Unraveling the Enigma: Mermaids and the Controversial Film “Mermaids: The Body Found”
An Analysis of the Misleading Speculative Mockumentary
Exploring the depths of the ocean has always captivated the human imagination, and the allure of mythical creatures, such as mermaids, has fueled countless legends and folklore. In 2011, the documentary-style film, “Mermaids: The Body Found,” premiered on Animal Planet, leaving viewers perplexed and questioning the boundaries between reality and fiction. Although the premise was intriguing, the film’s approach was confusing and manipulative, blurring the lines between fact and speculation without clearly identifying itself as a work of fiction.
The Kayfabe Effect: Blurring Reality and Fantasy
Within the realm of professional wrestling, there is a concept known as “kayfabe,” where performers maintain their in-ring personas even outside the wrestling arena. This idea of blurring fiction and reality can extend to other forms of entertainment, including movies. “Mermaids: The Body Found” embraced this concept and presented itself as a legitimate documentary, making it difficult for viewers seeking scientific knowledge to distinguish between fact and fantasy.
A Deceptive Presentation
The film takes a pseudo-scientific approach, focusing on scientists from America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) investigating mass beachings of whales. It attributes these beachings to sonar weaponry tests conducted by the U.S. Navy. While examining the whale carcasses, the scientists discover peculiar marks and a fin-like structure, leading them to conclude the existence of mermaids.
Confusing the Viewership
Presented through in-person interviews and found footage, “Mermaids: The Body Found” forgoes the conventional narrative format and instead positions itself as an irrefutable account of mermaid existence. This approach proved bewildering to many viewers who initially believed the film to be a factual documentary. The lack of clarity surrounding the film’s fictional nature resulted in a misguided audience, with some social media posts even proclaiming a newfound belief in mermaids. The confusion generated by the presentation undermines the film’s purpose of informing or entertaining its audience effectively.
Science or Speculation?
Attempting to rationalize the existence of mermaids, the film draws on the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, a fringe scientific view suggesting that certain human features, such as excess baby fat and hand webbing, indicate an evolutionary adaptation to aquatic life. However, this hypothesis lacks substantial backing from DNA analysis or the fossil record and is unrelated to the concept of mermaids. While the film could have served as a thought-provoking exploration of a potential human subspecies through fiction, its serious presentation of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis as genuine science appears far-fetched.
Uneven Narrative Structure
Mermaids: The Body Found incorporates vignettes portraying the hypothetical lives of mermaids, reminiscent of nature documentaries aiming to add dramatic effect. However, the transitions between the scientific investigations and these mermaid scenarios are abrupt, lacking a smooth segue. Moreover, these fictional segments often deviate from the central theme of mermaid discovery, rendering them extraneous and disjointed from the overall narrative flow. With more cohesive storytelling, the film could have maintained a better balance between its speculative elements and its documentary-style presentation.
Challenging Suspension of Disbelief
An essential aspect of any speculative work is the willingness of the audience to suspend disbelief. In the case of “Mermaids: The Body Found,” the film’s foundation rests on a sound known as “The Bloop,” which was recorded by NOAA in 1997. The film suggests that mermaids use this sound to communicate and assert their presence across the ocean. However, in 2005, the true source of “The Bloop” was identified as the sound of a glacier fragmenting in Antarctica, debunking any association with mermaids. The film’s failure to acknowledge this crucial revelation undermines suspension of disbelief, disrupting the audience’s ability to fully engage with the narrative.
A Contrast in Approach: The Case of “Trollhunter”
When examining speculative documentaries, it is worthwhile to consider the approach taken by films like “Trollhunter.” Similar to “Mermaids: The Body Found,” “Trollhunter” presents a fictional premise, following a film crew investigating legends about trolls. However, “Trollhunter” distinguishes itself by embracing a self-aware and playful presentation, ensuring that both the cast and viewers understand the film’s nature as pure fiction. In contrast, “Mermaids: The Body Found” takes itself too seriously and strives to convince the audience of its authenticity, ultimately sacrificing integrity for sensationalism.
Missed Opportunities and Distrust in Science
“Mermaids: The Body Found” had the potential to serve as a thought-provoking speculative piece, encouraging critical thinking and fostering imagination. However, its misleading presentation fuels conspiracy theories and nurtures an atmosphere of fear and distrust in government agencies. Make-believe should be treated as such, and the film’s failure to delineate the boundaries between fact and fiction serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of miscommunication and the consequences of misleading narratives.
In conclusion, “Mermaids: The Body Found” stands as a perplexing and misleading film masquerading as a factual documentary. Its failure to clearly designate itself as a work of fiction and its misrepresentation of scientific concepts undermine its credibility. A more transparent and self-aware approach could have offered viewers an enjoyable and thought-provoking exploration of the mythical world of mermaids. Instead, the film’s deceptive tactics result in a confused audience and the erosion of trust in both scientific institutions and the integrity of documentary filmmaking.
Q1: Was “Mermaids: The Body Found” based on real events?
No, “Mermaids: The Body Found” is a speculative mockumentary that blurs the line between fact and fiction. It presents itself as a genuine documentary but lacks any verifiable evidence to support its claims of mermaid existence.
Q2: What is the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis mentioned in the film?
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis is a fringe scientific view proposing that certain human features suggest an evolutionary adaptation to an aquatic lifestyle. However, this hypothesis has been widely debated and lacks substantial scientific support.
Q3: Did viewers initially believe in the existence of mermaids after watching the film?
Yes, upon its initial release, many viewers were convinced by the documentary-style presentation of “Mermaids: The Body Found” and expressed belief in the existence of mermaids. It wasn’t until NOAA intervened and clarified the film’s fictional nature that the truth was revealed.
Q4: How does “Mermaids: The Body Found” impact the perception of scientific institutions?
The misleading nature of the film can foster a sense of distrust in scientific institutions, as viewers may question the authenticity or credibility of scientific claims. Transparent communication and accurate representation of scientific concepts are vital for maintaining public trust.
Q5: Are there any other speculative documentaries with a more light-hearted approach?
Yes, the film “Trollhunter” offers an example of a speculative documentary that embraces a playful presentation and maintains a clear distinction between reality and fantasy. This allows viewers to engage with the film on a purely fictional level, generating a more enjoyable and less misleading experience.