Eaten Alive

I’ve been reading about last night’s Discovery Channel freakshow “Eaten Alive” (my favorite take is here, by the amazing and hilarious Sean O’Neal) where some asshole masquerading as a conservationist tries to get eaten alive by an anaconda. The mere existence of this show is infuriating. Let’s discuss why.

1. Anyone who knows me knows what a quivering gash I am about snakes. I’m scared to death of them. And while I’d just as soon never see another snake in my entire life, even I know it’s fucked up how they treated this poor animal. They capture this thing, agitate it until it finally grows tired of getting prodded and bothered by this dick in body armor, and starts eating the fucking guy like he claimed to have wanted, all while getting filmed for a crass reality television car crash special.

2. The special is called “Eaten Alive,” so you’d figure someone – ANYONE – involved would have knowledge about how anacondas, y’know, EAT. Once the eating actually commenced, in the words of Sean O’Neal, it promptly “ended when Rosolie complained that the anaconda, which breaks the bones of its prey before eating it, tried to break his bones before eating him.” Jesus fucking Christ. I actually watched this part of the program online because I hate myself, and as soon as the anaconda makes with the eating, the dick in the body armor calls it off, cries for help, and the show ends. Motherfucker if you’re going to get eaten by a snake, be prepared to be eaten by the goddamn snake. None of this halfway bullshit. In addition to being nakedly exploitative, the execution was also incompetent and poorly planned. Failure on two levels.

3. I’m actually forced to agree with PETA about something. This whole stunt just seems unconscionably cruel to the animal. From their press release:

“The animals were removed from their water habitat and transported to a filming location, and the chosen snake was deceived into using her precious energy reserves to constrict a human being pretending to be a pig, all for a publicity stunt,” she continued.

“Under natural conditions, anacondas go weeks and even months between meals, eating only when necessary for survival and expending the tremendous amount of energy required to attack, constrict, and consume large prey only when the payoff outweighs the risk. Paul Rosolie and his crew put this snake through undeniable stress and robbed her of essential bodily resources. She was forced to constrict and then not allowed to eat.”

I fully agree with this. Leave wild animals alone. If you want to conserve them, please find another way of doing so that doesn’t involve exploiting and molesting them on television in a grotesque spectacle for viewers that should ultimately know better, but don’t.

4. As a defender of the value of media to our lives in general, to the utility of television as a coping mechanism and window into other worlds and viewpoints, and specifically to the notion that the quality of television programming isn’t nearly as bad as bewailed by seemingly every Tom, Dick and Quasimodo you encounter, this does an intense disservice. Watching a television show based on the promise of some grandstanding jackass getting devoured by a large reptile speaks to our very worst impulses as a species. This is Exhibit A for every pearl-clutching, moralizing, half-cooked tsk-tsking about the wasteland of television (including the very one you’re reading) that is always already tired, obnoxious, and not even a little bit wrong.

This show is what’s wrong with our culture. Don’t watch a man get eaten by an anaconda (unless it’s Jon Voight, and it’s done by terrible CGI). Don’t pretend a spectacle like this has any redeeming value whatsoever. And please leave the fucking wildlife alone.

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