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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bigfoot on Television - The Good and The Bad



A while back I had a post about Bigfoot on TV and in movies from the '70s to the present day. I recently got to write some newspaper articles about Bigfoot and cryptids, so I am also posting them on this blog. This post will be somewhat like that, but today I'm just focusing on Bigfoot and other cryptids on television today, for example - shows like Finding Bigfoot, Mountain Monsters, Missing in Alaska, MonsterQuest, Mermaids, Bigfoot Captured, etc.

Here's my article.

Whether you believe in it or not, you probably have at least heard of the hairy, 8-foot tall, man-like monster called Bigfoot.

The name "Bigfoot" first appeared in The Humboldt Times, a California newspaper, in 1958. For many years, only cryptozoologists, those with an avid interest in the subject of Bigfoot and other unknown creatures, looked into the subject.

In recent years, however, Bigfoot has become quite popular on television and in other media. In the past decade, shows like MonsterQuest and Missing in Alaska on the History channel, Monsters and Mysteries in America on Destination America, and Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot have made Bigfoot a pop culture icon.

While the shows listed above are supposed to be informative, other recent shows on Bigfoot and others of its kind only fall into the "entertainment" category. Mountain Monsters first premiered on Destination America in June 2013, and has since become the channel's number one series ever. The show, however, is scripted and is not fact based at all. It has spawned multiple spin-off shows, including an Alaska version called Alaska Monsters. 

The same channels that have aired shows that are supposed to be educational have also aired shows that are quite the opposite in the last few years. These shows include Animal Planet's Mermaids, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives and Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives on the Discovery channel, and most recently Bigfoot Captured on the History channel.
Ken Gerhard
Ken Gerhard is a cryptozoologist (one who studies unknown animals) from Texas. During the summer of 2015 he starred on Missing in Alaska on the History channel. He has different views on the different types of cryptozoology shows you'd find on TV today. I recently talked to him for this article.

"I do feel that shows like Monster Quest, Finding Bigfoot, and Missing in Alaska are important, because they shine a light on unexplained phenomena and hopefully open a few minds to the possibility that there are potentially things running around out there that are not yet accepted by science," Gerhard said. "Obviously there is a trade off with these kinds of shows, because they must be entertaining while also being informative. So, the producers tend to hype things up a bit at times, though I would personally never be involved in a project that actually fabricated evidence."

Gerhard has different views on shows like Mountain Monsters and Alaska Monsters. 

"Some other shows about cryptids are obviously scripted, fabricated and quite ridiculous in my opinion," He said, regarding Mountain Monsters. "That said, I would like to hope that the audience is insightful enough to be able to understand that these shows are about entertainment only."

As for shows like Mermaids, Gerhard does not think they shine a good light on cryptozoology.

"The real tragedy are the shows like the mermaid, megalodon, and Russian Yeti fake-u-mentaries, since they have been very coy about presenting their disclaimers. I can't even tell you how many viewers have asked me to verify the information in those programs… evidently a lot of people have been taken in by these," He said. "That aspect is very harmful to the field of cryptozoology, because people tend to become cynical and see everything crypto-related as a scam."

Ohio Bigfoot investigator Marc DeWerth share's Gerhard's view of shows like Finding Bigfoot. 

"It's a good representation of investigators," DeWerth said. "But the directors make the decisions. Where they film isn't that far off the beaten path."

DeWerth's views on Mountain Monsters are a bit different.

"They're just a bunch of actors, just acting out the parts. It's obviously staged, but it's hilarious to watch. They're all good guys, but they're being payed for what they're told to do."

As for the impact of shows about Bigfoot, DeWerth thinks it is certainly positive.

"It's turned a taboo subject into a mainstream subject, now looking for Bigfoot is something cool," he said.

He also feels it is great for getting people to enjoy nature. "It get's people out into the woods. Kids may not want to, but when mom and dad say 'lets go look for Bigfoot,' it adds some fun to it."

Doug Waller, from Norwich, Ohio, is founder of the Southeastern Ohio Society for Bigfoot Investigations (SOSBI.) He feels that, while they were once good, most recent Bigfoot shows don't help to add credibility to the subject.

"It seems as though more and more of these reality shows have popped up, and some shine a very dubious light on Bigfoot. Some were really well done in the beginning but I'm afraid that the majority of later ones have hurt the credibility of the actual existence of Bigfoot and those of us who study and explore the domain of these creatures," Waller said.

Waller, who has written two books on the subject, thinks researchers, and not TV shows, should inform the public about Bigfoot.

"Most people are now aware of Bigfoot and it's up to researchers to present the facts and tangible evidence to the public," He said. "Education is essential to allow the viewer of these programs to make up their own minds as to the validity of the subject. Answer their questions, quote your reference source, try to convey to the public that although the subject of Bigfoot's existence is a fact, a lot of what is portrayed on these programs is pure Hollywood!"

Whether television shines a good light on Bigfoot or not, the big hairy guy most likely won't be disappearing from it anytime soon. Since 2010, Jack Links Beef Jerky has used Bigfoot in it's "Messin' with Sasquatch" commercials. Since the '70s, Bigfoot has starred in countless movies, although most of them aren't good at all.

There have been several other TV series in the past few years, and also many stand-alone documentaries, including Bigfootville (2002, and my personal favorite Bigfoot documentary), Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science (2003), Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide (2011), and others.

 While I enjoy watching Mountain Monsters and Alaska Monsters, those shows are just for entertainment. Shows like Russian Yeti and Bigfoot Captured are totally fake, and shine a horrible light on cryptozoologists. And, sadly, lots of people mention them when they talk about Bigfoot on TV. It is my hope that, in the future, TV shows about Bigfoot can go back to being something like the few documentaries above, or something like MonsterQuest, that actually gives facts to the audience.


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