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Taking Spectacle Seriously: Wildlife Film and the Legacy of Natural History Display

  • Eleanor Louson (a1)
Argument

I argue through an analysis of spectacle that the relationship between wildlife documentary films’ entertainment and educational mandates is complex and co-constitutive. Accuracy-based criticism of wildlife films reveals assumptions of a deficit model of science communication and positions spectacle as an external commercial pressure influencing the genre. Using the Planet Earth (2006) series as a case study, I describe spectacle's prominence within the recent blue-chip renaissance in wildlife film, resulting from technological innovations and twenty-first-century consumer and broadcast market contexts. I connect spectacle in contemporary wildlife films to its relevant precursors within natural history, situating spectacle as a central feature of natural history display designed to inspire awe and wonder in audiences. I show that contemporary documentary spectacle is best understood as an opportunity for affective knowing rather than a constraint on accuracy; as a result, spectacle contributes to the virtuous inter-reinforcement of entertainment and education at work in blue-chip wildlife films.

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Copyright
References
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