August 27, 2019
We are watching the raw majesty of the natural world being smothered to death by human emotion
Serengeti is testing our love of wildlife documentaries to the limit | Stuart Heritage
The BBC wildlife series Serengeti is an odd duck. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a dramatisation of a wildlife show. Masterminded by Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller, it contains real wildlife footage that’s been shaped into narratives by writers. Multiple animals represent the same character. John Boyega is credited as a “storyteller” rather than a “narrator”. My colleague Rebecca Nicholson called Serengeti “the Made in Chelsea of nature docs” for good reason. To watch it is to watch the raw majesty of the natural world being smothered to death by human emotion.
This weekend, the show was hit by accusations that it inserted a composite shot of a zebra being swept down a river to heighten the drama of a scene. Serengeti is a bold experiment into humanity’s tolerance of anthropomorphism. If it had worked, similar tactics could have been used to heighten awareness of the climate emergency, maybe by letting James Corden provide the voice of a glacier as it crumbles into the sea. But it doesn’t work. It’s really weird.
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