They aren't even trying anymore. For its 27th year of weeklong shark-oriented programming on the Discovery Channel, Shark Week returned last night with Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine. Like last year's Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, it was a bullshit mockumentary production, something the Blair Witch would have scraped off her shoe.
What's worse is that the plot of Shark of Darkness is extremely similar to that of Megalodon—both involve an attack in Hout Bay, off the coast of South Africa. In both, it is a giant, consciously evil shark doing the terrorizing. And in both, the legendary, 35-foot shark Submarine is fingered as the culprit. As if we wouldn't have heard that a shit load of people were rounded up and systematically devoured by a lone, giant shark earlier this year until now.
Same bullshit, new Shark Week.
Not only is it insulting that they're just reheating lies, but in telling the story of a group of whale-watchers whose boat capsizes, making them vulnerable to an attack from a giant great white with a slasher-movie antagonist's exacting precision, Shark of Darkness perpetuates dangerous myths about sharks. "Expert" Mel Thurmond from the phony South African Institute for Marine Research has a Typepad page and a tendency to classify Submarine as a "cunning" beast with an "insatiable appetite for human blood." While the character does acknowledge in passing that great whites don't normally attack/eat humans, the rest of Shark of Darkness serves to demonize the demon fish in very much the same way that Jaws did. Painting sharks as cold-blooded maneaters who hunt humans for sport did real damage in the world that took decades to reverse. It turned every movie-going asshole with a fishing pole into a shark hunter, and eventually helped lead to the great white being labeled as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. (In June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report suggesting that the great white population is rebuilding, thanks to conservation efforts.)
Shark Week, by the way, has covered the cultural/ecological impact of Jaws, in a doc called How Jaws Changed the World. But that was so long ago—who can remember back two years?
Big deal, you'll say. Discovery did this before with Shark Week, so we now know what to expect. They also included a disclaimer at the beginning of Shark of Darkness, and again in the middle of it that read:
Submarine is a legendary shark first sighted off the coast of South Africa in 1970.
Eyewitness accounts say it is over 35 feet long.
Its existence is highly controversial.
Events have been dramatized, but many believe Submarine exists to this day.
Yup. And now more do:
This on-screen tweet is basically Discovery gloating that they fooled someone. Monica Braswell isn't likely the only one they duped.
And guess what, there are six more days of this. Tonight, researchers tag a "monster" hammerhead with their lasers. Seriously:
What is this, even? More lies? Something actual biologists do? Interspecies Laser Tag for a chuckle? Who knows at this point!
Man, fuck Shark Week.