gave you medical advice. But then you found out afterwards it wasn’t a doctor; but just someone in a costume. THAT is why people are so upset.

      As for the open mind part, ‘people like me’ are the ones who wished and believed in the Giant Squid’s existence. I even think there is truth to other sea monster myths and other undiscovered animals out there. The realm of Cryptozoology is very exciting and incredibly fun to think about and has lead to great discoveries/rediscoveries. Though all those exploits (both actual cryptozoology and those seen in Animal X, Finding Bigfoot, Destination Truth, etc) are actually based in science fact and actual expeditions. What you saw in these weren’t expeditions or fact finding trips; but complete and utter mockeries of everything Cryptozoology – and Science itself – stands for.

      Also, I’m curious who these ‘people who relegated the Giant Squid to myth and legend’ are. The Giant Squid has never been a myth or legend. The Kraken was. The Giant Squid is what those tales actually are based upon and we have been studying their remains for decades. Even though it wasn’t caught on camera until 2004, we’ve known it existed for quite a long time due to verifiable and countless specimens that washed up on shores around the world.

      • Okay, maybe I was a bit ahead of myself and disrespectful with the phrasing “people like you”, for which I apologize. But the point I was trying to make stands in that science is IMO far too quick to say something isn’t real just because it hasn’t been documented.

        The Giant Squid IS the Kraken, it’s documentation and status of “sea monster” being wrongly ripped away doesn’t change that or the fact that tales of it were continually laughed off by so-called “real” scientists until one washed up. If a Bigfoot carcass was dragged into the LA Zoo tomorrow, it would be quickly classified as just another primate and all the naysayers would quickly try to distance themselves the fact that they’ve denied the possibility of its existence it for decades. Really, what is there to say that a 30-foot monster shark like Submarine can’t really exist somewhere out there? Big deal if one has never been found. Tracking known species is a difficult enough task already. Ask any outdoorsman and they’ll tell you that human eyes rarely find the remains of animals that die in the wild because nature quickly consumes them.

        These mock documentaries are simply science asking “What if?” and running with it. What’s so wrong with that?

      • Again, I’ll ask you to reread the article and my comment. There is nothing wrong with ‘What if’ shows; but when those shows are presented as undisputed facts – like discovery is doing – then problems arise. There very well could be giant unidentified sharks out there, most of the ocean is still unexplored after all. But this show used none of the actual evidence or eyewitness reports – which does actually exist. Instead they made up fake stories, fake videos, and fake professionals; then passed them off as all real while simultaneously promoting an idea about sharks that is fake.

        Shark week is to TEACH people about sharks and help protect sharks by raising awareness and separating fact from fiction we see in movies. So if you put a show on Shark Week – like this one in question – that says Sharks are ‘vengeful killing machines’, people will take it as fact rather than a ‘what if’ and sharks will start being killed at an even more alarming rate.

        And if a Bigfoot carcass was dragged into the zoo and it was identified as a new species, that wouldn’t make Bigfoot fake and covered up. Just like how The Kraken was never marked as ‘non-existent’ because we discovered Giant Squid. It simply means, “wow, Bigfoot is real. Let’s study them.” Whether the name is changed to Sasquatch, Yeti, or North American Ape; the fact of this creature being a ‘big foot’ wouldn’t be questioned.

        I hope you understand a little more why people are upset. It’s not the show itself; but rather that the show is being mispromoted as FACT. Thanks for your comments FictionCanBeFun 🙂

  3. I don’t care as much these programs are fake. My issue is they have no place on Discovery Channel. It completely undermines everything the channel purports to promote…”The world is just awesome! With compelling real-life programming that inspires and entertains, Discovery reveals the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement.” Apparently they also reveal our stupid side. We are not amazed, or amused.

    • EXACTLY! I have no problem really with the programs, it’s just their place on Discovery that is awful. As I said in a previous comment, it’s like going to the Doctors and getting medical advice only to find out your doctor was some random person in a costume.

  4. There is new research that you should read about the Helicoprion shark, it changes things a bit. Also Helicoprion is making an appearance on Shark Week this year, but sadly only in Canada.

    • OHH! I would love to! I haven’t heard much about him for years – back when they didn’t know if he had more of a shark or eel-like body. haha I assumed things had developed. Is there a specific article you can link me to? Otherwise I’ll definitely look on my end … or road trip to Canada for the special lol

      • I have a slight vested interest in Helicoprion, as you can probably tell by my profile picture. I worked on several aspects of helico research for about 4 years and have published 3 papers so far. I love to see this crazy shark pop up randomly across the internet, it’s great to see that people have heard of it! Anyway here is a link to a news article about our first publication, the one where we describe the jaws that we discovered in a fossil bearing rock that answered the question of where the tooth whorl fit in the animal. We also addressed the species concepts for the genus and how the jaw itself worked, in later publications. If you have questions I would be more than happy to answer them!

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21589719

      • That’s amazing! Congratulations! I will definitely give it a read. I sadly don’t get to cover too many science things on this blog; but I always love reading about new discoveries – especially when related to prehistory. Honestly, sometimes I wish I studied paleontology in College instead of Communications. I really do find all of this research very fascinating. Thanks again for sharing Jesse!

  5. Thank you! I’m actually watching the show right now, and it is absolute CGI garbage with a bunch of ridiculous actors. My favorite part has been a man who is supposed to be a well experienced and conceivably poor fishermen sending in a video clip filmed with a film-quality camera. Sharks take so much flak from these ridiculous shows, and I can hardly stand to watch shark week anymore. It’s all a bunch of convoluted, imaginary evidence about sharks being “monsters”. It makes me so angry to see a single week of television undoing the actions of biologists who have, for decades, been working to rectify the image transmitted by Jaws. I’m really just glad to see that there is an intelligent, logical person who can see through all this crap.

  6. Here we are inside the belly of the great beast, swallowed whole and subsumed in darkness. Greed is twice as hungry as even the most fearsome shark. When the bloodiest bait is disemboweled truth the trophy is tainted with putrefying trust. Ratings trump integrity and avarice feeds with the frenzy of instinct.

  7. Pingback: Is Discovery Channel Hurting the Field of Cryptozoology? | Top Secret Writers – Conspiracy Theory, Strange Stories and Truth

  8. Shame on you discovery channel i watched megalodon with my kids we did thipnk it was real because its on DC ! If it wasnt for the horrible actors we would have bought it hook line and …. Fool me once blah blah yall get it thanks for the blog very interesting

    • You’re very welcome Donna! And yah, I SO hoped it’d be real investigative DISCOVERY CHANNEL stuff … but once the framing was set up and those ‘actors’ came on, it was done. I love monster legends/crpytozology stuff, but only when its attempting to bring truth to the medium. Not lies in the quest for ratings.

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