"Mermaids: The Body Found" on the Animal Planet. Fact or Fiction?
If you were like millions of others, you may have watched the Animals Planet's “Mermaids – The Body Found”. Given that the documentary was broadcast on the Animal Planet, it would be safe to assume that you were going to be watching an interesting scientific exploration of the possible existence of a previously unknown species that resembled the mythical mermaid. Rather than a scientific documentary, we were offered a Blair Witch type drama that portrayed a government cover-up of the existence of an aquatic ape, an evolutionary tract that saw some prehistoric apes take to the sea and therefore evolve into aquatic mammals.
The idea of an aquatic ape made for an interesting concept, and the Animal Planet was able to draw in viewers with this intriguing idea. Coupled with the scientific credibility we normally associate with the channel, it seemed that we would be watching a very interesting exploration of evidence in support of the aquatic ape theory. As "proof," we were even offered a video of the “body” of one of the “mermaids” as filmed through the lens of a teenage boy’s camera phone. In reality, the documentary was nothing more than a fictional piece that exploited our assumption that Animal Planet was an educational channel.
Replete with CGI throughout, and cut-always to “scientists” who discussed their findings of a mermaid body, the show did smack of the normal Animal Planet production formula. As a critical viewer, you would no doubt have been watching the entire show wondering if the production was just a little too sharp and a little too scripted. It was not until the end when the viewer was shown the entire video of the living mermaid that it became clear that the documentary was actually a mockumentary. As the young men surveyed the remains of the purported mermaid, it raised its head with a scream and it became immediately clear that even this “actual” footage was nothing more that CGI. In the end, the show was little more than a joke on the viewers. It is unfortunate that the Animal Planet did not make it clear that they were offering an interesting science fiction story rather than an actual documentary.
For those who took the time to watch “Mermaids: – the Body Found”, it seemed like a cheap con intended to grab viewers. In the end, it seems that the Animal Planet will take a hit to their credibility not because they offered a fun and interesting fictional story, but because they did not warn their viewers of what they would actually be watching. Indeed, since the broadcast, Animal Planet has offered that "Mermaids: The Body Found" documentary is "for entertainment only." Clearly the story was interesting and fun, but it disingenuous to have portrayed this program as a factual documentary. It does seem that Animal Planet may have taken a hit to its credibility by failing to properly warn its viewers that they were presenting a fictional piece, while having promoted it as a fact based production. This is a case of, viewer be ware.